After last week's column on why people might choose not to use coupons, I received these e-mails from readers:
"I had a horrifying experience at my local supermarket last week and found myself crying all the way home. Cashiers who single out coupon shoppers for bad treatment are getting more commonplace. I'm almost ready to stop using coupons because of the stigma, harassment and belittlement. I wish someone would tell the media to stop glamorizing the use of coupons and show how coupon shoppers are really treated. There have been times where a cashier commented in front of my kids that we must be poor and were 'stealing from the store' because I was using coupons. I have actually thought about bringing a hidden camera with me while shopping to let people know that it is not always glamorous to use coupons."
"I was trying to use a $1 coupon for chicken from my supermarket's flyer. The cashier actually yelled at me and said I couldn't use the $1 coupon without saying why. She then said I was a 'stupid newbie to coupons.' I was so taken aback that I just walked out of the store without a word or my products. As I left, she yelled 'Loser! Just walk away and leave me with a mess of products to clean up!' I stopped shopping at this store awhile ago because of rude treatment, but the only reason I even went in was to buy chicken with the coupon."
I'm always dismayed to hear stories like these. Any time I tackle cashier issues in my column, I receive a flood of e-mails from cashiers defending both themselves and their shoppers. Most cashiers are good people who do their jobs well, are kind to their customers and accept coupons using guidelines outlined by the store.
But, based on many stories shoppers have shared, a minority of cashiers seems to have declared war on coupon shoppers. Cashiers who belittle shoppers for using coupons have no place working in a customer-service field, in my opinion. Especially with the state of the economy, even shoppers who aren't coupon die-hards likely use more coupons than they have in the past.
If a shopper presents coupons that are acceptable under the terms of a store's coupon policy, cashiers should accept them. Period. And, a cashier should never berate a customer for using coupons.
I've encountered difficult cashiers over the years, too. Two themes seem to stand out: either the cashier truly is not aware that the store will be reimbursed for the coupons, or the cashier is tired of seeing people coming through their lane and receiving significant price reductions. I have stood at the checkout pointing out to a reluctant cashier the text on a manufacturers coupon that states the store will be reimbursed for the coupon's value, watched the cashier brighten and say, "Oh, so this is just like giving me one dollar cash." It amazes me when cashiers aren't aware of this, but it happens.
I've also heard many stories (and personally experienced) of cashiers who say that they are "sick of seeing coupon shoppers coming in and getting good deals all the time." Whenever this happens, I usually counter it with a smile and say something like "Why? Would you rather I take my business to your competitor?" Or, "Your store is being reimbursed for every coupon. Are you trying to discourage me from shopping here?"
The majority of cashiers are not as hostile as the ones these readers encountered, but sometimes it does take a thick skin to be a coupon shopper.
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Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, supercouponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.