That is a very good question. According to a coupon industry spokesman, Matthew Tilley of couponinfonow.com, most grocery stores have national corporate policies that state they do accept legitimate printed grocery coupons. However, many stores still refuse to accept the legitimate coupons. Most likely, store personnel may not be sure how to tell whether a printed coupon is counterfeit or not, so they refuse to accept any home-printed coupons at all.
Understandably, stores are concerned about the potential risk of accepting counterfeit grocery coupons. In 2003 there were several counterfeit coupons that were redeemed at stores before stores realized they were counterfeit, costing the stores thousands of dollars. However, the legitimate printable coupon websites (such as the ones listed in this site's Printable Grocery Coupon section) have security measures in place to help prevent potential abuse or fraud.
What are shoppers to do if their store(s) does not accept their legitimate printed grocery coupons? Tilley suggests that shoppers write or email the customer service contacts for their stores, which are easily found on the stores' websites. Ask for a written statement of the stores' printable coupon policy. Assuming it is positive, print that statement and show it to your stores' managers to reinforce their own companies' policies. I have also found these tips to help get my coupons accepted:
- When you print coupons from legitimate coupon sites, do not cut out the coupon. Take the entire page with you to the store so that you can prove you printed it from a legitimate website. The website address will be on the page. Shoppers tell me that taking that page to the customer service counter or showing it to the manager helps assure store personnel that the coupon is legitimate and that the manufacturer will reimburse the store for the value of the coupon.
Do not buy coupons online or from auction sites. You certainly do not want to accidentally use a coupon that looks legitimate but is actually a forgery.
Check your store’s website. If it has printable grocery coupons available on their site, be sure to print a copy of their coupon page to prove that their management approves of printed coupons.
If the cashier does not think he/she can accept your printed coupon, ask to speak to the manager. Show him/her the printed website address of the coupon website and suggest that they visit the site to see that it is legitimate.
If the cashier does not accept the coupon and the manager is not available, take the coupon to the customer service counter to try to get a refund.
Finally, if all of your efforts in the store do not succeed, then be sure to write a letter or send an email complaining about your experience to the customer service contacts. Include the address and phone number of the specific store so that the corporate headquarters can follow up with the store. Include the name of the coupon website you used, as well.
By the way, after speaking with the manager, the cashier did accept my legitimate coupons.
I took Tilley's advice and emailed Wal-Mart headquarters since I frequently hear from site users that their local Wal-Mart store will not accept their legitimate printed grocery coupons. I was pleased to receive this prompt response. I would encourage shoppers to take the same approach to help convince their own stores' managers to accommodate their coupon use.
This is the exact email I received from Wal-Mart's customer service department answering the question I posed, "What is your policy regarding the acceptance of coupons printed from a home computer?"
Wal-Mart Stores can accept coupons that are available on the internet for customers to print from their home computers. The following are guidelines for the stores for accepting internet coupons:
- The coupon should be legible and say "Manufacturer Coupon". There should be a valid remit address for the manufacturer, to ensure the coupon can be processed for payment.
- The coupon should have a scan-able bar code.
- The coupon should have an expiration date.
- The coupon cannot be a photocopy.
- The limit is one coupon per item, per Customer.
- A Salaried Manager can refuse to accept a coupon if it does not meet any or all of these guidelines.