There are some basic unsaid rules to couponing and I think knowing some quick couponing etiquette is very important when starting to coupon. We are all after the same goal which is to save money so it is out of respect for others that we all be honest and respectful couponers so we are able to continue to get great deals.
Most of these will be common sense once you read through them but you would be surprised at how many people get overly excited about saving money and throw their morals out the window in order to score a deal. I have left many coupon groups on Facebook after seeing poor couponing etiquette being promoted. Many of these poor couponing etiquette instances is what forces policies to change and staff at these stores look at those trying to save money as someone trying to scam them and the store. Don’t ruin it for everyone and be honest, you can still get amazing savings while being an honest couponer!
Learn How To Coupon: Couponing Etiquette
Only take what you need:
You can find many tear-pad coupons in your local retail and grocery stores as well as pharmacies. Take only what you know you will use before the expiry date. Do not take a handful or the whole pad as there are other people who need coupons too. If the pad happens to still be there the next time you go then feel free to grab a few more if you have used up the ones you have or it has a very long expiry date. If you find a great coupon you know you want you can always go to a couple different locations that store has and get a few more that way so you are not taking many from one location. My rule of thumb is: if it is a coupon I will use often I will take 5-10 per visit or location.
If you find peelies (coupon stickers that are on product packaging), DON’T remove them from the product unless you are purchasing that product during that shopping trip. The stickers on products are meant only for the people buying the product!
If you find you need more coupons than you are able to find/order you can also try signing up to an online forum (like the one on my website) to trade for coupons you need. Many people accept various trades such as other coupons, postage stamps, SDM point, and gift cards. Each trader is different so what they are looking for will vary from person to person. You can also ask friends and family to order or be on the look-out for in-store coupons for you.
Be a coupon fairy:
Like most couponers we cannot always use every coupon we order or find and we don’t always get that sale to match with it. If you have coupons you won’t use or ones that are nearing their expiry date you can always take them with you when you shop in a separate envelope and place them by the products they are for. Even if you don’t witness it the person who finds and uses the coupon will be very appreciative of your kind gesture!
I tend to do this on a monthly basis – near the end of each month I will go through my coupons to pull all that are expiring at the end of that month then I put them in an envelope if I know I won’t use them and each time I go shopping I place them in the store or give them to people should I see them with the product I have a coupon for.
Share with your friends & family:
If you do not need certain coupons save them for family or friends who can make use of them. For example you have no children but your sister does, when you go out to collect coupons or you are ordering your online coupons collect/order the baby ones even though you personally cannot use them someone you know may be able to and they in return may give you coupons they have collected or ordered that they cannot use.
Be kind to your cashier (even when they are grumpy):
Although this isn’t required by any means being nice to your cashier may make things easier on you. Sometimes we all have bad days and we don’t know why some cashiers are grumpy! There could have been a couponer before you that was rude and verbally abusive to that cashier and now here you come with coupons – they think you will be the same way. Couponing checkouts do take longer and it adds to a cashiers stress level as they have a job to do and need to do it correctly. When you get to the cashier smile say hi how are you, engage them. Say I hope you don’t mind but I am price matching and have coupons so this may take a little longer than usual and smile. They might appreciate your kindness and give them a new outlook on couponers since there are many rude and negative people out there!
Let other customers go ahead of you:
If you are still loading the belt with your items and someone pops in behind you with a few items it is kind to offer for them to go ahead – say “I am still loading my stuff, I will be price matching and using coupons so I might be a little while you can go ahead of me if you’d like”. There will always be someone behind you and of course you are not going to let everyone go ahead but allowing one or two as you organize the belt is appreciated by those waiting. There of course will be times when someone is moaning and groaning – simply smile and say I may be a while you might want to use another check-out. Should they choose to stay you gave them fair warning you would be a while.
When you are doing more than one transaction at the checkout if someone comes in line behind you offering to allow them to go ahead in-between one of your transactions is also another kind gesture.
Be an organized couponer at check-out:
I have many tips for being organized for your checkout! The first tip starts before you even leave your house. Personally before each and every shop I sit down and make a printed list of what I will be buying, if price matching what store, what the selling or sale price is, what coupon I am using ($ amount) and my final cost.
I then pull all the coupons I will be using for my shopping trip, paper clip them if multiples then I put them in labeled envelopes according to the store they are to be used for. Once I arrive I start with the first store on my list (which is usually the store I am shopping at) I get all those items and place them neatly in my buggy. I then continue on doing each store individually – I may have to go back to sections of the store multiple times but this keeps my buggy organized so when I get to the checkout I can place all items for each store together quicker. Once at checkout I normally place each store I am price matching for near the back of the check-out belt then I place the items for the store I am shopping in at the front first placing items with no coupons to be used and behind them the items that I will be using coupons on. When placing my price matching items on the belt I do the same items with no coupons (only price matching) at the front of that stores group of items and the items with coupons behind. Then once the cashier starts ringing in my items I can be quick as I have my coupons already in groups for each store and then beginning break of items for that store with no coupons gives me time to compose myself. It makes checkout go much quicker and smoother than being completely disorganized!
Don’t use coupons improperly:
There are many different ways you can use coupons improperly and most are just common sense! For instance a coupon says $1.00 off Bear Paws Crackers but you use it on a box of Bear Paws Cookies – many times the cashiers do not pay full attention and put it through. Even though you may “get away” with it, it is wrong. The manufacturer put out that coupon to promote a certain product and using it on any other product than what it is intended to be used on is fraud. The best way to prevent this is to fully read the coupon for certain flavours, sizes and any other restriction that you could over look which would cause you to use the coupon improperly.
Don’t use expired coupon:
Some cashiers simply do not pay attention, even though you may get away with passing an expired coupon be it one day or one year pass the expiry date it is wrong. The store you used the coupon at may not be reimbursed from the manufacturer due to it being expired when accepted. A good way to keep track of expiry dates is to highlight them so they are visible to you – check your coupons often for those that are expired and remove them.
Don’t photocopy coupons:
When printing internet coupons most are printed through an app that limits you to two prints per coupon per computer. These coupons are printed with unique barcodes each time – they do not have universal barcodes like pdf formatted coupons. This is to enforce limits and these coupons should NEVER be photocopied. Tear pad coupons and any other coupon for that matter should never be photocopied this is reproduction of a coupon and it is fraud. If you photocopy a unique barcode internet printed coupon it can be traced back to your personal computer through your IP address and you can be prosecuted. Many stores no longer accept internet printed coupons due to many people photocopying and using fraudulent coupons in the past. Internet printed coupons are usually for a higher dollar amount and they are a great asset to couponers so abusing the right to internet printed coupons being accepted by photocopying will force stores to no longer accept them and ruin it for not only yourself but every other couponer. Many stores allow colour or black and white printed coupons – to avoid issues printing in colour is always better. A way to get more printed unique barcode coupons is having more than one computer in your home you can simply hook up your printer to your other computer(s) and print again. If you do not have access to more than one computer at home using library or work computers is another choice. You can even ask friends or family if they do not mind printing you off the limit on their computer.
Don’t use more than one coupon per item:
Although there are some stores out West such as London Drugs and Save on Foods that allow the use of more than one manufacturer coupon per item (stacking) this is not the case Canada wide so using more than one coupon per item is not allowed unless shopping at those stores following their stacking guidelines. There are also some coupons that specify that more than one coupon can be used on one item – that would also be an exception. For the most part, the coupons you will come across are to be used one coupon per item you are buying.
Be cautious of coupons in pdf/jpg format and other printable coupons:
There are a lot of fraudulent coupons circulating the internet in various formats. If you are ever worried about any coupon you find on the internet feel free to email me the link to the coupon, I will gladly look into it for you and let you know if it is indeed a valid coupon. With coupons in pdf format remember to only print what your family needs. Even if the item is FREE with the coupon many things expire and clearing shelves to have 100 boxes of something that would more than likely expire before you could use it is quite silly.
Read more posts in our Learn To Coupon Series
Do you have any other couponing etiquette you think is important that I missed? Let everyone know in the comment section below!