13 Tips for Handling Difficult Coupon Transactions

That's not a photo of me, but I laughed when I saw this photo. I can certainly relate to feeling the way she looks on several occasions while shopping with coupons.

I'd like to tell you that couponing is really easy all the time, but guess what? I'd be lying.

I don't want to scare anyone off from using coupons and learning how to strategize better to save money, though.

So, in this post, I'm going to give you some tips on how to manage difficult transactions using coupons.

First, be prepared. Preparation and organization go a long way toward a smooth checkout process.

Figure out a workable organization strategy for your coupons. I tried all sorts of organization strategies when I first started. Ultimately I wound up converting to a binder system. I will show you how to create a coupon binder in a future blog post.

A binder system also means you have a place to keep your store coupon policies. I suggest keeping a copy of the coupon policies in your binder so you can have some backup in case a difficult cashier gives you a hard time about something.

Get your binder in order before you head to the store, and make sure you have your shopping list, too.

Second: I've had enough bad couponing experiences that I have started consciously setting an intention for smooth, relaxing shopping trip before I walk in the door. It helps!

Third: Whenever I shop for an item, I remove the coupon from my binder when the item goes into my cart. That way, if I don't buy the item, the coupon stays filed in the binder. Removing coupons from your binder as you shop prevents you from forgetting to pull it out of the binder before checkout.

These first three tips alone will eliminate a lot of difficulty with your checkouts.

Fourth: Realize that there's a lot of misinformation and negative attitudes about couponing and couponers. I think a cashier's perception can often hinder what would otherwise be a smooth transaction with coupons.

Some cashiers simply do not understand that the stores get reimbursed for coupons, or that the stores make money from shoppers who use coupons.

There are some cashiers who behave as if the money comes directly out of their paycheck.

Others are afraid to make a mistake with a coupon over losing their jobs.

Invariably, you'll probably hear something about coupon fraud as an excuse as to why a cashier won't take a coupon. (This one usually ruffles my feathers. Are they insinuating that I'm using coupons fraudulently?)

Most couponers are interested in using coupons ethically and are not clearing the shelves.

Of course, we have to mention the television show here. Although it was pretty cool, it is sensational and not entirely accurate. A lot of people believe everything they see on TV, so it has influenced people's perceptions of couponers.

I also think that some cashiers are jealous of how much money couponers save. I don't understand why taking positive steps in your own life makes others jealous or angry, but couponing is no different.

Sometimes we inadvertently shine a light on positive steps we take in our lives, and it bothers insecure people. I look at the money I save as payment back for my investment in learning how to play the savings game.

It's not as if you just sit there and wait for the coupons to find you! It takes changing your habits to save money consistently, and let's face it: some people are beholden to their bad habits/vices.

This point is really just to make you aware of attitudes when it comes to coupons. Keep these in mind when you navigate those checkout lanes. I don't think you should worry about them, just be aware of them.

Five: Shop at a time of day that is less busy. If you have a lot of coupons, you will need more time. Sometimes, you'll have to do multiple transactions, which requires more time.

I tell people who get behind me during a large transaction that I have a lot of coupons, and if they're in a hurry they might want to pick a different checkout lane.

Many people appreciate that warning and will move to another lane. Others will want to stay and watch to see how much money you save.

If I have coupons for items they are purchasing, I will share with them, too. I usually wind up answering a ton of questions at that point, about how others can learn to coupon.

Six: Profile your cashiers. If you shop somewhere frequently, hopefully you know a few cashiers there. Establishing a regular routine with the same cashier usually results in them making your checkout process smoother.

I almost always look for male cashiers, especially the younger ones, because they are more easy going. Of all the times I've had trouble at checkout, the majority of them have been during a checkout with an older female cashier.

Seven: Before you get into your checkout line, take a few minutes to get your coupons in order, figure out your transaction order, and separate your coupons. It's easier to do this before you get in line. If you're new to couponing, you might be nervous and there's a lot going on, so don't try to do this while you're checking out.

Eight: Watch as items ring up and as the coupons come off. If you notice a problem, mention it right away so it can get fixed while you're standing there. For example, if you are at Fry's and you notice that a coupon is not "bonusing up" mention it.

If there's a problem, you can always get out the coupon policy and show the cashier (politely) that they are incorrect. If there's still a problem, ask for a manager and work it out from there.

Nine: Be polite! All you really want is for these people to take your coupons so you can walk out with a deal. Being rude isn't going to help.

Ten: If you're at a store and things just go sideways, the nuclear option is to cancel the transaction, ask for your coupons back, and leave the store.

It sucks for everyone when this happens, but if you can't reach a compromise, or you got off on the wrong foot or things just aren't going well, get your coupons back and ghost outta there.

This has happened to me frequently at Target with the Store Manager. He was dug in on a point related to coupons, and even though I pulled out the coupon policy, it just made him even more angry. So then I tried negotiating with him, reminding him that I was leaving well over $100 of merchandise on the belt, and he was going to have to pay someone to put it all back on the shelf.

Nope, his ego was involved, and I wasn't getting out of there with the deals I should have been able to get, all because he was angry for pulling out the coupon policy.

It happens, folks. Your only option here is to decide if you want to pay for the items for a higher price, or leave and try again another day.

Personally, I'd walk. It sucks because of the time you spent in the store, but I'm not going to spend my money in a negative situation. There are always more deals and other places to shop.

I am not perfect and this situation has happened to me a lot. I have lost my temper, like in the Target scenario. I always expect people to behave in a logical fashion, though, so that's probably my fault for expecting that!

Eleven: Before you leave the checkout area, look around. Make sure you have your keys, wallet, debit card, receipts, cash, your binder, and anything else valuable.

Twelve: If you're not used to standing up for yourself, it might take some practice to get over your fear about coupon policies and asking the store to comply with it.

It's OK to tell a cashier they're wrong and cite the policy. I will usually preface my statement with, "Respectfully, that is not what your store's coupon policy says. It says, ....."

Using the word "respectfully" usually lets the other person know that you're not trying to be rude, you just want them to comply with their own policy. If they don't, it's your call as to whether you want to buy the items.


If you're really mad, you can also contact corporate when you have a difficult time. Sometimes this fixes the problem.

My situation at Target was not helped by calling corporate.

Target's policy on customer service seems to be to just keep apologizing, but never really taking any action. I haven't had any issues there lately, and I like shopping there, but I realize it's anyone's guess whether I'll get out of there without problems.

The good news is, when things go bad, I don't get upset about it anymore.

After awhile, you'll get a feel for where you will have the easist time using your coupons, and where you will not have an easy time.

Also, as you build a stockpile, you won't need to shop as much, and won't feel like fighting with cashiers at certain stores.

I hope these tips have helped you prepare for difficult transactions.

Have you experienced a difficult transaction? How did you handle it?