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Make sure you understand your coupons before heading out

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Coupon Queen — Jill Cataldo column sig

Dear Jill, I got a coupon in the newspaper for "$2 off one paper towel product $15 retail value or greater." Here is my question: If a large pack of paper towels regularly sells for $17.99, but then it goes on sale for $14.99, will this coupon work? Is the coupon coded to work on the regular price or the sale price? — Loretta B.

New or unusual wording on coupons can be confusing at times, especially when the same item can sell for different prices week to week. However, a coupon like this is designed to work on the actual selling price of the item — whatever that price happens to be this week.

To answer your question, the coupon would absolutely be valid on the $17.99 package, but when the same package of paper towels goes on sale, and its price dips below $15, the coupon for $2 off a $15 purchase will no longer be valid. As much as this scenario would be a better financial deal by pairing the coupon with the lower sale price, it will not be valid.

Dear Jill, I recently received a coupon mailer from a major supermarket. One thing I thought was odd was the fine print on the back of a granola manufacturer coupon. It states, "Must use Rewards Card or Shopper’s Card for Discount. Coupon only valid at [Retailer] Family of Stores." It was my understanding that manufacturer coupons could be used at any store that accepts manufacturer coupons. Have you ever seen something like this before? Can a product’s company require redemption at a certain store even if it’s a manufacturer coupon, and can they require your shopper’s card to also be scanned before the coupon will be accepted? — Colleen P.

You’re correct that a store that accepts all manufacturer coupons can accept one with another store’s logo or name printed on it. As long as the manufacturer coupon has a standard barcode and physical mailing address printed on it in the redemption instructions, any store accepting it can receive reimbursement for the coupon.

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However, not all stores will accept manufacturer coupons with another store’s name on them, so check your store’s coupon policy to confirm.

The second question is a bit more interesting. Can a store really require a shopper’s loyalty card to be scanned before a specific coupon is accepted? While a store is free to include this in their terms of acceptance for coupons they provide to shoppers, I’m not aware of any restrictions at the point-of-sale that might implement this on the store’s part.

Coupons’ barcodes do not currently contain a validation field tied to whether or not a shopper’s loyalty card is scanned. So, this is a term of redemption similar to "Limit two like coupons per transaction" or "Limit one coupon per household," in that the shopper and cashier will be responsible for enforcement, not the coupon itself.

Dear Jill, I have a question about the coupons you find in dispensers on the shelf. I saw a good deal on some soup the other day, which was 50 cents per can. The coupons in the machine were good for $1 off every four cans. I bought eight and took two coupons. I got excited about 25-cent soup. When I got to the cash register, the cashier wouldn’t let me use both because the coupons say "Limit one coupon per transaction." I’m irked that the machine offers as many coupons as I want to take, but the cashier shut it down. — Sara H.

I’ve often said that coupon use is a privilege, not a right. In this case, the manufacturer of the soup wishes to give each shopper a discount on four cans, but no more than that in the same transaction. They’re within their rights to set the terms and limits on their offers. If you kept your second coupon and plan to return to the store before the sale ends, certainly use it on your next trip for more 25-cent soup.

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