For today’s How to Use Coupons lesson, I want to talk about the part of the process that can sometimes produce anxiety, particularly if you’re new: checking out!
Go to just about any coupon class and you’ll learn the basics of stacking coupons, organizing coupons, and planning a shopping trip. But sometimes what’s also needed is a little pep talk about how to feel confident when the moment of truth comes and you hand that little pile of coupons over to the cashier. Truth be told, I had butterflies for a LONG time when it’d be time to get in line and pay for my purchases. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve really gotten over this, and I want to share with you exactly how I’ve arrived at that place.
Feeling Nervous? You’re not alone!
Before I dive in and share some tips, I just want to encourage you that if you’re feeling nervous, you’re not alone.
Perhaps you don’t want to be known as “that couponer” that’s holding up the line, or perhaps you’re worried that your cashier won’t take your coupons or that you’re somehow doing it all wrong. Maybe you’re worried what people will think (or say) when they see you’ve purchased 20 cans of soup and 4 things of toilet paper. When I started out, I worried about all those things and more. If you’re feeling a bit nervous about the whole prospect of using coupons at checkout, I just want to let you know you wouldn’t be the first one to feel that way.
Ideas for Growing your Confidence
Those butterflies do not have to be your constant checkout companions. You can bid them adieu for good. Here are a few things I’ve done to grow my checkout confidence:
- Shop with a friend. Try shopping with a fellow couponer! If you’re new, see if a more seasoned couponer will take you on a trip or two.
- Review the coupon policies. Remember that coupon policies may vary greatly from store to store. If you know what the rules are, you’ll be able to take better advantage of all the opportunities possible to save and know you’re doing things correctly. Additionally, you can print and carry the policies with you in case any issue arises.
- Stay organized. I like to review my coupons before I hit the checkout lane. This helps tremendously. Take a moment to make sure your coupons are all set and ready to go. Put away any you might have taken out and don’t intend to use, and make sure you have the correct number of coupons for items.
- Smile! I like to let the cashier know early on in the transactions I have coupons and thank them for their time. More often than not, I find that cashiers are friendly and happy to help. Sometimes a brief friendly conversation can help you feel less nervous.
- Start small. When I started couponing, my good friend Kellie encouraged me to go to the store and buy ONE item with ONE coupon. Starting small, gaining practice and building confidence gradually is not a bad way to go at all!
- Shop at the same stores. I have a couple stores I frequent and I have to say, it really does help when the cashiers recognize you, you know the store manager, and are familiar with the layout of the store and how coupons work there. Building positive relationships with the people that work at the stores you frequent is a very good thing in my book!
I think you’ll find that another component to building confidence? Is time. The more you use coupons at checkout, the more second nature it will all become. At some point, it won’t feel much different than any other checkout method for you!
Overcoming Checkout Snafus
Ask just about any couponer and they’ll have a story about a checkout experience that was frustrating or didn’t go as planned. These things just happen. So what can you do if in spite of your smiling and organized coupon stash, the cashier won’t put your coupon through? Here are your options:
- Pay attention. This can be challenging if you have small children in tow as I often do, but where possible, keep an eye on the register as items are being scanned. It’s often far easier to catch an error on a price while the item is being scanned than correcting it after the fact. On many occasions, I’ve been able to catch coupons that weren’t scanned by paying attention, too.
- Listen. If there is an issue with a coupon, first listen the cashier. There have been times when oops! I realized I accidentally didn’t catch that I’d grabbed the wrong item for the coupon, or maybe it had expired. Of course I would not intentionally ever try to pass a bad coupon, but accidents can happen. Listen to your cashier first – is she/he correct?
- Clarify. If you still believe that the coupon is correct, state why in a friendly, non-threatening way. This is where keeping a coupon policy handy can sometimes be of help!
- Ask for a Manager or Remove the item. If after listening and clarifying, you’re at an impasse, you have two options: you can hold your ground and ask for a manager or you can simply ask that the cashier remove the item from your transaction. (Or third just buy the item without the coupon, if you really wish.) Personally, I’m far more likely to ask the cashier to remove the item rather than getting a manager over. I always weight the cost of the item and transaction. If it’s a larger, complicated one – perhaps calling a manager over would matter to me. But if we’re talking about a $1 coupon? Probably not worth creating a fuss about.
Don’t forget about customer service if you realize too late an error has occurred! On many occasions, I’ve visited the customer service desk if a coupon didn’t go through I was expecting or if I realized a discount wasn’t applied. Sometimes I will reach out to a store via their email contact form or a Facebook page if I have clarifying questions about something that happened at checkout or their coupon policy.
A Word about Cashiers
I’m really careful to avoid using words like “game” or “challenge” when it comes to couponing. Why? Because when couponing is approached as a game of us vs. them, it can lead to tactics and attitudes I don’t agree with. It’s not about taking out an opponent (who would that opponent be anyhow – the manufacturer who provided you with the discount, the store that provided the stock, or other couponers trying to feed their families?). It’s also not about “winning” – it’s about feeding your family and saving money in the process.
All that being said, remember that cashiers are not your opponent. These are people that are working a job, trying to provide for their families. Remember that coupon fraud is a very real thing that costs stores and manufacturers a lot of money each year. If that cashier ends up scrutinizing your very legitimate coupon, keep in mind that they may stand to lose a lot should they pass a fraudulent coupon. If you feel nervous about using coupons at checkout? Consider that some cashiers may feel the same way.
I’m not sharing all of this to make anyone feel bad, but in hopes of giving you a bit of perspective. In the final post for this series, I’m going to spend some time talking about what I think it means to be a courteous couponer. I truly think giving our cashiers a bit more credit for their jobs is a key part of that equation.
Still Nervous? Remember this!
If you’re still feeling nervous, remember why you’re working to do this at all: to save your family money! Keep your goals in the front of your mind – save those stellar receipts and plaster them in your coupon binder – these are the things that will help you keep focus on why it is you do this at all.
Today I’d love to hear from you: how nervous would you say you are when it comes to checking out: very much so or not at all? Do you frequently run into snafus at checkout?