The Queen of Coupons Reigns......

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Monday, November 7, 2011

All stores are not created equal...

I'm so ticked off with Fred Meyer and their lame new coupon policy...that I'll have to give you the whole story tomorrow...after I cool off!


Later..... (Sorry for the long post--but there's some important facts in the details that could save you some time and money!)

I, normally, wouldn't be so angry about a legitimate misunderstanding with a store's policy regarding coupons. But what got me going tonight was an incident that occurred at my local Fred Meyer when I stopped in to get a few things that I've been wanting to stock up on. S&W beans are on sale again this week, so I stopped in after running some errands, to pick up an assortment of the legumes, along with some other groceries for dinner.

I was not aware that the chain had adopted a new coupon policy as of October 2011. (Probably due to their felonious media coverage via TLC's Extreme Couponing that showed a shopper abusing existing coupon policy at a NW Fred Meyer.) Because when my transaction was totalled tonight, for almost $40, I handed the cashier one coupon for tortillas and 20 coupons for the beans--but no coupons for the 3 packs of meat. They were manufacturer's coupons that stated: "Save 50 cents on any 2 cans of S&W beans". The manufacturers' permit one coupon per product--unless otherwise stated on the coupon.

I wasn't trying to double, overlap the coupon with store coupons, or buy 500 cases of noted items. What I thought would be an easy and straight forward transaction--turned into the first time I've ever left a cart of groceries at a store!

I was not aware of the change in coupon policy--nor was it noted anywhere in the store to inform me of such. I'm very on top of my couponing game, following the rules and policies to the letter--because that is how I teach people how to save when they are shopping and it is what I expect others to do when they are using coupons as well. But this little episode threw me for a loop. The coupons I had were general manufacturers' coupons without any limitations for use in the verbage printed on the coupon. The only hold-up was the store denying me use of them. **see store policy below

I did not clear the shelf. I did not try to use any computer generated coupons. I wasn't snippy and rude to the employees, other then asking what the new policy was and why it was so. What I heard from 4 different employees was basically the same. But that was different from what I read in the actual store policy on their website--which I had to wait to see until I got home.

I was told that I would only be able to use 5 of the coupons, of which the cashier proceeded to hand me 16 of them back. I asked him what the policy was and said that the store would only accept 5 coupons per customer per day. Yep. Then I said that we could break the beans up into 3 more transactions then--eliminating the problem. Nice and easy? No go there, either. A CCK manager was called over and she basically said only 5 coupons as well. I was in disbelief at the sheer disregard for the value of the consumer and their relationship with the store. Five coupons? Really? I'm buying 43 items and have 21 coupons. OK. I got a little frustrated when they wouldn't work with me. Then I got a lot more frustrated when the manager gave the cashier a wink for "catching" the problem and enforcing the lame "store policy".

Isn't there bigger issues in the world to concentrate on then rationing the number of coupons people hand you? Expiration dates, size limitations, purchase quantities...those are all dictated on the coupon by the manufacturer. I followed the rules. And the store said rules are not working. The product doesn't stay on the shelf when people buy things with coupons. REALLY? How about this this concept--order MORE when you have great sales and then you will sell MORE--regardless if the shoppers have coupons or not. Fence off the deals--and shoppers will find greener pastures else where!! And those stores will be thrilled to make up the difference! I know...because I spent A LOT of money at Fred Meyer!

Now--to put things in perspective. I worked for Fred Meyer for almost 10 years. And I realize that things have been updated and systems upgraded in the 12 years I've been an acting-CEO of my own SAHM-business. So let's put it this way--I've personally shopped Fred Meyer, as a consumer and loyal customer, for almost 25 years. It was preached then that the customer is always right. Now, I don't really believe that--because I saw a lot of dishonesty and crumbs floating through the store, but I do believe in customer loyalty programs and have a general understanding of how the retail stores act as mediators to the public for the manufacturers. That relationship is capitalized on with the coupon redemption policy as stated on every individual coupon taken by the store. The store will be reimbursed the face value of the coupon, plus an 8 cents handling fee per coupon. Stores get fat checks back from the manufacturers' for honoring their coupons and stocking the products for consumers to buy.

In the cashier training I went through yonks ago--it was interesting to note that store director's received cushy bonuses every year, dependent upon how well their stores performed--ie...how high the sales were. Much of those bonuses were paid from the profit margins (the 8 cents per coupon profiting margin), relating to sales' and coupon usage. Stores with higher coupon usage, actually had higher profit margins then their counterparts--and those director's were financially compensated in kind for those increased sales. So the attitude then--and until recently--was bring those coupons ON! So today was the first bad experience I've had with a retailer regarding the general use of coupons, ever!! And I didn't expect it to come from good ol' Fred Meyer.

The policy change I was referred to is found at: http://www.fredmeyer.com/. The store didn't even have a copy of their own coupon policy at the customer service desk. I asked to speak to the store director--they were conveniently on a phone call somewhere else. The home manager was brought up. Poor guy. He doesn't deal with food--let alone coupons. I explained to him the policy as stated by the other 3 employees. He didn't know why the policy was in place and said he felt sorry for me. He encouraged me to fill out a comment card and send it to the corporate offices. I agreed to do that.

I told him that I could take a copy of any store ad, Fred Meyer's included, to another store [the big W], and have the prices matched and coupons taken without a limitation or restriction to the number of manufacturers' coupons. I chose to shop at Fred Meyer instead. But I will not shop at a store that is so clearly bigoted as to limit my personal savings in direct relationship to the number of coupons I have to use. I'm still free to choose who takes my money-and my coupons! So which store do you think wants my business?


I've been plugging in my phone number at Fred Meyer for years now--so they can keep track of the dollar amount and the actual purchases I've made. Quite a stellar history, I'm sure. They can see the continuity and volume of items that I have bought. They have no problem sending me a quarterly "gift card" and sheet of coupons as a fiscal reward for being such a loyal customer. But yet they won't take $10-worth of manufacturer's coupons--for a store profit and return of $11.68.

So I was pissed off enough to call the 1-800 number on the comment card. I got absolutely NO WHERE talking to "Pablo" about the discrepancy in the customer loyalty policies versus coupon policy. My complaints were "noted" but I was told that basically it was "too bad, so sad". Um. Yea. That was a shocker. Pissed and now seeing RED. This is the company that preached customers, customers, customers. I'm guessing that that policy is no longer dictating what is going on there. Because-trust me--I would rather shop at a grocery store that will take any and all of my valid coupons in exchange for my customer loyalty.

And while I'm on it--that includes everything that I purchased that WASN'T groceries. "One Stop Shopping" is a gimmicky sales' slogan for "add-on" sales. And like most customers, I shop all the departments when I go in for groceries. So when I don't go in for groceries--the obvious, right? I won't be shopping for anything else, either.

So to the moronic customer service dude--I will tell my friends about the lousy policy changes. I will tell them that they need to shop at chains that value their business and honor the coupons that make the store profit and succeed. I hope that every couponer out there writes Fred Meyer and lets them know what they think of their policy that sets the store up as a fiscal tyrant who determines who can save money and who can't!

I totally get that Fred Meyer is owned by Kroger. So my question to him was and still is--why isn't the policy consistent throughout the company? Why do other Kroger-owned stores have more customer-progressive coupon policies? Why are other parts of the market and regions held to a different standard?
And why don't you come up with a better inventory and ordering program for your sales if you think that you are going to get "sold out" by people using coupons?

It makes me grateful for stores like Albertsons', Walgreens, Rite Aid, Safeway, and many others--that value my right to buy as many of anything that I want--and have no problem taking the appropriate number of valid coupons allowed as per the manufacturer! Cash is still King--and mine won't be going to Fred Meyer until their coupon policy is more customer-friendly!!

So read the policy closely--because you will also note that the verbage is ambiguous. All of those employees I talked to tonight didn't even understand their own store policy regarding coupons! It is true--the manager denied me use of the coupons--as stated is their right in the policy here. But the explanation was because I exceeded the number permitted--5. Whereas, the policy says that "when buying multiples of an item, only 5 coupons will be accepted in the same transaction". The cashier said I couldn't do any other transactions today and use the additional coupons--and that was also validated by the manager. But that is NOT what the policy states. True, this--"coupon policy is subject to change at anytime."

And I'd be interested to know what they would have to say if I were to buy 20 different things, each with a coupon. According to what they told me--I would still be only able to use 5 of my 20 coupons, even though they were all different. I'm so tired of the policy being interpretted by general employees. The policy should be clear and concise--with no need for clarification as to what they really mean. I hope they aren't telling a poor Grandma that's wielding 9 coupons, in her arthritic hand, that she's only allowed 5 and not 9, of those precious coupons!

So--shoppers', Beware. Follow the advice of the thrifty mom...at www.athriftymom.com, and print the store policies and take them with you when you shop with coupons. Not everyone got an A in English for the use of words and their meanings. If I took this policy in--I would have been able to show them what they said I could do--rather then getting the short end of the stick on my legume purchase plan. Oh well. Like I told Mr. Customer Service--it would pay more to please the customer then to ride on the coattails of ambiguity and disloyalty!

http://www.fredmeyer.com/help/Pages/coupon_policy.aspx

Fred Meyer Coupon Guidelines
Updated October 2011
This policy is intended as a general guide to using coupons at Fred Meyer stores. Because there are many different types of coupons from many different sources, a single coupon policy can’t possibly be all-encompassing. However, these guidelines apply to most coupon situations.Coupon policy is subject to change at any time.
The Fred Meyer store manager has the right to accept, decline, or limit the use of ANY coupon upon view.
When buying multiples of an item, no more than 5 manufacturer’s coupons for that product will be accepted in the same transaction, and only 1 manufacturer’s coupon can be applied to each item.
We accept coupons from Fred Meyer ads, mailers, flyers, emails, web sites and in-store displays. Our coupons will state any limitations and/or restrictions. Some of these coupons are Fred Meyer coupons and some are manufacturer’s coupons. The coupon will state if it is a manufacturer’s coupon.
Customers must present coupons in order to receive the coupon price.
Amount refunded cannot exceed the cost of the item.
We accept all valid, current manufacturer's coupons. We do not accept expired coupons or manufacturer’s coupons that state they are valid only at another listed retailer (i.e., "Good only at Safeway"). Exception:
Most Catalina coupons (the coupons that print out for you at check stands) are manufacturer’s coupons and are stated as such. Catalina coupons that are printed with another retailer’s name may be accepted at Fred Meyer. Note: This only applies to Catalina coupons and not to other manufacturer’s coupons that are designated as valid for use at a specified retailer.
We do not double or triple coupons.
We accept Pharmacy Competitor Coupons, but do not accept any other competitor's coupons.
Coupons cannot be combined with certain special pricing programs, including $4 and $10 generic prescription pricing in our pharmacy.
We accept valid, current print-at-home Internet coupons, including those sent to you in Fred Meyer emails or that you find on http://www.fredmeyer.com/, facebook.com/fredmeyer and twitter.com/fred_meyer. "Free" item Internet coupons can be accepted only if all purchase criteria is met.
Only two Internet coupons per manufacturer, per Customer, per day will be accepted.
Internet coupons that display the following characteristics will not be accepted:
Blurry
Out of proportion
Do not scan properly
Appear altered in any way

2 comments:

  1. Jolinda,

    My coupons were also turned away at FM this week. I purchased my ten legumes, then took my receipt to Wally World (Not my favorite store) and purchased the rest of my legumes. The silver lining was that I purchased the trial size Crest Complete tp at .97 used my $2.00 off coupon and receieved everything for free! I also price matched the soup with no problem. I had actually read about the policy change but had forgotten about it when I checked out.

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  2. The sale on the beans, soups, and broth at Fred Meyer (and dozens of other items...) goes through 11/14. You're right about the silver lining...I have time to get the products I want at another store. I just wish I hadn't touted their great sale the week before--probably cause quite a few to get into the same pickle I did. Oh well. Live and learn-and spend that money somewhere else.

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