Games Grocers Play and How to Win Them

Lately I’ve been discussing the wise use of coupons.  My post today is a cross-over inasmuch as I stay with that subject while, at the same time, cuing you in on a common game grocers play.  (By the way, if you are interested in reviewing other coupon traps for the unwary, you will want to review my other posts on this subject).

The grocer trick I have in mind today relates to those coupons that the store prints and gives to you along with your receipt.  They always look so attractive because they offer savings of dollars rather than cents.  And what could be better than to have the merchant himself simply hand you these coupons?  No clipping, no printing – you don’t even have to ask for them.

Usually, however, there are a couple of tricks at work.  First is that those coupons usually require the customer to purchase several products.  I frequently receive one that offers two dollars off, provided I purchase five or six frozen food entrees.  Yesterday I received one offering $1.50 off of a purchase of five Lunchables.  That’s fine, I suppose, but just realize that when you think it through, you are actually working with a mere thirty cents off coupon.  Grocers also typically refuse to double the value of their own coupons.

The second trick is that these store-issued coupons usually have a short lifespan of one to two months.  As I blogged before, these dates, unlike those on manufacturer’s coupons, are always caught by the scanners.  So you can easily find yourself hauling five products to the register only to learn that the two dollar coupon is no good.

The best way to beat the grocers at this game?  Look at the coupon and its expiration date before you leave the store.  Don’t just stuff it in your purse, wallet, or bag, assuming you will investigate later.  If it is a truly good deal, and especially if the product happens to be on sale at that same time, simply return to the appropriate aisle and use it that day.  Otherwise, file the coupon as soon as you return home, after comparing it with manufacturer coupons to determine whether it truly is a worthy savings.


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