Couponing Etiquette, Ethics, and Other Common Courtesies
Aside from (what should be) the obvious “rules” that come with couponing, there can be some gray areas out there. Further, if you are a true couponer, you will find yourself in a situation where there is no one to police you and your coupons, only your conscience and moral compass to guide you. Here, I’ve composed a few couponing tips, based on my personal experience, my observations of others, and anecdotal tales on the blogosphere.
- Let the little guy go If you’re in line, with your stack of coupons and full cart, shouldn’t it be second nature to let the person behind you, with only a scant few items, go before you?
- Give fair warning! Again, with full cart and you coupon stack, let the people behind you -or who may want to get behind you- know that you’ll likely take a while. Yes, the full cart should be a dead give away, but still…
- Sometimes, just suck it up! I implore you not to haggle or fuss over less than a dollar, especially when the line behind you continues to grow longer. This is a tough one -trust me!- but sometimes we get so clouded with our desire to save every last penny, that we lose sight of what’s important. IF you know your coupon is valid, and cannot get it to work -either because of a reluctant cashier, a fault with the register’s system, or whatnot- and a manager has to get involved, ask yourself if this is an item you absolutely MUST have at that very moment at the couponed price, or if you could
- a) purchase at another time and/or place,
- b) –gulp!– pay full price (seriously, it hurts to type that!), or
- c) not purchase the item at all.
- Be nice to your cashier. Again, you’d think this would be a given, but I’ve witnessed some nasty, nasty customers (couponers and non-couponers alike) lashing out at the cashiers, and 99% of the time things that were out their (the cashier’s) control. We are all human. As such, we are known to occasionally make mistakes. I’ve very politely pointed out to cashiers when they were in the wrong, but always with a warm smile, and let them know it’s “ok”. Nastiness only ensures nastiness in return — kindness, however, can invoke more kindness!
- …and be nice to the store managers, too! On the occasion when a manager must become involved with your transaction -either because of a dispute, for clarity, or to simply do an override- try to maintain your composure. While the squeaky wheel may get the grease, store employees do and WILL remember you and your disposition. I’ve found that being pleasant to the employees makes them more likely to help me out in the future, whether the manager becomes involved or not.
- Printable coupons have rules, too! I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating: most printable coupons should only be PRINTED twice! That’s the way “bricks” coupons from coupons.com are set up to work.
- Don’t be a copy cat. EVER! Further, it is completely unethical to COPY printable coupons. Don’t be that one bad apple. Manufactures set up a limited number of printable coupons, and if you’re making copies, you’re hurting much more than your guilty conscience. Stores do NOT get reimbursed for fraudulent coupons, manufactures lose money on them, and with each fraudulent coupon that passes through, the chances of stores accepting printables AND the chances of manufactures publishing printables decreases!
- Check the date. There can be some gray area if a coupon has just expired a few days ago. Some stores will allow you to use a very recently expired coupon, at their discretion. (Remember what I said earlier about being NICE to people? This is when it can pay off!) ..but, don’t try to pawn off that coupon from 2006. To be honest, that’s just dumb!
- READ the fine print. If a coupon is meant for two items, don’t try to use it with just ONE item. That’s unethical. If a coupon is for a specific product by a company, don’t try to use it for a similar item, not specified on the coupon. That’s unethical. …on the flipside, sometimes coupons will have a PICTURE of one particular item in a product line, while the coupon is good for any or most items in that line… Yet another reason why it pays to read.
The bottom line: if we are pleasant to those around us, and stay within the parameters of what’s right -even when there are questionable gray areas- karma will reward you. Couponing shouldn’t be about making folks grumble when they see you coming, but about experiencing that wonderful coupon high. Oh, and saving money. :o)
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