There are scores of new couponers on the scene these days, which is just wonderful! This might answer some of the questions couponers have about what they should and should not do. We want to prevent any unneeded frustration at the store register, also.

Couponers get frustrated when the take the time traveling to the store expecting a good deal only to get there and find out from that store cashier that someone just bought 20 of those items and cleared out the store shelf? Another frustration is when a customer uses several reward cards from family and friends so they can go around the limit for coupons accepted by the store? A few store managers shared some horror stories when it comes to shoppers with coupons.

Last week, I saw a customer yell at a store employee because the price on the shelf was different than the price she was charged. She very impolitely demanded a refund in a rude and condescending way to a calm store employee that I was a bit shocked. We see terrible manners to cheating happening at retail stores every day, which is the reason we are focusing this article on couponing with proper etiquette.

We’ll cover the rules that apply to etiquette that couponers should respect, as well as actions that some couponers should not participate in while shopping. Hopefully you  already practice good etiquette couponing, which makes retail stores much more accepting to continue offering great coupon deals. If you are new to couponing, here’s suggestions to help you have a more positive couponing experience.

1. BE POLITE TO STORE EMPLOYEES: 

being polite to store workers

This is a big request. There are too many times we see obnoxious shoppers harass cashiers over silly things, even coupons. The mean tone of voice and rolling their eyes, this terrible behavior is more what you would expect from a toddler, not a mature adult speaking to another mature adult who is just trying to do their job. If a cashier is not responding to you regarding a coupon the way you think they should, ask them politely if you could speak with a manager. If that doesn’t work, just don’t purchase the product and call the manufacturer to address the issue. It’s only a coupon, it’s not a good reason to have an argument in the  grocery store. Seriously, the managers and cashiers usually know who the unreasonable couponers are and they are generally not very happy to see them enter their store. Even if the cashier is somewhat rude, just ignore it. Request to speak with the manager and take it from there.

2. CORRECT USE OF COUPONS: 

correct coupons

Since a coupon may scan and then appear as another item by the same manufacturer (this sometimes happens), you should not use it on the other item. This is referred to as “bar code manipulation”  and it not ethical. Adhere to the text description right on the coupon telling you what product(s) can be used for that coupon and how many of that product you need to buy. If that coupon stipulates that you must buy 2 of that product, then you need to buy 2 of that product. If the coupon stipulates that you need to buy a 6-pack of that soap, then you should not try and use it on a 2-pack of that soap.

3. ADHERE TO EXPIRATION DATES:

 Sometimes couponers will accidentally give an expired coupon to a cashier, not realizing the expiration date had passed. Cashiers will usually take it in stride, they know we all make mistakes and they are usually okay with it. When we apologize and let them know that we fully understand why they can’t take the coupon. The real problem is with those people who purposefully try to use those expired coupons. Retail stores generally do not get reimbursed for these expired coupons. This unethical practice costs us all money when stores pass this cost on in the form of higher product prices and then offer less promotions. So, do not try to pass off these expired coupons and just hope you won’t get caught. Most retail stores are very explicit that they will not accept expired coupons. A good way to get rid of expired coupons, send those coupons to the US military overseas. They will be able to use those expired coupons for up to 6 months after the expiration date. Visit coupsfortroops.com for more information.

4. ONLY USE AUTHENTIC COUPONS: 

fake coupons

Coupons received in your e-mail in a pdf file, promoting free products are not authentic. Only coupons released from manufacturer websites and most coupon websites are authentic.

5. DO NOT PHOTO COPY COUPONS: 

photocopy coupons

It states it right on the coupon saying it is not okay to copy a coupon and print it for use. That’s not only unethical, it’s illegal to photocopy coupons.

6. FOLLOW STORE POLICY FOR COUPONS: 

This works in your favor. Stores will have a limit on the number of a specific product you can purchase, it’s not because they want to upset you. This is so one coupon shopper doesn’t just clear the shelves leaving the other shoppers and coupon shoppers empty.

7. CHECK YOUR MANNERS AT THE DOOR: 

shelf clearing

Shelf clearing is very upsetting and makes it impossible for others to also enjoy the discounts and deals. I’m not referring to picking up 3 or 4 items. I am speaking about someone who purchases the entire stock of an item so nobody else gets any of that item. New deals are always being introduced,  so there’s no reason to be greedy. In most stores, very few will let you do that

8. DON’T CLEAR OUT TEAR PADS: 

Do not take all the tear pads or coupons from the in-store displays. It’s okay to take a few extras to share you’re your friends, but tearing off an entire tear pad with coupons is wrong.

9. NO STACKING: 

coupon stacking

E-coupons are manufacturer coupons and should not be used with manufacturer (paper) coupons for the same product ~ this is called stacking. The only e-coupon program that allows this is; Harris Teeter ~ also known as ZVR coupons. At the time this article was written, their current policy permits stacking of paper coupons and e-coupons.

10. DON’T BE STINGY: 

If you are not going to use a coupon, why not leave it next to that product on the shelf. You can even think about offering the cashier that specific coupon deal, go ahead and offer an extra copy of a coupon to the cashier so they can benefit as well. Look at the shopping cart of products of the person in the checkout line behind you. Perhaps you can offer them a few coupons that will save them money. Being a coupon fairy is a great way to help other people and pay it forward, doing a good deed feels good.

11. WARN OTHERS: 

If you have 1000 coupons, be polite and warn people in line behind you. Let them know that you have all of these coupons and that it may take a bit of time in line. They should be appreciative and then you won’t need to deal with anyone getting upset. Many times, I’ll strike up a conversation with the people behind me in line. It’s a good opportunity to see if you can share any coupons for products they are buying.

12. LET EXPRESS SHOPPERS GO IN FRONT OF YOU:

 If you have a full shopping cart, it’s always nice to let someone with a couple items go ahead of you. It’s such an easy random act of kindness.

13. DINING ~ TIPPING WITH COUPONS: 

When dining at restaurants and you want to tip with a coupon, calculate the tip based on the pre-coupon value, not the after-coupon value.

14. GET ORGANIZED: 

Don’t fumble around trying to find your coupons at the last minute while people are anxiously waiting in line behind you. Before you reach the register, you should already have your coupons are ready to be handed to the cashier. The easier we make it for the cashiers, the better it is for all couponers. If you forget to give a cashier your coupon before you have paid for your items, many stores will not give you the money for that coupon after the sale. If you are organized, you are less likely to forget a coupon.

15. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OFF PEAK HOURS: 

Shop when the store is not its busiest and you won’t have that long wait in line to check out, try not to shop during lunch and right after work. Weekends may also be very busy. The best times to shop are usually  weekdays in the early morning, between lunch and dinner or later in the evening after dinner.

16. BE POLITE ~ SAY THANK YOU:

If you get good customer service or you appreciate a product promotion like Super Double coupons, take a little time to inform the store manager about your good experience. Perhaps even call the corporate office of the business, or maybe posting to their Facebook page so the employee who gave you the great service can be recognized. That employee may receive some sort of bonus, award or recognition. Make sure you give the name of the employee.

Always look at the big picture when you are deciding how to use coupons. As the coupon craze continues to grow and especially if the economy slows, some people may try to stretch the proper boundaries for couponing. We don’t want to be the coupon enforcers, but for many, couponing is an effective way to make ends meet. It permits them to put food on the table and pay the bills. If a few don’t follow the couponing rules, it becomes more probable that manufacturers and stores may not continue to offer the coupons and deals they are now offering. Honest couponers who just want to support themselves will suffer. If you follow our suggestions and do it right, there is a good chance that we will continue to use coupons well into the future. Everybody loves a discount!