Sunday

Using Coupons And Saving Money On Groceries Part 3: What If I Have a Problem?

I'm sure as you can tell by now, I am all about being prepared.  Before you jump in 100% to couponing, you should have all of your ducks in a row.  You need to know the couponing policies at your stores...and you need to know what to do should you have any problems at the store.

I would love to tell you that you will never encounter a problem using coupons.  I really would.  Unfortunately, I can't.  You might get lucky.  You might be in a wonderful area where everyone loves and supports coupon use.  I have lived in one of those areas before.  You might not, though.  If you're not in one of those "coupons are awesome" areas, then you need to know what to do should you encounter a problem.

The most important thing to remember if you do encounter a problem is that you want to shop at this store again.  You don't want the cashiers to run and duck for cover when you walk in.  You want to be the person that they know coupons...and will be polite and respectful should there be a problem.  The person that they, inevitably, come to and ASK about how to use coupons.  (Which they WILL eventually do after they see your savings week after week.)  Be THAT person...not the one who hollars, screams, huffs and puffs, and is an embarassment.  I know it can be frustrating to encounter problems, but handling it the right way...through the proper channels..means that you will have a successful, long-term couponing career at that store.

Also, remember that the cashier is likely doing as they were trained.  If there's a problem, it's not typically at the cashier level.  There's usually a problem higher-up with a manager who doesn't understand the store's coupon policy. 

If you have a problem...call and ask for the manager explain that you talked to "Mary" (or whomever you talked to), have an e-mail from corporate with the written policy, or have a print-out of the policy posted online (whichever applies).  Ask what the two of you can do in the future to ensure that all cashiers are aware of the policy so that customers like yourself no longer have delays when checking out which then causes delays for non-couponing customers also.

Anytime I encounter a problem with coupons, I am always polite and respectful.  I don't push an issue unless I know 100% that I am right.  If I'm not sure, then I'll ask for a manager and let them know that I'm not sure.  If they still say no...then I respect that and either buy the product anyway or let them know that I'm no longer interested in the product.

If, however, I am 100% sure that I am right, then here is my chain of command with couponing issues (I pretty much keep going until I have fully resolved the issue.):
  • While in the store:
    • Ask for the manager (whether or not I have a written copy of the policy with me).  (if still no resolution...)
      • And I do NOT have written proof of their policy with me then I ask for the name of the manager I talked to, leave my merchandise there (unless I would have purchased it anyway without the deal or coupon), thank them and leave.
      • And I have the written proof of their policy with me: 
        • Then I will ask for his/her manager.  (if still no resolution...)
        • Then I'll ask for THEIR manager.
          • If there is a higher manager and I still get no resolution then I ask for THAT manager's name, the store director's name, and the store phone #.  Unless I would buy those items anyway without the deal or coupon then I leave my merchandise there, thank them and leave.
          • Often, however, at this point you'll be told that there isn't a higher manager.  This is VERY likely to happen.  If this happens, I ask for the name of the highest manager I talked to, the store director's name, and the store phone number.  Again, unless I would buy those items anyway without the deal or coupon then I leave my merchandise there, thank them and leave.
  • If I didn't receive resolution in the store (whether I was able to obtain a written copy of their policy or not), then I do the following:
    • Call the store and ask for the store director (or ask for him by name). 
      • If I never could get a written copy of the coupon policy then I ask for one now explaining how it could perhaps help everyone if the policy was in writing.  Explain my frustration at trying to follow their policy...but not knowing what it actually is.
      • If I have a written policy, then explain the situation and how I felt it wasn't honored.  Ask what can be done to ensure that all of the cashiers know the policy and how we can solve the issue I had while there (saying that I'd LOVE to come back in and make my purchase).
      • If everyone I encounter (cashiers, managers, etc) was polite and respectful even when there was a problem, then I make sure to point that out and thank the store director for that.  I might also say what I like about the store (good gluten-free or organic selection, great sales, etc) and how I really want to resolve this so I can continue shopping there. 
      • Then I'll confirm the store director's name and title (get it if I don't have it) and ask if there's anyone above him at the store (there shouldn't be).  Whether or not I feel like there was an acceptable resolution, I'll then ask for the name and number of the district or regional manager (whoever is next up the chain) for reference and/or to give compliments if I feel the resolution up to this point has been acceptable.  I always remain polite and respectful...even if they aren't (and then later vent in frustration to my husband usually...bless his heart)(if still no resolution...) 
    • I call the district or regional manager (whoever is next up the chain):
      • Often they'll tell you that they'll redirect your concern to the store director.  I always make sure to tell them that I have already spoken to the store director giving them his name and summarizing my conversation with him if it's still not resolved.  Regardless, I'll let them do their job in the way that they think they have to...even if they DO ultimately redirect me back to the store manager. 
      • Make sure you tell them what you expect them to do or what an acceptable resolution is to you. 
      • If you don't have a written copy of the policy yet...ask for it again at this level.
      • If you do have a written copy, explain where it wasn't honored and ask how the cashiers and managers will be educated so that you don't face delays at the register which also holds up non-couponers and reflects poorly on the store.
      • If the cashiers and managers up to this point have been polite and respectful (even if the issue wasn't resolved)...then say that and thank them for that.  (If still no resolution...)
    •  I call the district or regional manager back:
      • I explain that this is my 2nd call to them and that the previous attempt at resolution was unsuccessful (usually this happens if they simply threw the case back at the store director who was already unsuccessful at resolving the issue).  
      • Remind them that you spoke to the store director before calling them the 1st time, then they redirected it back to the store manager who had already not successfully resolved the issue and that you'd now like it handled by the district/regional office themselves.
      • As before, make sure you tell them exactly what the problem was and how you expect it to be resolved.
      • Again...if you've received polite and respectful treatment (even if the issue wasn't resolved), then tell them that and thank them for it.  (If still no resolution...)
    •  Then I'll call customer service (the corporate number you can find online at their website).  
      • They'll usually point you back to the district/regional office and/or store director so it's very important to let them know what attempts you have made thus far at resolving the issue.
      • Again...be very clear about the issue and your expected resolution...and ask again for a written policy if you still haven't received one.
      • Don't forget to compliment the store and tell them if the cashiers and managers you have spoken to thus far have been polite and respectful (even if they haven't resolved the issue). (If still no resolution...)
    •  E-mail customer service.  The first e-mail I'll send will be through their website usually.  However, when I e-mail, I compliment them if necessary, detail the issue and my expected resolution, detail every attempt I have made thus far at resolving the issue.  I'll usually write this e-mail in Open Office then save it.  I'll copy and paste it into my e-mail.  This way, I also have a written copy on MY end...that I can use again should I encounter a problem with this or a different store in the future.
I'm sure this all can seem overwhelming.  I'm simply trying to help those who are lost when they encounter a problem know what they should do to find a resolution.

I'm as detailed as I am because I want to make sure that I have done everything in my power before I give up on that store.  Usually, though, following the proper channels in a polite, respectful manner resolves the problems at that store.

Be sure to check out the previous posts in this series:


Using Coupons Part 1:  Don't Be a Brand Snob!
Using Coupons Part 2:  Know Your Coupon Policies

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