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Coupon Fine Print

Learn the fine print.

Understanding the fine print on Canadian Coupons is an important step to help ensure a quick and painless check-out process:  there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re holding up fellow customers while you discuss the ins and outs of why a coupon might not be valid with a cashier.   Here are some common regulations that you might find in the fine print on your Canadian Coupons.  Please note that these are general guidelines only;  you should check store policies if you’re planning on redeeming a number of coupons or multiples of similar coupons at any given retailer.

  • One coupon per purchase.  This means that you can use 1 coupon for each unit that you purchase.  For example, if you’re buying 2 tubes of toothpaste, you can use a total of 2 coupons (1 each).  If you’re buying a multipack, that counts as 1 unit. Some cashiers (especially new ones, or those who work in stores which do not deal with coupons on a regular basis) interpret this to mean 1 coupon total per customer.  This is hardly ever the case – it’s good to have a sample of a “limit one coupon per transaction” coupon to show the difference.  I have one taped to the inside of my binder for just that purpose!
  • One coupon per transaction.  This means that regardless of how many units you are buying, or how many similar coupons you have, you can only use 1 similar coupon for your entire purchase.  Some cashiers will permit you to divide your purchase into multiple transactions (place a divider bar on the belt to signal your intentions) but it is generally considered poor coupon etiquette to process multiple transactions if there are others waiting in line.  Consider returning to the store on subsequent visits to redeem your coupons.
  • One coupon per person, or One coupon per visit.  This restrictions trumps both of the above.  Regardless of how many units you are purchasing, or how many transactions you’d like to complete, the cashier is obligated to accept only 1 similar coupon during your visit.
  • Cannot be combined with any other offer.  This restriction differs for each retailer.  For generic grocery coupons that aren’t store specific, it means that you cannot stack the coupon with another coupon for the same item.  For some clothing retailers, it means that you cannot combine the coupon with a store-wide sale (e.g. 40% OFF entire store).  Shoppers Drug Mart, for example, will not allow you to use a Bonus Optimum Points coupon for a specific item in the same transaction as a 20x Points or 20% OFF entire purchase coupon.  Be sure to inquire with the cashier if you’re unclear of how the restriction will affect you if you’re hoping to combine a coupon with another offer or coupon.
  • first 2First 4.  If your coupon states “$1 OFF yogourt, first 4”, for example, you only need 1 coupon to cover the first 4 units that you’re purchasing to get the discount on each unit.  If you’re buying more than the limit stated, you might be able to present another coupon for the next batch.  Check the fine print to see if there’s a limit on the number of coupons per transaction, per person, or per visit.
  • Coupon not subject to doubling.  This term is found more often on American coupons than for Canadian Coupons, but in case you do see it , it means that if a store has a “Double Coupon” day, that particular coupon might not be worth two times it’s value – it is the store’s discretion as to whether or not they will give you $2 OFF for a $1 OFF coupon, for example.
  • Coupon not subject to stacking.  While stacking is incredibly rare in Canada, there are some retailers that permit consumers to redeem more than 1 coupon per purchase (i.e. per unit) if the coupons are from different sources and/or have different UPC numbers.  London Drugs and McQuarries are two retailers, for example who permit stacking in Canada.  Such retailers are not obligated to permit stacking on coupons that have this restriction in the fine print.
  • Up to a maximum of $4.49.  Limits on the value of a coupon are generally found on FPCs (Free Product Coupons).  If your coupon indicates that you are eligible to receive an item for FREE, be sure to read the fine print to see if there’s a limit on the value and be prepared to pay any amount that exceeds the limit printed.  The fine print might also state whether or not taxes are included in the total.  Redeeming FPCs on “Tax Free” Days is one way to ensure that you won’t have to pay anythign out of pocket, regardless of what the fine print reads!
  • Buy 1 Get 1 FREE , BOGO FREE, B1G1 FREE.  These coupons are really worth taking the time to read the fine print.  If there are none of the above restrictions printed, you might be able to combine them with a FPC and get 2 FREE products.  This is rare, but not impossible!  For example, if you have a BOGO coupon which does not state “cannot be combined with any other coupon/offer” and you also have a FPC for the similar product, you could, in theory,redeem those 2 coupons for 2 products, and pay nothing for either (as long as your FPC limit covers the shelf price of a unit).  If the only restriction stated on the coupons is “one coupon per purchase”, this is a grey area that could be interpreted as “the BOGO coupon goes with this product, and the FPC goes with the other one, so I’m only using one per item.”  Many stores do not interpret this the same way.  Be sure to check!iogo save
  • Any product. Some coupons will have an image of a specific variety, flavour, size, etc. of a product, but if the coupon states “SAVE $1 on any Iogo Product” (for example), you do not have to purchase the exact item in the picture.  There are several Iogo $.75 OFF coupons, for example, that show a 8 pack on the coupon (which retails for up to $8.99 at some stores) but if you redeem it on a single Nomad drink which often go on sale for $1, you could end up saving 75% on that item compared to only 8%.  That’s a big difference!

Ensuring that your Canadian Coupons are valid (expiry date, product size, variety, etc.) and understanding the fine print will keep your transactions ticking along nicely and will help on 3 levels as far as I’m concerned:

  1. You will save time & money (and avoid embarrassment) if all of your coupons go through easily.
  2. Cashiers will become more “coupon friendly” if they don’t need to scrutinize/explain policies numerous times per shift.
  3. Other customers might be inspired to try couponing, too, if they see how painless it can be!

Happy Couponing!

Christa Clips ~ February 24, 2013

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