Sunday, January 24, 2010

I've been thinking

ETA: I've had several requests to be able to copy this post and/or link to it. That is totally fine. :) If you'd like to copy or link to my post, please just credit me when you do so. Brandy @

One of the things that bugs me the most about being a couponer is that people (and by people I mean, cashiers, managers, other customers) think I am getting away with something, ripping off the store, cheating the system, some even say I am stealing. And it makes me furious.

This attitude comes from a lack of knowledge about how coupons work. If you're here reading my blog, you probably know how coupons work. Here's a quick reminder for all of us...

Manufacturer's coupons: When the stores submit these to the clearinghouse, they are reimbursed FULL FACE VALUE plus $.08 per coupon. So the store makes MORE money by accepting your coupon than by the average shopper handing over cash/credit.
*If a coupon is difficult to read/scan at the fault of the manufacturer/design, the store can charge the manufacturer even more for the handling of these q's.
*Most Clearinghouses are huge conveyor belts that scan coupons to tally the reimbursement value, so that cashier that agrees to "give it to you for free, shouldn't that be enough?" by marking your $1 coupon down to $.75? Just made $.25 for the store. That huge scanner doesn't pay a single inkling to that little $.75 the cashier wrote on your coupon.
*Stores even get reimbursed postage for the cost of shipping the coupons to the clearinghouse.

Doubling/Tripling coupons: A gimmick to get you in the door. The store eats the cost of doubles/triples. They consider it worthwhile if it causes you to shop there rather than at... Wal-Mart.

Competitor Coupons: This is truly a loss for a store. There is no reimbursement value for competitor coupons. Like doubling/tripling, accepting competitor coupons is a gimmick to get you in the doors to buy all your other items at their store rather than the competitor. Stores that accept competitor coupons are using a brilliant marketing strategy. They are counting on you wanting to buy all your items in one place, and hoping that if you have a competitor's coupon that you can use at their store, you'll stick around for the other things as well.

Store Coupons: Store coupons are a little tricky to define. Let's take Publix as an example. Regular Publix shoppers will notice that those Advantage Buy Flyers have coupons and sales that rotate on a regular basis. One that appears often is the $6/2 Sundown Vitamins coupon. The CEO of Publix may be a nice guy, but he's not browsing the local store looking for things to give away. I promise. :) What happens is, some head honcho at Sundown gets together with some head honcho at Publix and they strike a deal. The value could be based on number of coupons redeemed, or number of stores that run the sale. Specifically for Publix, the most recent numbers show that Publix is getting reimbursed approximately 75-80% of the Store coupons' face value. So don't let anyone say to you "Publix doesn't get reimbursed for these" "We can't give it to you for free" "We can't pay you to take it". Because that shows lack of knowledge of how these q's work.

BOGO deals (Publix): You may not be aware of this, but like the store coupons, sales like the Mega sales at Kroger and BOGO sales at Publix are also marketing ploys that are reimbursed by the manufacturer! If Publix is selling Scrubbing Bubbles BOGO at $3.99/ea, that means, you, the consumer, will pay half price for the item, or $2.00. At the end of the sale, Publix tells Johnson and Johnson, hey, we sold 100 bottles of Scrubbing Bubbles, costing us $199, now pony up. And Johnson and Johnson PAYS Publix for running the special and promoting the product. It is another form of advertising. Most recent numbers show that BOGO sales at Publix are reimbursed at approximately 70-80%.

ETA: It occurred to me I failed to mention rainchecks. Rainchecks are another loss for a store. The store is reimbursed the difference of the sale to the store, but if a raincheck is issued, the store is the one to eat the cost when you do use the raincheck. The manufacturer will cover the "deal" for the week the item is on sale, but the store is responsible for keeping the items in stock. If a store has to issue a raincheck, then the amount of discount given is lost since it is beyond the sale week. This is a reason you will have limits enforced on rainchecks.

It makes me crazy that people have this mindset that people who use coupons are abusing the system. I hate that. As long as you are an honest couponer, using legit coupons and following the store rules, then you are doing no such thing. Abuse comes from illegal photocopies, stacking two manufacturer coupons on one item, and so forth. That is true abuse of the system. Most of us? We are just honest people looking for a good deal.

And in the end? The store wins. The store wins BIG by catering to couponers. Let me show you what I mean. . .

When I shop at Publix, I use the trick of buying multiple moneymakers to build up overage to afford the items I need. This helps reduce my out of pocket expense. Do I need 10 bottles of Aleve? 8 Rolls of J&J gauze? 10 boxes of Phazyme? Not right at the moment, and I certainly wouldn't walk into Publix and pay for all of that with cash. So Publix makes a higher profit by selling to me than the average person who runs in for a few things.

My most recent shopping trip:

For Items I use regularly that I stockpiled or needed (eggs, Morningstar, fruit, etc)
Total Cost: $125.61
Total store coupons: $5
Total Mq's: $64.15
(Quantity of mq's presented: 51: $4.08 handling fees)
Total doubles: $4.50
Total BOGO: $60.49

For Moneymakers:
Total cost: $108.96
Total store coupons: $103
Total Mq's: $82
(Quantity of mq's presented: 41: $3.28 handling fees)

For this scenario, we'll go with an 80% return on BOGOs and store q's.
So, for this trip, after reimbursement, the store will have received approximately $288.50, losing $38.20 in store coupons, doubles and BOGOs.

BUT If I wasn't a couponer, and only bought the items I needed/wanted, and we're assuming I am still stockpiling... The store would have made $120.62, losing $17.60 in store coupons, BOGOs and doubles.

When I shopped, I cost them $20.60, but I brought in an additional $167.88.

Now. Which stores was it that wanted to turn away the couponers????

*Disclaimer: I worked as a budget/price analyst for four years for a Publishing company, saving my company more than $1.5 million in residual effects in a single year, so I am pretty darn good with numbers.


  1. Great information! I was a finance analyst as well and it is amazing that store management does not realize that they actually can make more money from people using coupons. It is very short-sited of them.

  2. Thanks for the information! I do try to avoid the cashiers and managers who make me feel like a criminal now I can hold my head up high because I am not doing anything wrong.

  3. Thank you for the info. I've printed a copy to take with me. I've had several cashiers say things to me about coupons (most negative). The last one at Publix took more time matching up my Q's than I did shopping. Then she said they were having problems with customers using Q's and had them on video to prove it. (Whatever!)

  4. Problems with customer using coupons? ARGH! Do they have problems with customers using cash? Using debit cards? Of course not.


  5. I just posted my comment to the Publiz website, we may be headed to Super Target once again.

  6. AMEN!!!!!! PREACH it girl!!

  7. Loved this post!!! My question is, how do we convince the stores that they are earning more money from us?

  8. Thrifty- ah- the golden question. I think it's just a matter of time, and over and over telling people, educating them on coupons and especially getting in good with staff at your stores. I've had long convos with Store Managers at both Walgreens and Publix where I shop and they totally agree with me. But they're few and far between. I hope now that coupons are more mainstream, once we, as a group, continue to present coupons in accordance with their policy, and complain when ridiculous rules are made up, which only prevent the store from turning extra profit, we will eventually have them seeing the light.

  9. I've been thinking about this for awhile now... wouldn't it be great if we had an inside coupon person working for Publix (or any other grocery store for that matter)? A "coupon liaison" if you will. Someone who would check the coupon blogs, anticpate which deals are going to be hot based on the coupons available at that time, and recommend greater inventory during those sale periods. Someone who could educate cashiers and management on coupons and be a kind of mediator between them and customers on coupon issues. Someone who could provide feedback on stores' coupon policies. Someone who is a couponer and understands our needs. With so many people using coupons now and the numbers growing every day, the first grocery store to realize this and employ one of us "coupon mamas" for something like this is going to make a lot of money and possibly revolutionize couponing and grocery store shopping forver. Mark my words.

  10. Daphne, funny you should bring that up. My store manager asked me if I would be willing to do a workshop for the area managers and then the Asst Mgr asked if I would be willing to hold some classes for the cashiers. I said sure! But you're right. That would be huge. Ironically, if the DM ever calls me, I was going to tell him that I would be happy to tell them the good deals ahead of time so the stores can increase orders for that item. Of course that would be easy for Adv Buy items, but for the weekly ad, you'd have to have access to it ahead of time, and those things are like TOP SECRET. lol. So you'd probably have to do some sort of confidentiality clause or something. Anyway, yes, I believe you are right on the money.

  11. Daphne - Great idea. I think you may have found your calling. :)

  12. Thanks so much for letting me share with my readers...and thanks for sharing your site (I've vistited before!)
    Michelle @ I Heart Publix!

  13. That would be an AMAZING idea that would benefit the store more than they could possibly know. Can you imagine? Going into the store and things running smoothly just because they actually know how to do their jobs as well as we do. (haha).
    But, seriously, Brandy, that would be so awesome if you would be able to give a class to like that to some of the employees and managers. (I really hope they'd include some of the managers in the Hermitage and Mt. Juliet areas too!) That would really clear up so much of the confusion that comes up and I think they would probably even learn ways they could better help maximize their stores profits by helping us more easily get what we want to buy (I know I'd personally do less holding back on my purchases if I wasn't so afraid of the cashier scrutiny all the time). It's a win/win situation and truly a revolutionary idea: getting the customer involved like that. Publix is probably the best in customer service right now, but lately, it feels like even they are slipping backward with some of these new things they are trying to enforce with coupons. I believe if they had asked the customer, they would know it doesn't do much to benefit their "great" customer service.
    If they expanded the idea of educating mangers with people like you across other regions and word caught on in the couponer's community that they were listening to their customers, you know every couponer would patronize Publix like none other.

  14. You are a highly intelligent lady. By the way the Publix corporate office is located in Lakeland, Fl. I live close by you could bunk up at my house while you educate the people in charge. This would make it great for every one. I do have to say my Publix that I shop at near Lake Wales has a wonderful Assistant Manager and he uses coupons also. Keep up the great job.

  15. Anon- aww- thanks! :) If I'm ever there, I'll let you know!! :)

  16. May I post your commentary and give you a link back? I love it!
    Glenda @

  17. This is an excellent post and I love the information you've given! We've linked to your post over at This should help all couponers feel much better about using every coupon they can find!

    Sarah Doyle (blog)

  18. Thanks for the education! I am going to be showing this post to all my friends and may print it out to show to my local Publix managers, even though they are very coupon-friendly already!

  19. Thanks for all the nice comments :) I hope that the information I have here helps everyone better educate other couponers you know as well as the staff at your store. Remember be nice and kind and you will receive it in return. :)

  20. Outstanding article. I linked over here from I Heart Publix, and I am now bookmarking your site. Thanks!

  21. Thank you wonderful post. Reading this makes me want to send it to my Publix.

  22. I loved this article! I get so frustrated with cashiers who make me feel like I am stealing. Great job explaining the truth on couponing.

  23. WOW!!! Totally Awesome read...I am going to print this out and take it to MY PUBLIX store and give it to the managers...I have already offered to teach their cashiers how to handle coupons...LOL, I posted on my blog site with a link to your site.

    Thank you!