(Image Credit – Flickr – Zolk)
Have you been out of the “drugstore scene” for awhile? If so, today’s Back in the Saddle Again post is for you. (And in case you missed them, you can go back and read the introduction post and coupon policy update post to this June series.)
First, A Confession
So let me lay this out there: I’ve not shopped the drugstores in months. Yes, it’s true, and I feel that if this post is going to make any connection with you, I need to be completely honest. Truth be told, I did rather excellent for myself in my early journey as a couponer. I built a decent-sized stockpile of dental care, hair care, body scrubs, and the like. I also lived and breathed the drugstores for so long that I just got a little burned. I needed a break of coming up with overly complicated scenarios, multiple transactions, multiple trips involving rainchecks, and leaving disappointed and empty-handed when stock was out. (Also, I prefer doing transactions like this one where there are no rebates or Catalinas involved.)
In order to do justice for this post, I felt I needed to take the time to do a little field work. This involved chatting with some of my couponing friends about their thoughts of how the drugstore scene has evolved, if they still shopped there, as well as getting back into the stores myself.
The biggest change that I think you’ll find with drugstores if you’ve been out of the loop for awhile is that they’ve worked to limit the number of times you can do a particular deal. Specifically:
- Coupon policies may now limit you to the number of like coupons you can use in a particular shopping trip.
- Stores may reserve the right to limit quantities.
- Rite Aid now has a loyalty card that will track and limit the number of times you can do a particular deal.
This should really not come as a huge surprise given the surge of interest in couponing, but it’s something you’ll want to be aware of if you were used to buying 20 bottles of shampoo or 35 packs of Trident gum. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think these kind of changes are bad. Drugstores are not warehouses – they aren’t even grocery stores. They may restock their shelves once a week (if that) and quantities are generally in short order.
I would also add that the drugstores have made a strong effort in making their coupon policies available online and have worked to update them in response to their shoppers’ needs and concerns. I would also view this transparency is a good thing.
Rite Aid: A Store that’s Always Changing
Quite frankly, Rite Aid is a store I love to hate. I love them because they always have so many savings opportunities available. And I hate them because they always have so many savings opportunities available. Talk to just about any coupon blogger and ask them which store’s coupon matchups gives them the biggest headache and they’re very likely to answer “Rite Aid.”
That being said, I’ve gotten many, many fantastic deals in the past at Rite Aid and I decided to see what the scoop is on Rite Aid these days. Here are some changes you’ll want to be aware of:
- The biggest recent change is that those +UP Rewards no longer print on the bottom of your receipt – they are loaded to your Wellness Card (which is Rite Aid’s loyalty card). So first step if you want to start back up shopping at Rite Aid? Sign up for a Wellness Card (or fish it out of the bottom of your purse/diaper bag/coupon binder).
- The days of multiple transactions are seemingly over. If you used to earn +UP Rewards and then proceed to roll them into another transaction right away, that’s a no go, Charlie. When you earn +UP Rewards, they won’t be available for redemption until 6am the next day.
These changes don’t really impact the way I’ve shopped in the past at Rite Aid, so it’s no skin off my back. I actually like the idea that the +UPs are loaded to my card because it means I don’t have to bother with ripping the +UP coupons off the bottom of my receipts. (For more on shopping at Rite Aid, swing by my Rite Aid Shopping 101 Page, which I recently updated to reflect these changes.)
Field Research: Today’s Walgreens and Rite Aid Trips
After doing some homework, it was time to get back into the stores. Note that I purposefully did not shop on a Sunday morning. One of the biggest issues I hear about shopping at drugstores is that you must shop first thing on Sunday or you’re not going to find the deals. (This has been another couponing turn-off for me. I hate “urgent” sales.)
Report on Walgreens
This morning, I shared an unadvertised deal I found on free after Register Reward Suave. This deal had been on Hip2Save’s blog for over a day, so I thought this would be an excellent chance to see what the stock would be like, and if it would work.
The stock wasn’t crazy amazing, but there was enough of a selection to make it worth my while. I looked through the other Walgreens deals for the week, but didn’t see anything strong enough to strike my fancy. I walked around the store looking for anything unadvertised, but I ultimately left having done this one deal. The cashier tried to get me to buy my daughter candy, but I didn’t cave. (Sorry, you have to try harder than that to get me to part with my money.)
Suave Shampoo & Conditioner = $2
Received a $2 Register Reward
My friend and Coupon Project contributor Erica suggests that if you have a lot of coupons to use in a transaction at Walgreens to try making your purchase at the cosmetics counter. They are usually very happy to help, and you won’t hold up the main line in the front of the store. There was no line whatsoever today.
Report on Rite Aid
There is a particularly good deal this week for free after rebate Wart Remover. After wandering aimlessly down the foot care and first aid aisles looking for it, I decided to flag down a cashier. He didn’t know, so he called for back up. That employee knew what I was talking about, but surprise, surprise, they were out and would I want a raincheck?
I asked when they’d restock and they said Friday. I said I’ll come back Friday and if they’re still out, I’ll get a raincheck then. Although, I’m not so certain I want to go back again on Friday. I think I’m remembering that this is kind of another reason why I fell into a hiatus from the drugstores. It also turns out there are a lot of couponers out there with warts needing to be removed this week.
All was not lost, however. I did score this particularly sweet deal on popcorn Hip2Save reported.
Buy (2) Act II 3-pack Popcorn for $2
Receive a $2 UP Reward
Bottom line: FREE after UP Reward
I am pretty sure this is an unadvertised deal, because the stock was good. It kinds of makes me wonder if your best bet for scoring the hottest drugstore deals these days is to scout out these unadvertised deals or wait for a happy accident like the 75% off Rite Aid toy sale my pal Abby stumbled on a couple weeks ago. Or, wake up and shop first thing on Sunday morning and swing into church late and hope no one notices.
I suppose I’m officially back to drugstore shopping – or at least for the next week or so – because I now have a $2 Register Reward and a $2 +UP Reward to redeem. This post admittedly may feel like a downer to some of you, and it’s not my intent. Consider that I did have some success today in getting some good deals. Some of your success in finding stock may depend on what I’d now like to coin as Couponers per Population Density, among other factors.
If you are really motivated to save money and have a little time and energy to invest, it may be worth it to get back into the drugstores a bit. Just make sure to learn what’s changed. Talk to some of your couponing buddies, read up on the new coupon policies, and start small.
What are your thoughts about shopping the drugstores? Have you continued to shop there? Favored shopping at other stores? I’d love to hear your candid comments.