Normally, we don’t post many personal experiences on MHOTC, but sometimes we just have to vent and you, our favorite Mile High Cheapskates, are always willing to listen. Yesterday, I headed to my closest King Soopers for some light shopping. As some of you are aware, I often use coupons to pick up extra items to donate to local charities. Using coupons in combination with a sale can sometimes shave the price on food or toiletries down to mere pennies or just the sales tax. My latest outing was to pick up some Colgate toothbrushes. My closest King Soopers is at Monaco & Leetsdale and even when other King Soopers are out of stock for a particular sale item, this store usually has them. Now, I know why.
Here’s my story: I walk into the store, coupons in hand. I head to the oral care aisle and, “hooray!”, there is a full shelf of various toothbrushes priced at $1. I have a 50¢ coupon which will be doubled to $1. The coupon excludes certain styles such as “Plus” but there are “Triple Action” available and that is NOT excluded. So I grab three and also a box of basic Colgate toothpaste on sale for $1. (Again, I have a 50¢ coupon, which will be doubled to $1.)
Then, I check out the Manager’s Clearance section. “Eureka!” I’ve hit the motherload, as they have “dumped” a ton of hair care products. (Dumping occurs when the box is damaged or a product is being discontinued.) There is a bottle of Suave Professionals conditioner marked down to $1.49 and I have a $1 off coupon. The coupon excludes Suave Professionals silver or green bottles, but this one is the Gold line. I also find two bottles of Tresemme hair spray for $1.29 and I have two $1 coupons for that as well. After checking out the grocery aisles for any hidden specials or clearance (no luck, all the good ones are gone), I head to check-out.
Before I continue, let me back up a bit. While I shop this King Soopers because it is convenient, since early last year I have had progressively worse experiences at check-out when using coupons. I never get through without a delay, an argument or a clerk telling me that they have changed the rules.
In the past 12 months, I have been told: “We only accept 3 identical coupons.” “We can’t accept more than four ‘like’ coupons.” (When I asked someone to define “like”, I was told that meant I couldn’t use 4 Colgate toothbrush and 4 Colgate toothpaste coupons in one transaction or 4 Suave shampoo and 4 Suave deodorant). “The product you buy has to match the picture on the coupon.” “The coupon’s picture is excluded.” “You can’t use a coupon on an item from the Manager’s Clearance shelf.” You get the idea. I have even asked the store manager to give me a copy of its coupon policy. It is NEVER available. There are even certain clerks or checkout lines I avoid, so as to not get into a confrontation.
That’s one reason why this time I avoided self-check and instead used a checkout line being manned by a store assistant manager. (I could tell by her name tag that she was one of the higher pooh-bahs.) I figured, if the system gave me any issues, she’d just do an over-ride and I’d be done lickety-split. Big mistake.
So I swipe my loyalty card and she rings up the purchase and, then, it starts. “These coupons don’t work. The computer rejects them,” she tells me. She points out that Colgate Triple Action is excluded, she even reads the coupon out loud and adds in Triple Action. So we read it aloud again together and it clearly does NOT exclude Triple Action brushes. And I tell her that I bought a few over the weekend at this same store using coupons. Her reply, “Well, the computer won’t take them.” Then, she points to the Suave coupon and says, “This one excludes Suave Professionals.” “No,” I reply. “It says green or silver bottles, not the Gold.” She argues and says, “Well, I can’t make the computer accept them, so they are no good. That will be $6.27.”
I don’t think so. I politely asked for all my coupons back and cancelled the entire transaction. That’s an hour of my life I can’t get back. Then, I drove over to the King Soopers on S. Havana in Aurora. As I walked to the oral care aisle, two different stockers ask if I’m finding everything okay. That was refreshing.
Darn, they were out of the toothbrushes, but had the toothpaste. Nothing on the clearance shelves, so I headed to self-check. I scanned the three tubes, handed my coupons to the clerk and ended up paying 12 cents (the sales tax) for the lot.
Now, I know why there is always plenty of product at the Monaco & Leetsdale store. Using coupons there is such a hassle that savvy shoppers avoid it. I play by the rules, read the coupons carefully for restrictions and don’t try to cheat the store. I’m not clearing shelves of product to resell (and I know that’s a problem for the grocery store industry and couponing.) However, I expect the store to play by the same rules and its clerks and managers (especially the experienced ones) to be knowledgeable. Sometimes, it feels as if they make it up as they go along or “someone” told them the rules had changed.
What really bugs me is that most shoppers using coupons aren’t as skilled as I am. That means they are getting burned and paying more than they should at checkout. Likely, the folks who can least afford it.
I miss the days when I would shop at the Safeway on Leetsdale. Sadly, it closed. But, until its last days, I would always try and get into Tony’s line. I loved, LOVED Tony. If a coupon was legit and the computer rejected it, he just did an over-ride. No arguing, no posturing, no making the customer feel bad or like a coupon criminal. I would gladly wait in Tony’s line for 20 minutes, if I was using coupons rather than do speedy self-check just to avoid issues. I miss you, Tony.
So will I continue to shop King Soopers? I can’t afford not to. But I will drive further, probably to the Havana store or Stapleton or maybe even the flagship store in Glendale (which is always a zoo and the parking lot a nightmare), when I intend to use coupons. I’ll shop less frequently at King Soopers and see if Safeway or Albertsons is giving me a better deal. The lines at Safeway are often long, but the clerks are friendly and willing to take that extra step, when the all-mighty cash register doesn’t want to play nice.
Okay, now I feel better. Thanks for listening and, if you have anything to add, feel free to comment below.