The Dark Side of Couponing

One of the hardest things about couponing is the scorn we endure in the stores. The people behind us in lines sighing loudly, the cashiers as they sift through our pile of coupons and try to remember if we bought that item, and of course the store managers that treat us like we are criminals. I work really hard at couponing - getting rss feeds from tons of coupon shopper blogs with matchups, gathering inserts, filing and clipping, making a shopping list and getting the matchups, and then the easiest part of all - the shop. Except the shop is not turning out to be very fun anymore. It used to be exhilarating walking the aisles - finding a new booklet, grabbing a peelie or blinkie, finding the shelves stocked with the items on our list, and a fresh snack as the lady makes a nice meal at the Apron Station. The climax of the trip was checking out and watching as the totals drop, and then just paying a couple dollars for a cart full of product.
But it seems like those days are far and few in between now. There is stress involved in grocery shopping. How stupid is that? My store used to have a wonderful coupon friendly group of store managers and assistant store managers, but then things changed. We've all seen it, the shuffling of coupons by the cashier as they set some aside. Reading the small print and deciding today after years of no problems, they are going to enforce the "one coupon per purchase per customer" on the PQ. I can deal with it and offer alternatives, like my DH with me is a customer too, so we can use 2, right? It usually ends up being less than pleasurable to shop. I know from the vibes on the internet and coupon forums that everyone is having more difficulty successfully shopping with coupons. Especially the people who are really good and consistently save above 80%. We are treated like criminals because we have mastered the coupon game, and the stores don't like it.
Last night was one of those nights at Publix. Here's my shopping list. Nothing too out of line, except maybe getting 10 egg beaters, but there were plenty on the shelf and my coupons expire on Sunday so I had to do it. But I broke one of my rules by not getting fillers so that my item count exceeded the coupon count. I've been slack in not worrying about manager overrides or "getting numbers" as they call it to complete my transaction with too many coupons.  But holy crap, I got the new young asst store manager male who thinks that couponers are thieves.
28-Oct 21   49.05 7.39 36.20 tax 5.46 23 -88.87%
Product qty price subtl -B1G1 -Q   total Q# Q details
mushrooms 1 1.50 1.50   1.00   0.50 1 $1/1 TQ print
iceburg lettuce 1 1.69 1.69   1.00   0.69 1 $1/1 TQ print
tomato 1 0.92 0.92       0.92    
banana 2 0.35 0.70   0.70   0.00 1 $1/1 TQ print
Egg Beaters 10 1.67 16.70   7.50   9.20 10 $0.75/1 print
Gortons Tilapia BOGO 2 7.39 14.78 7.39 3.00   4.39 3 1/1MQ+1/2PQ
vivarin sominex 4 3.19 12.76   18.00   -5.24 6 $5/2PQ+ (2) $2/1MQ
$/$$ coupon   0.00 0.00   5.00   -5.00 1 $5/$25 competitor
My order rang up and my DH didn't split up the bananas to count as two items - but that wouldn't have helped anyway. I had 3 extra coupons requiring an override. First off he starts scrolling through the screen making sure I bought produce for the $1 off TQ for produce. He would only give me 0.70 off and said I didn't buy at least a $1 of produce. I asked what he was talking about, I had plenty of produce. I told him I had to guess on the weight since they don't have prices on bananas and tomatoes, my goof I guess - the tomatoes were only 0.92 instead of 1.00. I let it go. What really irked me was him trying to give me back my $5 PQ for the sominex and telling me they weren't going to pay me to shop. This store has always been cool about overage, but this guy is obviously not. DH started getting angry and told Eric the ASM, that he was insulted and this was not a pleasurable shopping trip. I told the ASM we were paying over $5 for the order, how could he say he was paying us? Anyway, this is our home store and we always try to fly low under the radar. We don't want to alienate the staff even though they are not the most friendly. We just wanted to get out of there by now. Then Eric starts trying to be nice and offers to get our names so the store manager can call us. Yeah right. He says this as he's printing a duplicate receipt and has all my Q's in hand on his way upstairs to the office. He was going to go try to figure out what happened. It was all legit, just like it always is. They just don't like it.
So, the dark side of couponing is that it is not for the weak at heart. You need to be confident and sure of your rights and responsibilities. Don't let ignorant staff tell you they can't let you use that coupon. A coupon is legal payment. It seems like the better at couponing you get, the more scrutiny you will have to endure. It does not get easier the better you are.
The important thing to remember for me anyway at Publix, is to pick the right cashier, make sure you have fillers to bring your item count greater than your coupon count (and if you don't - leave out the overage items that shop) to avoid having manager override required. I broke my rule and paid the price - an extremely ugly encounter at the store that just doesn't sit right with me. I don't feel like it would help to talk to the store manager or corporate either because they don't want the really good couponers around. I can't even say I spend thousands of dollars a year on groceries anymore because I don't, but I used to. I still get thousands of dollars of food and products, but they're not getting the cash.
So, I'm staying out of Publix for a while. I need to work through my stockpile anyway. And work through my anger and dismay at how a good thing makes me feel bad.


  1. Hey, if the coupon says so, it says so

    We fight it :) We even got $20 back one time for a penny overage, as compensation.

  2. Anonymous10/29/2010

    Wow, I've never encountered this before. It's not like the store looses the $ from the coupon though the manufacturer does so what's the big deal? I've even had a cashier exlaim 'wow you saved X this time, that's amazing!' Sounds like you just go to a crusty staffed store, hopefully you've got some other options near you.

    Here from boost my blog, have a happy halloweekend!

  3. Anonymous10/29/2010

    This is soooooo true and exactly why I don't shop at the store closest to my home. I'm on the other side of the bay but go through the same exact thing. Our Publix district mgr shuffles all the asst mgrs to different stores. Not sure how often they do this, but it happened a couple months ago here. Have ran into some of my fav AM's in stores that I normally don't shop and asked what's up? They are not happy about it either but this explains why I've been having inconsitencies lately at my fav stores. Just take a break to regroup and when you're ready, perhaps find a different store. I know when I first started couponing it was trial and error until I found the best stores. I guess periodically we may have to do this process all over again. While it's frustrating, the payoff (at least for me) is well worth it. Best of luck to you and really enjoy your blog! :)Kim

  4. I get this all the time. That bit about the one per item per purchase, just means you can't use more than one coupon on the same item. It doesn't mean you can't buy more items and use more coupons. It is getting bad, and going to get worse at the stores I am afraid.

  5. Anonymous10/29/2010

    I have had this problem with certain Publix stores. Now, I just stick to the one closest to me. I have also educated the girls at my Publix about coupons. They share their buys with me when I come in!! It also helps because then they will not question my purchases. Im sorry you had that experience with Publix. Maybe you can find another one that is not too far from you that is hassle free.

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  7. So sorry to hear that you are having such a hard time at Publix. The store I shop at is 30 miles away, but SO worth it! They NEVER give me any problems and are very good about taking coupons and stacking coupons and I LOVE shopping there. They are GREAT to my kids and make my shopping experience enjoyable! They call this Publix the most coupon friendly store in the area!! Maybe you could try another store. Even though it might be farther away, it could be worth it!!

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