Dear Jill: While merchants can refuse any coupon, if they refuse one because the product is the "wrong size'' when the coupon does not include a size restriction, I say let them make a scene. Rick J.
Dear Rick: I have been known to question cashiers when their judgment seems to supersede the wording on a coupon. Once, a cashier questioned my use of a deodorant coupon that stated it was valid on any size. Of course, I wanted the travel-sized deodorant and the $1 coupon would make the deodorant free. She said, "I don't think you should get this free." I gently explained that there was no difference to the store whether I paid $1 for the deodorant or gave them a $1 coupon — the store would still get a dollar and I would get my deodorant. I added that if the manufacturer intended to exclude the trial size, that exclusion would appear on the coupon. The cashier then allowed me to use the coupon.
Dear Jill: Have you ever heard of a particular national pharmacy chain that advertises items as "on sale" in the Sunday paper, but somehow manages not to have many of the most popular sale items in stock during the sale? This chain also refrains from restocking sale items until after the rain check expires. Other than boycotting the business, is there anything shoppers can do about it? Cathy O.
Dear Cathy: Finding sold-out sale items at the pharmacy is an unfortunate happenstance most couponers have experienced. We're pretty skilled at spotting the best deals each week. Often, the smaller shelves at drugstores mean limited quantities of the products we're all chasing. However, most rain checks are good for at least 30 days. One month seems like an awfully long time to have open space on a shelf that could be selling product and generating revenue for the store.
Have you tried asking your store manager if you can simply special-order the products? I've had good success asking my local stores to order a specific quantity of the item I'm seeking, and having them call me when the item is back in stock. In this case, the store may hold your items so you can simply go in and pick them up — long before your rain check expires.
Dear Jill: Why do stores and cashiers not know their own coupon policies? My local store has the policy where if you forget to use a coupon, you can bring it back within 30 days and get the cash back for the coupons. But nearly every time I try to do this the cashier looks bewildered. It's so bad I printed out the store's coupon policy from its website and now carry it with me while shopping. Is there anything we can do to get cashiers to know the store policy better?" Nathaniel N.
Dear Nathaniel: Coupon shoppers often know the intricacies of a store's coupon policy better than the person standing in front of us at the register. In defense of cashiers, they often get little or no training on the store's coupon policies. There's nothing wrong with carrying a copy of the store's coupon policy with you if it helps alleviate confusion at the register.
Super-Couponing Tips runs the first Wednesday of every month. Email couponing questions that may be used in this column to Jill Cataldo at firstname.lastname@example.org.