So, I've been couponing for several years, but up until recently (the last 2 months or so) it has been pretty much contained to grocery shopping at Harris Teeter. It has grown from an interest in saving money to a hobby I'm passionate about. You may think that's a little strong for something like couponing, but it really is something that I enjoy and find truly beneficial for my family. One of my favorite places to shop is Target...and not just because it is clean, organized, and has good quality items. It's because they have an amazing coupon policy that makes it truly one of the cheapest places to shop. I know that Wal-Mart is often a lot cheaper, but I really do despise going there and avoid it at all cost! And that used to be literally true. Now I feel I can shop at Target and save so much more money than going to Wal-Mart - and actually have a pleasurable experience!
However, the last two trips to Target have been a night-mare upon checking out. Today's experience was just about enough to send me over the edge. But don't worry - I've calmed down now and am more determined than ever to shop there with success, just to "show them". I'm going to tell you my story below not to scare you, but hopefully to give you some confidence. Hopefully the lesson learned will be: do not let them bully you!
Coupons equal more work for the cashier. I love Target. I love the people who work there (generally). But honestly, in a day where people rarely use cash anymore - the cashier has a pretty easy job of it. The computer does all the work! All they have to do is scan, place the items in the bags, and hand you your receipt. They don't even have to worry about calculating your change - the computer does that too! So, when you hand them 15 coupons, they will often act like you have totally ruined their peaceful day. I'm not joking!
Last week I visited a different Target than usual. When checking out, I normally wait until all the items have been scanned and then hand the cashier my manufacturers coupons. Once those have been scanned in, then I hand them my Target coupons, and then hand them my phone for any mobile coupons. This just keeps things from getting confused and also gives me the best chance of getting overage (if there is any to be had). Well, the cashier noticed that I had coupons in my hand and asked for me to hand them all over. So, I went ahead (she seemed nice enough). Then she proceeded to scrutinize each and every coupon. She actually closed down her lane and laid out the coupons on each item, to make sure that I had the exact items that the coupons were for. I tried to explain to her that the register basically does that job for her and that if there is a problem that it will beep, and then we could look for the item to make sure. That was not acceptable. A manager was called over. They couldn't understand how it was possible for me to have a manufacturer coupon that said "available at Wal-mart", but be using it at Target (btw - it was not a Wal-Mart coupon, just an advertisement showing that Wal-Mart carries the item). Then they couldn't figure out how to deal with a coupon in which I would be getting overage. Then they refused to touch my phone - saying it was a liability. Twenty minutes later, I finally left with my purchases in hand - successful, but exhausted!
Today, at my usual Target, the cashier didn't understand that I could use one manufacturer coupon and one Target coupon on each item and he didn't want to scan my phone - didn't even want to try. The manager was called over immediately! I then had the manager tell me that the coupons only applied to items pictured on the coupon! This was for a Target coupon for buy 3 Nabisco items get one free. I told her that there were probably 20 different Nabisco items on their shelves and that there was no way for them to picture all the different possibilities on the coupon; I finally convinced her to let me use it. Then she gave the same objection to a Neutrogena coupon on ANY face or skin care item. They only pictured 2 items on the coupon and she said she was "putting her foot down and wasn't taking the coupon". I told her I wasn't going to buy it, then. She also tried to tell me that I had probably exceeded the limit on coupons allowed - though she didn't know what the limit was. I told her that there is no limit on number of coupons that you can use on the Target Corporate Coupon policy, to which she replied "well I guess you know more about our coupon policy than me"! I had to bite my tongue from the many "smart" retorts that were coming to mind at the time. She then insinuated that I was committing coupon fraud and that I was going to make her loose her job over a $1 coupon! After many stares from other people, the manager and cashier carefully scrutinizing every item that I purchased, and a little heated debate, I walked out with $36 worth of items for a total of $10.93.
Here are the lessons learned:
1) Print out the coupon policies and keep them with you!!!
2) Keep your calm and gently explain to them how it all works (they just don't know)
3) Remember that you're NOT doing anything under-handed or wrong. The amount you're saving is just un-fathomable to them and some of them just cannot wrap their heads around it!
When I got home, I blew off my steam to my husband and then calmly wrote Target about my experience. I think that this is an important step that we often under-estimate. We automatically assume that they don't care, won't listen, and don't give them the opportunity to fix the problem. Even if nothing changes and the cashiers are still as oblivious to the coupon policies as ever, at least I have voiced my concerns and let them know about the issues. I have already received a short/diplomatic reply:
I'm glad you've taken the time to write us about your experience. We’re sorry you didn't receive the type of service you've come to expect at Target.
We know the importance of having well-trained team members who knows well about our coupon policy, and I know it can be frustrating if you receive inconsistent information about our services. Hearing your comments is very important to us, and I’ve shared them with the Charlotte SE and Charlotte Midtown Target Stores Leadership team for further review.
Thanks for taking the time to write. I hope we'll see you again at Target.
Target Guest Relations
So keep couponing and come back next week for our special guest post from Hollie Amos about all the tricks! Also, I'd love to hear memorable/funny/exasperating coupon stories! Leave them in the comments section!