Monday, June 28, 2010

Coupon101: Anatomy of a Coupon

In this very first lesson, I am going to talk about Coupons. You may find this basic, however I am starting at the beginning and then easing up to the really complicated stuff!

So what is a coupon?
A coupon is simply a piece of paper which entitles you to a discount on product/s.

There are Manufacturer Coupons - Coupons that come from the company or makers of a product.
These coupons are put out in hopes of getting a consumer to try a product at a discount, liking it and wanting to buy more at regular price in regular intervals. Also there are Store Coupons- Coupons that are released and used only at an individual store. These coupons are put out in hopes to entice you to come into their store to buy the discounted item in hopes that you will make other purchases in that trip as well.

What happens when you use a coupon?
When making a purchase and using a manufacturer coupon, the store will send in that coupon and be reimbursed by the manufacturer for the face value of the coupon plus a small shipping and handling credit of around $0.08-$0.12 per coupon. When using these types of coupons, even if you are getting an item for free, the store still views it as a sale because they are getting their money back.

When making a purchase and using a Store Coupon, the dollar amount of the coupon is out of the stores budget. Each store has budgets set aside for promotional things such as events and coupons. This is where your discount comes from. They aren't reimbursed for the transaction but often times the consumer buys more things during their trip that they would not have made without knowing of the special buy.

Both Manufacturer and Store Coupons can be found in Flyers, Home Mailers, Inserts, and even printable online.

You can tell the difference between the two by how the coupon is worded. Which brings me to the next area.

What does everything mean on a coupon?

(note- Not all coupons are set up alike. Some areas, such as where to find the Expiration date, may be in a different spot on different coupons.)
1. This is the area where it states who issued the coupon. Manufacturer coupons can generally be used at any store that sells the product and takes coupons. You may also notice the wording "Do Not Double" or "Not Subject To Doubling" around this area on some coupons. This means that the manufacturer will not honor more than face value of the coupon. Some stores double and even triple coupons. When the coupon states do not double, it is up to the cashier to supress the coupon from doubling. The Cash Register will automatically double it anyway unless the  barcode at the bottom of the coupon begins with a 9. (These are always programmed not to double at the register)

2. This is the area where you normally find the expiration date on many coupons. This date listed is when the coupon must be used by. There are some exceptions, like U.S. Families Stationed overseas can use coupons on base for up to 6 months past the manufacturers expiration date. You can see more info on that HERE.   

3. This area tells you how much you can save using this coupon. When using the coupon shown above, you would get $0.50 off your purchase. If you are at a store that doubles, you will get $1.00 off your purchase, however some stores only double coupons up to a certain amount. Check with your stores coupon policy for more info on that.

4. This area gives specific instructions to you the consumer as well as the retailer/cashier. It is important to follow the instructions so that the store can be paid for the product and makes them want to continue to accept coupons. Following the instructions makes for a much easier transaction as well for you!  For example, if a coupon states "One Per Transaction", then you can only use one of those coupons during that order being checked out. Many times it is ok to separate the transactions so that you can buy more than one of those items using the coupon. However some stores may give you a bit of a hassle when it comes to that. Especially if the wording says "One Per Customer".  If a coupon states "One Per Purchase" that means one per Item in coupon terms. Many cashiers and even managers can be confused by this wording. It basically is telling you that you cannot use two of the $0.50/1 coupons to buy the 1 item making you have $1.00 off of one. Always familiarize yourself with the stores coupon policy and make sure to bring a copy with you to make your trip a little more hassle free should problems occur at check out. You will also note that this area shows the instructions for the store to get credit back for the coupon they just accepted.

5. This area is going to inform you what you are saving money on. The wording of this area is very important, as it tells you and the cashier what items and quantity you must buy to get the discount. If you aren't careful and specific with the items you are buying, the register may not accept the coupon, or if it does, the store may not get their money back for the items that you did not correctly buy. For Example, the coupon above states any of the Knorr Rice or Pasta Sides. So this should be an easy coupon to use because its not too specific other than you must buy two of the product. The coupon above will not work on just one Knorr product. Sometimes you will have a coupon, lets say for ketchup, and it will say a certain size bottle or larger. So if you have $1 off coupon for a 24oz. bottle or larger, then you shouldn't grab the 16oz bottle of ketchup and expect it to work.

6. Last, This is area is the Barcode. Each coupon has a specific UPC barcode that will tell the register just what to do with it when scanned. It holds the data telling the register to make sure the right quantity was bought, the right product was bought and how much to take off the total. Sometimes for unknown reasons or computer glitches, a coupon UPC will beep with an error. This may happen just because the register doesn't recognize the UPC. If this happens, the cashier will probably double check the info on the coupon with what you purchased and if everything looks ok, will manually enter your coupon amount off.


With a store coupon the information on the coupon is going to pretty  much work the same way, however the UPC or Code is not going to work anywhere but their store. The reason is because the UPC or PLU# on these coupons are store specific. Some will work in that store by scanning, and some will have a code for the cashier to key in. If you shop at a store that accepts competitor coupons, you will notice that they will manually enter their competitor's coupon dollar amount in because their system is not going to recognize this code as a coupon. One thing to keep in mind with store coupons is that the amount you are saving is deducted from the stores budget. So if you have a manufacturer coupon for the same product you should be able to use both coupons to really see some good savings!


There are many internet printables out there, and lots of great deals to be had when using them!
They are set up pretty much the same way as any other coupon, but are printed in your home. Internet printables can be issued by manufacturers as well as retail stores. One of the main differences you will notice with coupons you print online is the code that I have circled in red above. To help prevent fraud, most internet printables each have their own unique code. In most cases you will be allowed to print 2 of the same coupon per computer, before the site lets you know you have printed your maximum allotted amount. The codes above prevent people from making copies of the coupons. This is fraud and should never be done! Sometimes you will find a PDF version of a coupon. These don't have a specific code on them, so unless the coupon states otherwise, you can print and use as many of these as your store allows. Be careful though, PDF coupons are one of the biggest when it comes to Fake coupons. If you think a coupon looks suspicious, try doing a google search on that coupon to see if anyone has reported it as a fraud.

I hope this segment has helped you out in learning about different types of coupons.
Check back for the next segment which will be about finding coupons... How to Build Your Coupon Stash

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