I Am Not Stealing

January 12, 2011 at 12:00 AM 32 comments

The cashier smiled and laughed at the customer in front of me, but the minute I stepped up to the counter her face turned very tense and serious. I’ve seen this look before. In fact, I’ve seen it so many times that I do whatever I can to avoid her line and have even considered shopping on different days of the week so I can ensure that she won’t be there.

I handed her my discount card and let her know that I had a stack of coupons matching the items in my basket. I asked if she wanted to see the coupons in advance and she said no. I placed the items on the counter one-by-one and watched each item scan before putting the next one down. In total I had twelve items.

When all of the items were scanned I handed over my coupons. The cashier flipped through the stack and made a face. Then she said, “I can’t take this one or this one or this one.” She informed me that I could not use a buy-one-get-one free coupon if the store was running a buy-one-get-one sale. I told her that the store policy permitted one coupon for every two items, in essence permitting me to get two items for free, but she immediately snipped back saying, “we can’t just give away the store.”

I turned to the person behind me and apologized for the inconvenience of holding up the line. He laughed and said, “No worries. My wife uses coupons and gets stuck in the checkout all the time.”

I wanted to tell him that I encounter this problem every time I’m faced with this particular cashier. She looks at me as though I’m trying to rob the store of merchandise. Every time I try to checkout I must explain that I am following the stores policy and every time she gripes at me over each and every coupon.

She was clearly annoyed with me so I suggested she call the store manager. I turned to apologize to the person behind me, but I realized that he had already checked out through a different line and there weren’t any other customers checking out. That made me feel much better. I hate holding up the line when other people are waiting. In fact, a lot of times I’ll just give up on the transaction and come back another time.

When the manager reached the register the cashier said, “this woman is trying to get everything for free.”

Now I should say that I’m not an extreme couponer, but I do save a lot of money on every day household products by shopping at the local drugstores in my area. It’s not unusual for me to walk into a store with a wad of coupons and walk out paying only a dollar for two or three bags worth of items.

I’ve lived in the same neighborhood for ten years and I frequent this store quite often so I know a lot of the managers, assistant managers and cashiers by name. When I walk in at Christmas time they all wish me a happy holiday and when I haven’t been around for awhile they ask where I’ve been. Well all except for this particular cashier.

I’m not sure what her issue is. Perhaps she truly believes that I am abusing the store’s policy. After all, she sees me walk out of the store with nine or ten products knowing full well that I’ve paid nothing but the taxes. Perhaps she doesn’t love her job, doesn’t make a lot of money and thinks that people like me are contributing to her low pay and lack of benefits.

I’m not sure what her issue is, but I wish she wouldn’t make me feel so bad about combining sales and coupons to obtain deeply discounted items. The truth is I’m not doing anything wrong. I make certain I don’t use expired coupons, I don’t use more than the number of coupons permitted and I don’t obtain extra savings cards by pretending they are owned by my husband. Given all those factors I really wish she wouldn’t make me feel like I’m stealing.

Entry filed under: shopping. Tags: .

Spending Time & Money to Make Our Lives Better A Follow Up on the Coupon Troubles

32 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jolie  |  January 12, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    what happened with the manager then???

  • 2. Sense  |  January 12, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    ugh. I know full well how crazy some cashiers can be. But I mainly fault the store: why on earth would a store accept/offer coupons and deals and not properly train their cashiers to deal with them? it sounds like the problem lies with one particular cashier, but you'd better believe I'd be submitting serious complaints to the higher ups EVERY time I had to go through that.

  • 3. Maureen  |  January 12, 2011 at 1:55 AM

    I,m with jolie here what did the Manager say to the Cashier, and did he or she apologize to you ???

  • 4. Merry  |  January 12, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    Seriously, these people are nuts — they should either not accept the coupons at all, or not harass you for daring to read the fine print and actually use them.

  • 5. Cindy Brick  |  January 12, 2011 at 6:45 AM

    I agree — I am dying to find out how the situation got resolved! I'm betting the manager had no problem with it, but it sure would be nice to hear you say that. You didn't just slink off, did you? Because you're right — you had nothing to BE ashamed of.
    I've done this myself, and the cashiers, to a person, have been full of admiration for how much I saved — not making fun of me. Sounds like the cashier is dealing with a bunch of other issues, and you were/are a convenient place to vent. Don't let it get you down, girl.

  • 6. enoughwealth@yahoo.com  |  January 12, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    It's a lot simpler here in Australia – most stores just run "specials" on particular items that apply to everyone, rather than relying on "coupons" that only give savings to those time-rich, cash-poor enough to bother using them.

    The few "2-for-1" and other coupons that are used (by the big grocery chains, bookshops and so on) either have a condition printed on them that states "this coupon cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer." or "this discount is not available on already discounted items". Makes it a lot easier to know when and where you can use the coupons.

  • 7. Money Beagle  |  January 12, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    Two things: First, I would probably talk to the manager and explain that this seems to be a pattern. Even a phone call the next day so that hopefully he would remember helping you. Second I would simply avoid her line. You should be able to see who is checking people out before you get in line. Even if you go to a line with more people, you'd probably still come out ahead in the end with another cashier who would take less time in handling the coupons.

  • 8. Pam  |  January 12, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    Perhaps she doesn't understand that manufacturers reimburse the store for the value of the coupon. Either way, it's really none of her business.

    It is poor management to accept coupons and not properly train your employees. I'd be interested to know what the manager said.

  • 9. D.C. 2  |  January 12, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    Lol, I am also interested in the outcome. I can't believe she was so rude and blatantly wrong. Don't feel bad you did nothing wrong.

  • 10. One Frugal Girl  |  January 13, 2011 at 3:38 AM

    Oh I can't believe I didn't mention the manager's reaction! The manager told her to ring up the coupons with no questions asked. He did say he would need to review the store policies, but he didn't give me any grief about it.

    @Sense – I don't understand why they don't post the policies right next to the cash register. I actually printed out a copy (it's only one page) and decided to carry it with me from now on.

    @Maureen – No apologies.

    @Merry – I completely agree.

    @Cindy Brick – I stuck it out and as I mentioned above the manager told her to ring up all of the coupons I presented. Honestly, though if there had been a long line behind me I probably would have walked out of the store.

    @Money Beagle – Unfortunately it's a small store without a lot of traffic, so on most occasions there is only one cashier at the registers at any given time. When I have a choice though I definitely skip her line. I considered talking to the manager but everyone else at the store is so nice to me I hate to make waves.

    @Pam – I explained that manufacturer's reimburse the store, but she didn't seem to care 🙁

    @DC2 – Thanks for the kind words. The cashier definitely made me feel like a criminal.

  • 11. Kosmo @ The Soap Boxers  |  January 13, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Completely unprofessional for her to make that comment to the manager while you were right there.

    I really don't understand how some people are able to keep their jobs when unemployment is this high – seems like it would be a good time to upgrade the staff.

    Whether she likes the policy or not really shouldn't be an issue. If you were following the policy, then there shouldn't have been a problem.

    Speaking of policies (warning: I'm hijacking this thread) … the local Penney's store has made sure that I will never buy anything from them in the future by lying to me.

    I was returning an item (kids clothing that was the wrong size) with a receipt, but without my wife's card. I've done this at Penney's (because I'm likely to forget to give the card back to mu wife) and it has never been an issue. In fact, when I have done returns to other stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's) it is quite rare to even be asked for the card. Then just scan the receipt, scan the bar code on the item, and the amount goes back on the card (note: Penney's has the barcoded receipts that would make this possible).

    The cashier told me that they couldn't do this because of store policy, but that I could talk to a manager if I wanted.

    I decided to talk to the manager.

    The manager told me that it wasn't store policy (contrary to the information provided by the cashier), but that it was physically impossible to do this without the card being presents. I'm an IT professional, so I verified that he actually meant that there was a technical roadblock to this. He assured me that this was the case. When I mentioned that I had done this in the past at this very store, he assured me that I was mistaken. I had a good laugh about that and left the store.

    An email to corporate verified that there was indeed no technical issue. It COULD be done, but the company policy was to avoid doing this, although the corp rep said that the manager should have been flexible in this case (not really sure why it would have been an unusual case, but …)

    OK, so now the manager has lied to me (and, honestly, my BS detector was going off at the time we talked), and the store seems to have a very odd policy that they suggest has something to do with fraud. Huh?

    If I'm trying to defraud the card holder, what would this accomplish? I'm putting money back on their card, not taking anything off (and the full card number is never exposed during the process).

    If I'm trying to defraud Penney's, how would this work? I'd grab a receipt from home, snag an item from the store, and then return it? I guess that could happen … but couldn't I also walk out the door with the item (and receipt) and come back when I had the card.

    OK, end of rant.

  • 12. Vol-E  |  January 14, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    Ha! Your cashier from you-know-where reminds me of one at a Kroger I shopped at years before. She bore a strong resemblance to "Amy Farrah Fowler" on The Big Bang Theory. No sense of humor; she'd scrutinize every coupon and refuse to take one if even a micron of the bar code was cut off, or if, heaven forbid, the coupon had expired the day before. She'd always reject my coupons in a loud, accusatory tone with lots of other customers in line behind me. I'd go home and tell my husband I got busted by the Coupon Police again — like you, I had the misfortune of being unable to avoid her on more than one occasion. She eventually moved on (or maybe got fired); I didn't have to endure her for more than a few months. Maybe yours is a relative.

  • 13. Jennifer B  |  January 14, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    There is a really simple way to solve this. If she does not accept your coupons in a friendly manner next time (especially if you have a copy of the coupon policy with you), then you write a friendly letter to the corporate head office explaining how you'd love to visit their store more often but are thwarted by a cashier by the name of _______ who will not follow the company's coupon policy.

    Oh, I'd also have spare copies of that coupon policy on hand to give to both the manager and said cashier the next time either of them doubt whether you are doing anything wrong.

  • 14. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    Thanks for spamming, "Martha Jackson'.

  • 15. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    Came here from "get rich slowly."
    As a former member of the hospitality industry, this cashier's behavior is UNACCEPTABLE. By treating you poorly she is actually jeopardizing the store's profits, not saving them. You do not need to "make waves" to address this issue. The next time you shop at this store, ask to speak to the manager before you start shopping. Let them know that you enjoy their business and the products and services they offer; but that the attitude of X Employee is offensive and off-putting and not in keeping with your expectations of service. I can almost guarantee you will not be the first person to express concern about this employee and if you are, then it is high time her behavior was brought to management's attention. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with the manager in person, a politely worded letter will do the same thing. The goal here is not to get this woman fired (though if it does happen it will be her doing, not yours); but to give the store a chance to improve their customer service and by proxy, their business. Viewed in this light, by complaining you are actually doing them a favor. The least they can do is return it and ask their employee to be polite to their customers.

  • 16. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    I thought it was funny that you say you aren't an extreme couponer but that you often go into a store and walk out with two or three bags of stuff and only pay a dollar or two. No one works out that kind of deal without being an extreme couponer.

    Also, a previous commenter stated that employees like this are jeopardizing store profits, and that the business should focus on improving customer service in order to improve their business.

    While cashiers like this should certainly not be rude to paying customers, the simple fact is that customers that use coupons like this are of no value to the business. You not coming there anymore certainly isn't going to affect store profits, because they are making any profits off of you. In the post you stated that it isn't uncommon for you to buy nine or ten products and pay nothing but the sales tax. So why do they care if you ever come back again or not? Even if you were paying full price for these products one customer does not make or break a store's earnings.

    If you want to try to game the system with coupons, fine. You are right in that you did exactly as store policy indicated you could. And employees should treat you better, but again the business doesn't care if you ever come back. Just by this story alone you can tell that you are a high maintenance customer that requires more attention than a normal customer. Plus, you're paying very little money for the items so you are a double loss for the store.

    This is the thing that annoys me most about couponers. I don't mind people looking to get a good deal but don't get pissed when you are inconvenienced. You're getting the crap for almost free anyways.

  • 17. Jerry  |  January 14, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    She sounds like a miserable person and you are kind and thoughtful to try and understand her. I hope your attempt to understand her will lead to better interactions with each other in the future. There's no insurance for this since we are all humans, but we can hope for the best.

  • 18. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Anonymous said: the simple fact is that customers that use coupons like this are of no value to the business

    Actually, you're wrong. As Pam said, with manufacturer's coupons, the manufacturer is reimbursing the store for the coupon, so the store IS getting that money because the customer bought it.

  • 19. Anonymous  |  January 14, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Well I agree, you are not stealing. There is a difference between legality and ethics. Consider lawyers, do you think they get a bad rap because they do something illegal? Since you are able to "walk out of the store with nine or ten products knowing full well that I've paid nothing but the taxes", I think the cost you pay is the occasional service without a smile. And even when she objected to some coupons, you flagged down a manager and got what you wanted, so I don't understand why you are upset.

    Personally I think that she must really love her job and that is why she thinks people like you are leeches on the company. Maybe if she saw you pay for some items once in a while, she would feel better towards you. I guess you could write to corporate and get her fired, but that is just downright mean.


  • 20. Anonymous  |  January 15, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    If the store is already doing its own buy 1, get one free, and you use a coupon giving the same, the store is only getting paid for one item. So they are only getting reimbursed for one item.

    If the store is running its own coupon then there is no reimbursement.

    Regardless, couponers that take up a lot of time and piss off other customers in line are not good for business.

  • 21. One Frugal Girl  |  January 15, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    I appreciate all of the comments on this post, even the ones that bash coupon use. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I appreciate those readers who decided to express their thoughts on the damage coupons cause to stores that accept them. Though I would argue that stores would stop accepting coupons and change their policies if they were truly being harmed by their use. After all, as a few comments mentioned, stores do receive reimbursement when they are used.

    However, I understand how shoppers who do not use coupons are frustrated by those who do. If I plan to use a large stack of coupons I often let other shoppers in front of me. I also try to go to the store during off hours when there are less shoppers in the store.

    As to the question of profit I must say that this particular store definitely makes money off of me. I spend money on other purchases and fill the majority of my prescriptions there.

    Lastly, for the record, I did not suggest that this particular cashier be fired on account of this incident. I simply want the cashier to abide by the store's policies. She can give me an attitude while she's ringing up my items, but she needs to accept the legitimate coupons I provide.

  • 22. Anonymous  |  January 15, 2011 at 4:19 AM

    All these coupon bashers puzzle me. The manufacturer reimburses the store, what's your problem?

    I don't clip coupons at all but don't care if others do, even if it holds me up in line. As long as you have the coupons on hand rather than digging through your purse at the time of purchase

    I'd complain to the manager privately rather than send a letter to corporate. If s/he doesn't resolve it then I'd go to corporate.

    Keep on couponing girl!

  • 23. Junk Drawer Kathy  |  January 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    I don't understand the anonymous commenters. You're doing something perfectly legitimate. And frankly, you go girl, because I'm too lazy to clip coupons! And I agree with the other anon commenter who said the store doesn't lose out because they're being reimbursed by the manufacturer.

    Geesh. The only problem here is the behavior of the cashier you encountered. I'd avoid her too. Life's too short for cranky people who are paid to ring you up.

  • 24. Anonymous  |  January 15, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    To those who talk about reimbursement from the manufacturer – they do not reimburse the profit only the cost. So they do not make any money from the coupons. And I am sure she used drugstore coupons in addition to manufacturer coupons.


  • 25. Abela  |  January 15, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    Girl: Thanks for the article. Here's my two cents about making use of discounts etc. Supermarkets goal is to draw in customers (who spend money on other things) and therefore, coupons, sales, deals (like "points" for gasoline discounts), selling X w/a lower markup (like very low vegetables), are all "loss leaders".

    And as typical salespeople, they are trying to lead you (= trick) to think you're getting a deal when you may not be; shopping requires thinking. I always make sure to read the per-pound or quart… price, to make sure that there is really a deal. Because, sometimes its just 10% off or 10 cents off… I am a guiltfree customer…

  • 26. Anonymous  |  January 15, 2011 at 10:36 PM

    Perhaps this is a very small store, but where I shop with coupons (Jewel Foods, Walgreens, Whole Foods) the coupons are just scanned in–seconds more work for the cashier and they automatically match with the product if eligible. No muss, no fuss and no reason for the cashiers to get upset–in fact, I think most applaud me. Places give coupons because they WORK–they bring business into the store. If it weren't good for business, you can bet that savvy retailers and manufacturers would stop. Use without guilt! I don't do extreme couponing because imho the pay per hour of effort is lousy and a lot of the stuff you couldn't pay me to eat. But if I buy it anyway, or would, or would like to try it, I clip.

  • 27. Justin  |  January 16, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    I'm with "Anonymous #2." I've worked as a cashier, and I don't see how a) it's any of her business to care what you're spending (even if it did affect the store's profits, she doesn't get a share of those profits); or b) why, if she's so concerned about the well-being of the store, she's providing such terrible public relations.

    Anyway, I came over from GRS as well, and very much enjoy the post. One point of contention, though: you certainly SOUND like an extreme couponer. 🙂

  • 28. Anonymous  |  January 16, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    I would definitely let the store know that I am now reconsidering my decision to shop at this store, solely because of this cashier's actions and attitudes. What she is engaging in is mental and psychological assault, and it is intentional and meant to spread disharmony by bullying and belittling. If I ever had trouble with her in future, I would make it my personal mission in life to see that she is fired so she does not keep driving away business from this retailer that I otherwise enjoy doing business with. Failing that, I would never set foot in that store again, ever.

    Sorry this sounds so severe, but I see that cashier's actions as the ONE Unforgiveable Sin in a customer service environment, and there is no way I would tolerate that in an employee.

  • 29. Blue Noumenon  |  January 16, 2011 at 5:24 AM

    As a store manager and cashier, I can sincerely say that anybody who comes into my store with a stack of coupons and walks out with stuff for next to nothing is considered a SAINT. The fact that avid couponers have the cognitive wherewithal to do what they do is something worthy of admiration, not scorn.

    The thing is, ringing up coupons, even internet coupons, is mind numbingly simple. Any cashier who has a problem with it can't possibly be bothered about the inconvenience. It sounds like this particular cashier has some sort of ethical issue with your couponing, which is wholly unjustified. Her pay grade has nothing to do with your shopping habits. I'd be surprised if she lasts long in retail with that sort of attitude.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  • 30. PigPenny  |  January 17, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    I'm a new reader, so sorry if you address this elsewhere, but I'm curious where you find all your coupons and how you know when the store is also running sales on the same items. I've read a few things about "extreme couponing" but don't really know where to start.

    P.S. Have you heard about TLC's show Extreme Couponing? I haven't seen it yet, but I want to.

  • 31. Anonymous  |  January 18, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    I've also gotten attitude from a particular cashier for using coupons, but it appeared to be because she thought I was using them fraudulently (I wasn't, and her attitude improved drastically when she realized this). In this case, if the cashier started in like in your post, I would not even bother to dialogue with her but call immediately for the manager (and if you know them by name, so much the better). The suggestion to write a letter to the store corp. office is a good one. You have a right to use coupons in accordance with store policy and coupon rules, and you don't need to apologize to anyone in line about it. My $0.02, k-chink.

  • 32. Anonymous  |  January 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    How about instead of all this hand wringing, call her out. Be an adult. and ask her why she is upset that you're using legitimate coupons and following store policy.


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