Today I want to address a couponing question that I can totally relate to — the worry over “unfriendly” cashiers.
I just started using coupons — thanks to KOAB — but I am always nervous when I go into the store. I feel like there is such a stigma, especially from the cashiers, who sometimes seem so exasperated when I whip out my small stack of coupons. Have you had to deal with this ever?
~ Amy in Colorado
Woohoo! I’m proud of you for venturing into the coupon business. I bet it’s going to get easier and easier to save more and more money!
Over the last two+ years of bargain shopping and coupon clipping, I have encountered countless kind and helpful cashiers. I’ve even been high-fived (that was a little embarrassing) by one cashier.
But yes, on rare occasions, I have come across the cashier who made my entire trip to the store a complete nightmare. Whether it was because they didn’t know their own store’s coupon policy or because they had had a long day and didn’t feel like dealing with 20 coupons and three different transactions, these cashiers practically reduced me to tears.
Once or twice, I have ended up scraping the whole trip and leaving the store empty handed. But I can usually avoid getting to that point by using some of these simple strategies:
1. Pick your cashier
Talk to any seasoned couponer and they will all admit to a little bit of “profiling” when faced with a row of check-out lines. For me, I prefer either the teenagers or the retirees, and men tend to be less likely antagonized than women. All that said, I’ve had cashiers who completely blew all my stereotypes out the window. Have you ever noticed that some cashiers are more “coupon friendly” than others?
2. Be polite
Different regions of the country have different norms about how to behave in a cashier-customer relationship. In the Midwest, a friendly hello, a sympathetic remark about what a long day they must be having , or even just a warm smile will go a long way. Beyond the basic pleasantries, I always speak politely and respectfully — even when I KNOW that I am right and they are wrong 😉
3. Know your policies
The rules of coupon useage are more or less universal, but if there is ever an issue about a particular coupon not coming off as I know it should, it’s always helpful to know what the store’s policy is. Some stores, such as Whole Foods, unfortunately don’t have national policies. But many of the bigger stores — including Target and Walgreens — have national policies. Other stores, like CVS, are known for their YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) situations.
4. Be willing to escalate to a manager.
This is hard for me, but if there is a situation that is really going south fast, I will ask to speak with a manager. Or, if I’m at Target (where frankly, I have had the most problems with coupons — which I understand is pretty common) I will just gather up my goods and make my way over to the customer service desk. Nine out of ten times, this resolves the situation — it doesn’t necessarily mean that I get my “way”, but I leave with my dignity… and hopefully a few good deals.
5. Call or write a letter.
What about the 1 out of 10 times when it doesn’t end well? Frankly, this has almost never happened to me… but I sure do remember the three times when it did. (Let’s just say that that’s why I almost never go to K-Mart or my neighborhood Walgreens anymore.)
I have two options: I can just let it go and let my (lack of) patronage speak for me — aka what I did with K-Mart and Walgreens. Or, I can make a phone call (or send an email). I’ve only done this once before – and it wasn’t because they didn’t take my coupon (even though I totally knew that coupon was legit!), but because I was treated so unkindly that I was actually embarrassed in front of my kids.
I know cashier “issues” can be a huge hurdle for new couponers, so I’d love to hear from you on this: Have you encountered unfriendly cashiers? And how did you deal with the situation?