Sunday, December 19, 2010

Coupon Shopping Store Reviews: And the Drama of Buying "Too Many" Papers at the Mountain Outpost in Weaverville...

As most of you know I get pretty excited about Coupon shopping. When you live on an incredibly limited budget (you could multiply our income by 2 and we would still be about a grand below the 2009 Federal Poverty level for our family size) couponing is important and allows us to live at a comfortable level and gives us the opportunity to help others (after all, what am I going to do with the 20 tubes of free toothpaste that I've picked up over the last few months, or the half dozen razors?).

An incident this morning, along with a half years worth of experiences with coupon-hostile stores (and on the flip side, coupon friendly stores) has inspired this post. Since I'm writing from experience I'll be writing about the local stores in Trinity and Shasta counties in Northern California, but feel free to share your favorite (and least favorite) stores for couponing if you have them!

I'll start with this morning's incident. After Mass, with the girls piled in the back of the car, we went to the only local store that sells newspapers inside, Weaverville's Mountain Outpost (the photo of the store is from the Visit! Trinity County website). They know that we buy papers for the coupons that they contain.

My husband was informed by the clerk, this morning, that he couldn't buy newspapers, because we buy too many (we buy four each week, which is on the low end for coupon-ers, I know quite a few people buy 8 each week). I was a little confused about the logic of this. We buy four newspapers every week. They can count on it (and it means they're selling papers!). If they do sometimes run out they can order more and depend on us buying four more (that they know will sell... I would pay in advance if it was necessary!).

I would think a little store would like that kind of business, but instead, because of the rather rude clerk hassling my husband, we're probably not going to be going back. I'll just make sure I get a roll of quarters each week to use one of the machine's outside the post office. So much for shopping locally to help out small businesses! You can only help out small businesses by spending if they'll sell to you (I should also note that this particular store has tacked on an extra 80 cents for using a debit card without telling us... I would have still shopped there, but it's nice to be told rather than just charged!)!

My favorite couponing story at our other local market, Tops, comes from a family member. She took her carefully clipped coupons in and had one checker ask "What is that?" in a disgusted tone. The brave couponer said "a coupon" in a meek tone (she'd spent a lot of time clipping and wasn't about to give up on saving money). "Where did you get it?" The clerk continued as if she were being handed a pile of the bear scat that Sadie points to every time we go on nature walks. In the end, however, she took the coupon and it worked, which is more than I can say for my least favorite couponing store.

As many couponers know, Target has a bad reputation. And there's a very good reason. A lot of coupons (including their own "Target" Coupons) don't work there. That isn't all that unusual, but the negative about Target, in my experience, is that if a coupon doesn't work there's a good chance that the checker will just say "sorry, nothing we can do." I've read some pretty horrible stories on other sites about managers refusing coupons there because people would "get things too cheap" and after my own experience carefully clipping coupons and then having only a couple of them work I've given up on the store. I am keeping my eyes open because I've heard that they've changed their policies to make it more coupon friendly, but until I actually see the change in action (in the form of coupon site reviews from customers) I won't do much shopping there.

Walmart has been neutral in my experience. Sometimes they'll force a coupon to work and sometimes they won't even when it's clearly valid. But usually they try (and since it is by far the least expensive store in our area I do most of our food shopping there).

Micheal's is one store that's taken every coupon I've brought in. Joann Fabrics has always taken my coupons too (although I've only used Joann's coupons at their store).

Then there's my favorite couponing store: I am biased when it comes to CVS because my husband works there. Usually I do shop with my husband when I'm coupon shopping, because of the volume of coupons that I use. He's worked there long enough to know how to make pretty much any coupon work and when you have fifty or so coupons some of them are probably not going to scan. However even when he's not there and coupons don't work I've had good luck getting checkers to force through coupons. I just point out that it's valid and stand there until they figure out how to run it. The other trick to CVS is to make sure you get your extra bucks on the receipt. If they don't print point it out and if the checker doesn't know how to force it a manager will easily be able to put in the code and print the coupon for you!

And that's how the stores I shop at stack up in the coupon department!

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