Monday, June 20, 2011

Rebates: Do's, Don'ts, and What to Do if Yours is Wrong

I received 2 rebate checks in the mail the other day, but I had also received the postcard pictured that stated that there was an error in one of my other rebates.

The thing about rebates is that the manufacturers set very specific rules and guidelines for each rebate that are tricky to follow. Sometimes I wonder if they are trying to get you so frustrated in filling them out that you either make a mistake or give up trying.

The first thing you need to do is check the dates required for the purchase (usually stated: between x/xx/xxxx and y/yy/yyyy). Next look at the specific item(s) allowed/required to be purchased to qualify for the rebate. Then read the directions as if they are "step-by-step" instructions: fill out the blah, blah, and the blah, blah; and mail this completed form and ORIGINAL cash register receipt WITH PURCHASE PRICE CIRCLED to: Name of Rebate, address, address, address 12345
by z/zz/zzzz (date). Sometimes the rebate even requests the original bar code from the packaging of the

As soon as I make the purchase, I try to fill out the rebate that very day so as not to forget or misplace a receipt or bar code. When I fill out the rebate, I read the directions. Then I re-read them as I am circling the item(s) on the receipt. Then I, again, re-read the directions as I am copying the papers that I am sending in (never send off a rebate without copying every part). Lastly, I read the directions a final time as I put each part of the rebate into the envelope. Be sure to put a stamp on the envelope and, if asked for, include a SASE (Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope).

Mail your rebate off that very day or at least by the next day; never hold on to them. If a company is only paying a certain number of rebates, you want to be sure yours is one of those first few.

Now, back to the postcard I received from the rebate company. I had never gotten a card like this before. It stated that my rebate was rejected. I new that I had done everything that was asked of my on the form, but there was still a problem. I checked on the website listed on the card and then contacted them via a toll-free number given. I was very polite and explained my case. The operator was very understanding and looked up my rebate. He told me that the reason it was rejected was because my purchase was not within the dates required. I knew it HAD been, because my records showed that I had mailed it out on the 2nd day of the rebate and I always mail them the day after purchase.

As soon as he saw that my purchase was from Walgreens, the operator knew that there must have been an error in reading the coded date on the receipt. He resubmitted my rebate reassuring me by stating that he did not see any reason why it would not be accepted this time.

As tricky as rebates might seem to be, they can be a great experience when you follow the directions carefully and follow up on them in a positive manner when necessary.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Couponing Info, Part 3: Untrained Cashiers, It's Not Their Fault

With the usual quick turnaround of cashiers at most stores, there is little time to properly train them on every aspect of the checkout process. Coupons usually take the back burner during training because not every transaction deals with them. For this reason when problems with the coupons arise, the cashier with the line full of waiting customers will usually try to handle them without knowing how just to get you out the door.

I constantly get this from the Cashiers and Managers alike: "The coupon states 'only one coupon per purchase.' You can only use one of these." What they do not understand is that a "purchase" is an "item" not the entire transaction. Each item in a single transaction IS a purchase, therefore, you can use a manufacturer's coupon on every single item in the transaction if you have one for each of them.

Another belief by some cashiers is that people who use coupons are "robbing the store" because they are not paying for the items. The truth is you ARE paying for the item, but you are not using actual money. The store gets the money for the item; they just don't get it from YOU. The store turns the coupons in to the address on the coupon to receive the money plus they get a "processing fee" (usually 8c as stated on the coupon itself) for doing this.

Now, let's pretend you are working at a store as a cashier. Along comes Katy Coupon with her binder in tow, a buggy full of items in multiples of 4 because she buys her Sunday papers four at a time (4 cans of soup, 4 cake mixes, 4 lotions, 4 deodorants, 4 bags of cat litter, 4 packs of diapers, etc.). Katy politely chats with you while you scan 4 of every item the store carries that newly has a manufacturer's coupon out. Every coupon is working until you get to the lotion coupons that, for some reason or another, is not programmed in the register to match the corresponding lotion bottles that the store carries.

This could go several different ways, but let's look at two different scenarios:

1. Katy gets upset with you when you express your limited coupon knowledge while trying to interpret the wording of the fine print on the coupon. You take a defensive attitude which only makes you frustrated, angry, and begin to have a feeling of dislike toward ALL coupon shoppers that are "robbing the store by using coupons."

2. Katy politely explains to you what the wording means in the "coupon world" and you learn something that you can apply to the next coupon transaction that comes across your sales counter. You begin to have a feeling of understanding and admiration for these smart shoppers who know how to get a lot for a little by living in the "coupon world."

Which Katy would you want coming to your checkout lane? If we all strive to be the Katy in scenario #2, the "coupon world" would be a better place.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Couponing Info, Part 2: Stacking Coupons

How many coupons can you legally use on a single item? Most people think one; this is a common misconception. I have used 4 at one time. This can only be done by "stacking". "What is stacking?" you ask. In couponing, stacking is the use of a store coupon (from a specific store that can only be used at that store on the item specified) along with a manufacturer's coupon (put out by the manufacturer of the product to be used on their specified product).

An example of this is a store coupon put out by store H stating that you can take $2 off of item P. But you have a manufacturer's coupon for $2 off of item P. Now you can buy item P at store H at a discount of $4!

Now let's just petend that item P is put on sale at store H for $5 this week. With either of the coupons by itself, item P would cost you $3. But by stacking both of the coupons on item P's sale price, you can get it for only $1! Wow!

Now let's look at how we can use up to 4 coupons on a single item:

First of all, the law of coupons states that you can only use one manufacturer's coupon on any single item at a time. This means that if you buy one, you can use one manufacturer's coupon; if you buy 2, you can use 2 manufacturer's coupons; and so on.

At some stores, you are able to use a store coupon on an item that also is on sale, but requires an "in-ad" coupon (printed in the weekly ad of the store) to get the sale price. Now you have 2 store coupons to use on one product and you can also stack a manufacturer's coupon with that because you have not used one yet.

There are also stores that put out savings books with coupons toward specific items in their stores. If the store recognizes these as different coupons, they can be used along with the above scenario. Now you have 4 coupons that can be used on one single item.

Although this concept seems confusing, through trial and error you will be able to master it. Just be patient and be ready for mistakes during the process because learning what doesn't work sometimes makes it easier to understand what does work.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Go "Green": Let's Recycle Expired Coupons

Whether you clip all the coupons each week, keep track of the inserts by date, or just clip the ones you think you will use, chances are you have thrown out your expired coupons a time or more. Have you ever wondered if anybody out there would honor those expired coupons. Well, the answer is YES!! A military family stationed overseas is able to use expired coupons. There are a few stipulations to what they can use, though.

Here are the guidelines I was told by a relative who is in China right now with the military:

The coupons must be within 6 months of expiration.
They must state "manufacturer's coupon" on them.
They must state what they are to be used on (item, product, brand, etc.).
They must be scan-able (have a barcode/upc number).
Printed coupons are acceptable if they meet the above requirements.

If you are in the Tyler, TX area, the Tyler Area Coupon Club (TACC) meets approximately every 4-8 weeks and takes up a collection of expired coupons at every meeting. Please watch the club's Facebook page: Tyler Area Coupon Club for information on the meetings.