Coupons

Dear Jill: Why won’t some coupons work at all? I bought a box of snacks with a “peelie” coupon stuck to the product. I pointed it out to the cashier, who peeled it off and tried to scan it. However, it would not scan, and she said the register could not find a match for the coupon.

The cashier ended up putting it in as a general grocery discount after she made sure it wasn’t expired. Why do you think this happened? Why would the brand make a coupon that doesn’t work on their own snack? — Mira H.

Dear Jill: A few weeks ago at a big box store, I had a $2 coupon for any three candy bags from one candy company. It was invalid at the register. I asked an employee to look at it, and she got the same results. I picked up another bag of candy so I would have all three bags of the same variety. It still wouldn’t work. She took the bags to another register and tried several times. I ended up not using the coupon.

The next week, I had another “Buy 3, Save $2” coupon from a different candy manufacturer. I had the same results. I also bought a box of sweetener packets and used the $1.50 off “use now” coupon that was stuck to the box. The register indicated it was invalid, yet the expiration date was more than a month away. In two weeks, I lost out on $5.50 in coupons. Are manufacturers trying to get us to buy their products and assume we won’t put them back on the shelf if their coupon doesn’t work? That doesn’t seem fair. — Liz T.

It’s incredibly frustrating when coupons won’t scan at the register. I don’t believe manufacturers intentionally are creating coupons that do not work.

However, coupons for multiple different-branded items made by a single manufacturer sometimes come with their share of problems. With a potentially large range of product UPCs to add to the coupon’s barcode, on occasion, one or more products that should be included might not be.

This doesn’t mean the shopper is in the wrong in this situation — on the contrary, a coupon should be coded to work on whatever the visible text to the shopper states.

Coupons valid on any three bags of candy from a specific manufacturer should work on exactly that.

Certainly, the instant-redeemable coupons (peelies) stuck to the package should work on the items they’re found on. It’s puzzling they did not, as these coupons typically are limited solely to the item or items they’re attached to.

Occasionally, these coupons require a second unrelated item to be purchased — such as a coupon for $1 off ice cream and cones — but most of these types of coupons are for the single item they’re attached to.

That said, if coupons don’t scan on the correct items, the cashier should override them. He or she can verify the items you purchase are the correct ones specified on the coupon. Typically, the store’s policy allows this action. You can refer to your store’s coupon policy to verify.

However, some coupon policies exclude any coupons that don’t scan. Unfortunately, if your store is one of them, the store might refuse to manually allow a nonscanning coupon.

I’m just as annoyed by situations such as this as anyone else, though. I recommend emailing the manufacturer that created the offer and detailing what happened when you tried to use the coupon. Chances are, they are aware of the issue. They might offer to mail you another coupon for the trouble you had.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.