Here’s a little couponing story. One day I had a coupon for $1 off two boxes of cereal and another coupon for $1 off a carton of eggs with the purchase of two boxes of cereal. The cashier got rather annoyed and told me that I couldn’t use two coupons on the same product. I said they weren’t for the same product. She said they were. I said okay. It wasn’t worth an argument — yet she continued to try to explain to me that I was trying to cheat the couponing system.


Another employee came over and the cashier said, “We’ve got another one trying to misuse coupons.” I thought about asking to see a manager, but it occurred to me that perhaps this cashier was at the end of her rope. Maybe there had been enough customers trying to misuse coupons and the sight of coupons in anyone’s hand put her automatically on the defensive. I let it go.


I have a feeling I wasn’t too off the mark with my assumption. As couponing has become something of a competitive sport, grocers are updating their coupon policies so that limits are clear. The incidents of people stealing the couponing inserts out of Sunday papers have increased since the debut of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing.” One woman was even arrested for stealing Sunday papers for the coupons. It seems that the defensiveness of grocery stores and cashiers is only going to increase as people try to get as much as they can for as little as they can, all while trying to get around stated rules.


There’s an easy way to avoid problems at checkout with your coupons. Know the rules and limitations for coupons before you use them. Here’s how:

  • Read the fine print on the coupon. Know exactly what product the coupon is for, the expiration date, whether it can be doubled, if there is a limit to how many you can use at one time, and other details.
  • Know the coupon policy for the store where you will shop. I shop most frequently at Wegmans (which is not the store in my above couponing story), and I’ve never looked up their policy. It took me less than a minute to find it online. Now I know.
  • If the way you are trying to redeem coupons violates either the fine print on the coupon or the store’s couponing policy, don’t do it. Follow the rules.
  • If you’ve followed these guidelines and a cashier says you can’t use a coupon but you’re sure you can, don’t argue with the cashier. Ask to see a manager if you feel you’re in the right. Be polite. 

Have you found that the stores you shop at are beginning to get tougher (and more defensive) on customers who use coupons?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Guidelines for hassle-free couponing
To avoid problems at the cash register with your fistful of coupons, follow these guidelines.