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Guest Post: How to avoid a good deal gone bad


photo by timparkinson

Guest Post by Amy from Spin the Deal

There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling that sometimes occurs after scoring a great deal. You know the feeling–that tiny nag that rapidly evolves into a gut-wrenching ache as it swoops in and bursts your post-bargain bubble of bliss.

You hastily scan your receipt only to find that your $5 coupon–the icing on the cake–was never credited on your receipt. Or, you’re all set to submit a rebate for reimbursement, when suddenly, after a frantic search, you realize that you’ve lost the receipt.

It’s happened to the best of us. Whether you are a novice coupon-clipper or a seasoned deal hunter, getting burned on a deal is inevitable. Here are 7 tips to help prevent getting burned followed by some advice on how to remedy good deals gone bad.

1. Read Coupons Carefully: When using coupons, make sure that you are following the purchase requirements (brand, quantity, size) to the letter. Not doing so can cause the register to beep upon scanning the coupon, and the cashier to either reject it, or to simply go on to the next coupon without noticing, thereby causing you to lose out on the value of the coupon.

2. Understand the Details of a Catalina Deal: Catalinas are coupons that generate at checkout based on purchasing qualified items and can be used on your next store purchase. Before purchasing items that generate a Catalina, be sure you know the details behind the Catalina deal (qualifying item, quantity, offer period). Also, check that there is a Catalina machine at the checkout. Some stores may only have Catalina machines at the front registers. Finally, after the Catalina generates upon checkout, make sure the cashier notices the Catalina and hands it to you before you leave the register.

3. Review the Rebate Terms: When purchasing items for a rebate offer, read through the terms of the rebate before making the purchase. Make sure it is worth your time. Some rebates are straightforward to redeem, while others require laborious efforts. Certain rebates require removing UPCs from products that can only be removed after consumption of the product. In these cases, make sure that you will be able to consume the product, or transfer it into another container, before the rebate redemption period expires. Also, whenever possible, assemble the rebate submission (cash register receipt, proof of purchase, rebate form) shortly after making the purchase, take a photocopy, and then mail it out before there is time to lose any of the submission pieces.

4. Know the Store: Having a good understanding of a store’s coupon policy is key to not getting burned on a deal. Find out in advance whether the store accepts Internet coupons, expired manufacturer coupons, or limits the number of identical coupons redeemed per transaction. Also, when shopping at stores like CVS or Walgreens, which match number of items to number of coupons, make sure that you purchase enough items so that when combining store and manufacturer coupons, the register allows all coupons to scan without beeping or manager intervention.

5. Check the Expiration: Whether using a coupon or doing a rebate, check the expiration date to make sure that the coupon or offer is valid. Most rebates have a specific purchase period as well as a separate redemption deadline.

6. Be Attentive at Check-out: Although it pays to be friendly and get to know the store cashiers, when you are working on a complex deal, it’s important to stay on top of your game and focus on the transaction. Simply flash the cashier a friendly smile followed by a warm "hello," and then get ready to focus. This tip is particularly important when you have a large quantity of items and/or coupons. It’s easy to get distracted with chit-chat or digging through your purse for your wallet, but focusing on the transaction ensures that you receive credit for everything you are entitled to. Watch prices closely as items are scanned, and watch that every coupon scans successfully and lowers your total.

7. Be Friendly: Didn’t I just mention that we need to curb the friendliness? Well, yes, and no. Being friendly to the cashier increases your chances for a positive outcome on a complex or questionable transaction.

And, finally, here are some tips on how to overcome a good deal gone bad:

1. Check your Receipt IMMEDIATELY: Before leaving the store, it is critical to check your receipt. Make sure all discounts were applied as expected. Verify that all coupons were deducted from your total. Ensure that you have your Catalinas in-hand. If anything looks incorrect, go back to the cashier, manager, or service desk for an immediate adjustment.

2. File your Receipt: Select a specific pocket in your purse or a section in your wallet to file your receipts as soon as you receive them. This prevents them from getting lost or thrown away by accident, and makes them easily accessible for returns or rebates.

3. Make Photocopies: Lastly, when sending in rebate submissions, take the time to photocopy everything in the envelope. If there is trouble with the rebate, your photocopies will serve as backup proof of purchase.

Scoring the perfect deal isn’t always easy, but being prepared and vigilant can go a long way towards making every deal, a good deal.

Amy (a.k.a. The Deal Diva) is a mother of two young boys who loves the thrill of bargain hunting and teaching others how to spot deals and save money. Her passion for writing and deal hunting come together in her new blog.

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  • Christina Albea says:

    If you forget your coupons at kroger or one doesn’t get credited properly, go to customer care. They will fix it for you! I am a former customer care employee and we never failed to fix a coupon error for a customer now matter what the cause was.

  • I’ve had trouble with printables scanning at Target… I had two crying babies and didn’t realize until I had gotten home that $11 worth of coupons hadn’t scanned! I was SICK! I called Target to see if there was anything that I could do and they were super friendly and super helpful…they pulled all of my coupons from the drawer and saw that they had not all gone through…I went back the next day and they gave me the $11 in cash back! I was slightly embarrassed when I first called…but they didn’t even blink about it and I got my money back! It totally pays to stand up for yourself.

    This is a great article!

  • LANA says:

    So true! All too often I have left the store only to check the receipt at home and find that a sale item has come up at regular price. This is quite annoying, especially due to the fact that after you have driven back to the store to get refunded, you have spent extra cash on gas…ugh!

  • LANA says:

    So true! All too often I have left the store only to check the receipt at home and find that a sale item has come up at regular price. This is quite annoying, especially due to the fact that after you have driven back to the store to get refunded, you have spent extra cash on gas…ugh!

  • Marli says:

    That is great advice! I hate losing recepts before I enter them for the walgreen’s easysaver rebate! Or realizing on my way home that something did not ring up right…you are right it nags at you! Sometimes I will go back and fix it but others I just have to let it go because it is not worth being away from my husband/kids at home more than I have to!

    Thanks for the post!

  • MJ says:

    These are great tips… Also, remember to have your coupons in order before you get to the register. This is beneficial for numerous reasons.
    #1 You won’t be flipping through them instead of watching the items ring up.
    #2 You will be able to make sure you didn’t forget to pull a coupon you wanted to use.
    #3 Makes the whole process run much quicker
    #4 In stores like Walgreens or CVS, this is imperative, because coupons need to ring up in a certain order to get all your savings!

  • Honey says:

    Excellent Post! (I recently misplaced a receipt that I need to get a refund on because I purchased the wrong item-frustrating!) But, on another purchase, I caught a mistake at Kroger. I went back expecting to get back the difference, but Kroger’s policy is to give the item for free! So with the coupons I used I got 2 free toothbrushes and made $1.50! So it pays to correct mistakes. Especially if you feel you’ve “wasted” your coupons. Thanks for all the great advice!

  • Catherine R. says:

    I have had the problem of going to a restaurant strictly to use the coupon (buy one meal get one free usually) then of course at the end of the meal the server will show me the fine print on the coupon that says “weekdays only”!

    I have learned this one the hard way…always look at the fine print or even review the coupon with a staff member before sitting down.

  • Alisha says:

    I was JUST burned at Walgreens right before I read this. 🙁 I had the feeling you were talking about, and I still kind of do. The woman would not take the B1GI coupon and the $.75 coupon on the Lindt chocolate. After trying to convince her and the manager that it was acceptable to use 4 coupons on 4 purchases, I thought it was all going to work out just fine. Once the manager left, though, the woman said, “NO, you cannot use both of these coupons.” I couldn’t believe it! She would not even scan the coupon to see if it would go through. I left without the chocolate. I was so frustrated that I actually left the coupons there! So, now that woman has my coupons!! (and with them she got my coupon bliss for the moment) Sob story if you’ve ever heard one. I know you all are feeling my agony and that helps. 😉

  • Kerri says:

    Good day! This question has nothing to do with the post, sorry. I am new to your site and would really love to start saving money. We have 6 children and my hubby’s truck just broke down…..anyways I have been reading your posts and they often mention certain ‘inserts’. Is that refering to the coupons that you get in the paper? Our library used to have bins to drop off your newspapers and I drove by to try to find some coupons, but the bins are no longer there! Are there ‘regular’ places that you find recycling bins that one could go to and get coupons out. Or does anyone know who I might contact in my town to find out that information? Thank you for this wonderful site!! I appreciate all the hard work it takes to put up all these deals.


  • Marsha says:

    Always, always, always check your receipt. And add up beforehand how much you’re saving with coupons, so you’ll know when the right amount is taken off. I save at least $100 a year by doing this. Also, if I have any free-after-coupon items (where they have to write in the price) I put those at the end of my order so the cashier can easily see the prices.
    Also, if a coupon is rejected for any reason–doesn’t scan, store doesn’t take IPs, etc.–I ask politely for the item to be taken off my order. If I have any coupons that I think may be rejected, I put those items near the end, also, so I can easily hand them back to be removed. I know some people are embarassed by this, and will pay full price for the item, but I won’t. It’s my money that I’m spending, so I’m only buying what is a good deal. Also, if a coupon is rejected, make sure you get it back. You may be able to use it elsewhere. Just because it doesn’t scan at Walmart, doesn’t mean it won’t scan at Target.

  • Sarah Hunt says:

    I’m just curious if anyone has received their Kellogg’s $10.00 rebate yet ? It has been 8 week now and I haven’t got mine yet. : (

  • Ashley says:

    I wish I had read this a couple months ago regarding rebates. I had bought a virus protection for my computer at Office Depot and it had a $30 rebate form on it. I sent all my originals in like it had asked for but forgot to make copies for myself. Apparently it got lost in the mail because they have no record of it. Big Disappointment, I could of really used that $30.00 for groceries this week! 🙁

  • Nicole says:

    A few of my coupons didn’t double at the recent K-Mart double coupon days. I looked over my receipt at home and added everything up only to realize I was “overcharged” by $15. I called the store and the 1-800 number and only got an apology. I submitted my complaint on K-mart’s website and they called me to apologize and sent a $25 gift card! I’ll definitely watch closer while my purchases and coupons scan next time!

  • MichelleB says:

    Yea it’s hard to find a good deal, and gets frusterating. But I have a tip on a good deal for moms out there. This has to do with jewelry buying. My hubby recently bought me a diamond necklace from the site and moms if you either buy or sell jewelry you can do both. They have really good deals. So just a tip.

    Though I would suggest getting your husband to pick you up something nice as a surprise from there!

    Thanks ladies!

  • Jessica says:

    I have not gotten my Kellogg’s rebate either. Has anyone gotten the Pert / School Supplies rebate yet? Or the scrubbing bubbles?

  • sarah says:

    I forgot to hand some coupons to the cashier at Walgreens one time and went back two days later after discovering MY error. My husband thought I was crazy to ask for them to apply it after the fact, but the manager was happy to comply. I got like $12.00 back on my card. My motto is, it never hurts to ask!

  • Daina says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m loving these guest articles!

  • Patti says:

    Another hint: Take the time to write on your shopping list what you expect the sale price to be. I went to Wal Mart yesterday and most of the prices of the items listed in the earlier post were not in effect at my WalMart, even though they looked like they were “on sale”. I did not get as great of deals and wonder if it is worth my time to shop Wal Mart when my grocery stores will double coupons and we know how to get things free at our drug stores! Thanks for helping us newbies learn to speak up!

  • Patti says:

    I just received my rebate from Pert this week.

  • Kim says:

    I have not received my Kelloggs rebate, but the Pert/Sure school supplies rebate came in about 2 1/2 weeks — the shortest wait ever! I didn’t have a scrubbing bubbles rebate form for the action scrubber, and I called the customer service number to get one. They just did an instant rebate for me over the phone. I did the same thing for a Smart Rinse rebate a few months back. 🙂 Sometimes when others get the forms in stores or inserts, the company will still honor the rebate if you’ve got the right UPC and receipt info.

  • Charlene says:

    I had a $1.00 coupon off for an item at Walgreens that was a 100% rebate item from the Easy Saver booklet, and forgot to use it! I could have actually made money off of the deal. I debated returning the item and then re-buying, in order to used the coupon, but decided that I’d use more in gas to drive back to the store. Sometimes you have to chalk it up as a lesson learned.

    Most mistakes I’ve made have been when I was in rushing–either because of the line behind me, or my own busy-ness.

  • Penny Raine says:

    or how about that dreaded moment when you finally sit down to fill out that $100 rebate from your new computer only to realize it expired …. yesterday

    blessings, Penny Raine

  • Cassie Welch says:

    How do I find the best deal on meats, I can’t find coupons on meat or chicken so how do I get great deals on meat?

  • I have had one too many problems with not receiving Mail In Rebates! I am giving up. I am sending the ones I have already purchased and then no more! I will still do the Walgreens rebates since it is online and I can keep track of what they approve as I enter the receipts.

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