Depending on the number of coupons you have, this can be a daunting task. On a big couponing trip, I might get to the checkout line with 13 different types of products in my cart, sometimes with 2-8 copies of each product. After my cashier rings me up, I might be handing her a stack of 40 coupons.
There are many elements at work when that happens. I want to make sure every coupon scans, so I save as much money as I think I’m going to save. My cashier wants to get me through the line quickly so she can help the next customer. She may have been on her feet for six hours already, she may be tired and ready to call it quits for the day, she may be distracted because her manager chewed her out that morning or because her kid is sick at home. Suddenly, she has to deal with me and my cart full of couponed goods.
I want to make sure that this experience goes as easily for my cashier as I can. If there’s problem with my coupons, she may have to stop what she’s doing and call over a manager for clarification. That wastes her time, it wastes the manager’s time, it wastes my time, and it wastes the time of the customers behind me.
The good news is that there a few things I do to streamline the checkout process and make it as painless as possible for everyone involved. In a later article, I’ll tell you how to deal with an actual dispute about the validity of a coupon, but right now, I want to tell you how to deal with a lesser problem — what to do when your cashier accidentally misses one of your coupons.
How Coupons Get Missed
Coupons are just flimsy slips of paper. They’re small, they’re easy to overlook, and they stick together easily. A coupon can get dropped and slide under the cash register or flutter off to the floor unnoticed. A little bit of sweat, rain, or even just a touch too much humidity can make two coupons stick to each other. When the cashier scans them, she thinks she’s just scanning one, but there’s a second coupon hidden. Being a cashier is a job where speed is usually considered a professional asset, so my cashier wants to get through this transaction as quickly as possible — a fact which might cause her to go too quickly and miss one of my coupons.
The Proper Way To Respond To A Missed Coupon
Don’t get mad at the cashier if she accidentally forgets to scan one of your coupons. Chances are it was just a simple mistake — and you’ll encounter it frequently if you coupon often. Even if you’re not mad, check your tone. If you’re excited about how all these coupons you’re using will save you a ton of money, that excitement can make you sound more aggressive than you mean to be, and your goal here is to be as pleasant and non-hostile as possible.
Kindly remind your cashier that you should have had more coupons than the amount that was scanned, and ask them to double-count. This usually discovers the missing coupon and you’re soon on your way. If it doesn’t turn up, ask the cashier to make sure it hasn’t fallen somewhere around the register. If it still can’t be found, it’s usually best to just let it go — after all, it’s probably only saving you 50 cents to a dollar.
Of course, the best way to make sure every coupon gets scanned is to develop some good couponing habits to make sure they don’t get missed in the first place.
Check and Double-Check Before You Start Checkout
After I’ve gone through the store and collect all the items I’m buying with coupons, I pull my cart into a small low-traffic nook of the store and check that I’ve done everything right. I look through the fine print on my coupons and compare them to the products on my cart. That DiGiorno coupon specifies that it’s only good on their Pizzeria variety. Uh oh, I grabbed the wrong kind. Need to put those back.
I double-check things like bottle size — that coupon for mouthwash specifies 16 oz. or larger. Okay, yeah, I grabbed the 32 oz. bottle so it should be good to go. Oh hey, that coupon for waffles is limit one per customer. Did I grab one box or two?
This is especially important if you use coupon matchup sites like The Krazy Coupon Lady. 9 out of 10 times, their information will be accurate. Every so often, though, you’ll find out that they’ve accidentally matched the wrong coupon with the wrong product, usually on a technicality such as product variety or size. Double-checking makes sure you don’t get surprised by a bad transaction when you get to the register.
Organize The Conveyor Belt Intelligently
I’m not sure if this actually helps, but I like to place items on the conveyor belt leading up to the register in an orderly and logical fashion. Items in my cart that I have coupons for go first, so I can get them out of the way. Then I start grouping similar products together — if I’m buying six bags of coffee, they all go in one pile. This makes it easier for the cashier to scan and bag the groceries (if you’re at one of those stores where the cashiers load their own bags). It also makes it easier to locate the already-bagged items if a coupon causes a price dispute.
Separate Like Coupons Into Smaller Stacks
I try to avoid handing my cashier one huge stack of coupons. Instead, I sort my coupons into several small stacks, which I separate with paper clips. If I have four 50 cent off coupons for Hamburger Helper, they go in a separate stack from the six $1.00 off yogurt coupons I’m using in the same transaction. As the cashier is ringing up my coupons, I hand off each small stack of coupons one at a time. This breaks the big task of processing my coupons down into several quick steps. This is also a good opportunity to communicate with my cashier, which brings me to my next point.
Tell The Cashier How Many Of Each Coupon You Have
When I hand off a small stack of coupons, I tell my cashier how many coupons are in that stack. If the cashier knows that I’ve just handed her four coupons, she’s more likely to count them off in her head as she scans them. That simple small communication is probably the single biggest factor that keeps my cashier from accidentally overlooking one of my coupons.
Count The Coupons As They’re Scanned
Finally, while your cashier is scanning your coupons, count them off in your head. You might find it easiest to watch the register or screen; at many modern stores, each coupon will add a new line item to the onscreen display. I actually find it a little easier to count the register beeps — if I have four of a given coupon, all I have to do is listen for four beeps in a row to make sure my cashier scanned each one.
Keep Some Perspective
Even with these safeguards in place, you’ll still run the occasional transaction where a coupon gets missed. When this happens, just let it go. You could always march up to the customer service desk and demand that they honor the missed coupon, but do you really want to be the person who raises a scene over 50 cents?