I often share emails and notes from readers regarding their shopping experiences. Recently I featured an email from Curtis, a reader who was having trouble with his supermarket’s coupon policy. The store recently removed the policy completely, allowing the cashiers to decide which coupons to accept and which to deny. Curtis felt that cashiers were intentionally denying coupons because they could do “whatever they wanted.”
Curtis’ email sure stirred up my inbox! Some cashiers wrote to respond.
I read your column with the letter from Curtis about his problem with the store’s new coupon policy and the vindictive checkers. I have been a checker for 32 years and I think Curt may need some insight.
Most checkers get zero training on the store’s coupon policy. Most checkers make $8 or less per hour. Most checkers work part-time, less than 15 hours a week. Most checkers are complained to constantly by customers. According to my (informal) private poll, 9 out of 10 customers have some complaint to the checker. Checkers are accountable for the coupons they redeem, punishable by verbal discipline, write-ups, suspension and termination.
Here are some of the situations I have been confronted with as a checker when taking coupons:
Counterfeit coupons: These are professionally printed, mostly high-dollar amounts, and should the checker have the audacity to check the authenticity, the checker is showered with insults and verbal abuse about how honest and trustworthy the customer claims to be.
Expired coupons: Customers seem to feel that stores should take them anyway, because after all, they cut them out when they were good.
Coupons with the dates cut off of them: The customer cuts off the dates on the coupons, then claims there never was a date on them and aggressively causes a scene to ensure they are accepted.
Coupons for the wrong product: The customer buys a cake mix and uses the competitor’s coupon, claiming I did not notice.
Customers using multiple coupons on one item: The customer will put several coupons for the same item in their coupon pile hoping no one notices, and when confronted, they claim, “I had no idea that you could only use one coupon per item.”
Customers using coupons for items the store does not carry and they did not purchase: The customers retort, “Well the store gets their money back for these anyway.”
Checkers are accountable for the coupons they take, and because of the abusers, they have to be very careful. It costs the store 75 cents for each returned coupon from the clearinghouse. Checkers cannot tell the good guys from the bad ones. I would like to ask Curtis and all the others like him to treat the cashier as you would like to be treated.
I enjoy your articles and always appreciate your efforts to tell both sides of the story. Here is mine.
I’m a cashier, and while you would think we should know the coupon policy, a lot of people who work here don’t. Management requires us to sign a statement each year saying we’ve read it, but I can tell you most cashiers just want to get through the day.
I understand the letter from Curtis about being frustrated his store got rid of the coupon policy, but it is probably just easier for the store. If we can say no, we don’t take that, we can keep our lines moving. I do try to accept coupons when I don’t see people using them for the wrong item and things, but I can see how the store would want it easier for the cashiers, too.
I appreciate both Alice and Tabby taking the time to write, and I sympathize with cashiers who are trying to do their jobs and accept only the proper coupons that correspond to a shopper’s transaction. I do still feel, though, that a store’s coupon policy is a strong tool, both for stores and shoppers alike. If the store chooses not to enforce its own policies, shoppers have a choice, too. They can shop somewhere else.