Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frugality- Get to Know Your Local Store and Manager

For more frugal tips click here.

Here is a list of things to do to get to know your store and the store manager, so you can have the most enjoyable and stress free shopping trips. (These tips are good for any store not just Publix) 

Call your local stores and ask about the coupon policy (if you can talk to the manager this is the best way to know exactly what the policy is). 
Some good questions are:
Do you take competitor's coupons?
Who do you consider to be a competitor? (ask for a list of stores...)
How many coupons can I stack? (a manufacturer's and a store, a manufacturer's, a store, and a competitor?)
Do you take printable coupons? Is there a limit or a value limit? (Some stores won't take coupons for more than $5 off one item)
Do you allow overage?
Do you take expired coupons? If yes, for how long?

When in doubt call to ask or ask when you get there about specific coupons.
Sometimes you have a coupon and you either aren't sure about it's stacking or if it's an acceptable competitor. For example, a couple weeks ago I thought to ask about the Petco coupon and  learned that my store would take it. I also called a few weeks back and found out my Publix takes store coupons a few days expired.

If you don't see something on the shelf, don't be afraid to ask if there is more in the back or if you can substitute. (This applies to booklets too).
For example I went into the Publix on Saturday to buy the Tidy Cat Litter that is currently on sale for $1 a bag after coupons, and there was none on the shelf. The manager of my store was in the aisle checking stock, prices, etc. (which he is often doing) and I asked him if there was more in the back. He went and checked and there wasn't any, but to my surprise he then asked if he could make a substitution for me. I showed him my coupons and said I was planning on buying three, and so he offered me the 30 lb bag (the amount of litter I was going to buy) and then allowed me to use all three coupons on it, so I got 30 lbs for $1.98, $1 less than I was going to pay. I've heard stories from friends about trying to buy a store brand that was out and the store giving them the name brand for the store brand price. It's also wise to ask about booklets too. Sometimes we assume someone took all the booklets, but the reality was they never received them in the first place, or they just haven't set up the display yet.

Don't be afraid to ask to see if you can use a coupon or money back if an item goes on sale a day later or you get a coupon in the mail when you get home. (Or you forgot to use a coupon!)
I know that at my Publix they will let you bring in a coupon that you get that day or the next day (or one you forgot to use) and they will give you the money back. I also learned that my Target will allow you to bring a coupon in if you forgot to use it, as long as the coupon was released before the date of the receipt. Basically it never hurts to ask in these situations because we've all felt that feeling of just buying something and seeing the coupon in your binder when you got home or sticking your hand in your pocket to get the keys and finding some coupons you meant to use in there.

Ask for the manager when there is a problem with coupons (or call or email).
 I cannot stress this one enough. There is no reason for a cashier to be rude to you or for there to be variations in the coupon policy from what you have been told. A couple months ago I went to my favorite Publix, and I was doing a deal that involved a buy this item get another item free, I also had Publix coupons for both the regular and free item. I had asked before and my store does accept overage. The cashier told me I couldn't do that, I told her I could. She tried to argue with me! I told her politely that I wanted to speak to the manager then. She rolled her eyes at me and muttered under her breath "all this for $1!" She then put the coupon through. She also missed a few coupons, and typed in a few for the wrong amount. I have a toddler who was done shopping at that point so I went home and went through the Publix corporate site and sent a message explaining the situation and requesting a coupon or something to account for the missing coupons and the rudeness. The manager called me within a couple of days and told me to see him the next time I came into the store and he would give me a store gift card. I went in expecting $5 or something, but no he gave me $20! That manager earned my business, and as such I almost exclusively shop at his Publix. I also learned from this experience that sometimes the coupon policy is lost in translation because sometimes someone wasn't paying full attention during a meeting or because they couldn't hear correctly. (This is why I suggest getting the coupon policy directly from the manager's mouth)

Be a good couponer.
The reason I say this is simple: stores get bad tastes for coupons and couponers from those that abuse the system. If you are unsure if you can stack certain coupons or if a coupon is accepted, ask instead of assuming they will say something if it is wrong. Sometimes the cashier just doesn't notice you did something wrong, sometimes the cashier is just a teenager who could care less what the stores policy is.

Be nice to store associates.
If you shop the same time and same store, then you might see the same cashiers every week. Ask them how they want the coupons from you, this can make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to check out. Sometimes you'll get new cashiers, and they may be slow, don't roll your eyes or get annoyed with them! They are learning. Be nice to the baggers by having your reusable bags ready.  When you are done loading your groceries in the car, if at all possible, return your cart to one of the corrals (and as an extra nice thing to do if you see that they have just collected the carts from the corral and the carts are nearby return your cart to the rest of the carts, I've seen many a thankful face for doing that.)

Follow these tips and you will have much happier trips to the store! Join me next week for more frugal tips.
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