Coupon Caper

It happens to the best of us, even the most experienced coupon user.  You make a special trip, intending to save a bunch of money, and then your carefully orchestrated plans are thwarted in some manner.

It might be the grouchy cashier who has made it her mission in life to make your life miserable.   It may be the coupons you intended to use on a sale price, only to realize at the checkout, with a sinking heart, that your coupons are expired.  It can be something little, or something big, but when it happens, you just want to kick yourself.

It has been a very long time since I’ve made a fatal error in couponing.  I have learned to sort my coupons ahead of time, take my lists with me, and make the most of my trips to Dubuque or Cedar Rapids.  I’ve got it down to a science, an art if you will.

My children went through quite a rotten virus in the last 14 days.  Their coughing is finally down to an occasional bout when their throats are dry.  They have literally been begging to go to Dubuque.  And I did have those Walgreen’s catalina coupons that would expire in a couple days,over $30 worth.  So, yesterday I made a quick list of things to look for, clipped a few more coupons and stuck them in the front of my coupon box, and headed to Dubuque with the two little girls.

I forgot my list.

That didn’t bode well for the day, but I was determined to forge ahead.

We stopped at Walgreen’s first.  There weren’t many good deals this week but I needed to use those catalina coupons (also known as register rewards).  I picked up two $10 gift cards for Christmas gifts (yes, Christmas. I plan ahead) and then I walked the aisles looking for good deals, advertised and unadvertised. I thought I hit the jackpot when I noticed a sign under the Tylenol 24 caplets for $1.50 off each one with a Walgreen’s coupon.  I had $4 off 2 Tylenol coupons expiring on the 31st!  Combined with the Walgreen’s coupon, it would make for some pretty cheap Tylenol. I picked up a few other things and headed to the checkout.  I didn’t recognize the cashier but didn’t expect any trouble.  Everything went fine with the transaction until we got to the $1.50 off Tylenol Walgreen’s coupon.  It wouldn’t scan.  I pointed out that the size was right, and although the Tylenol wasn’t pictured, it was mentioned on the coupon.

“It isn’t for this Tylenol,” the cashier said, then crumpled the coupon up and gave me my total.  The line behind me was getting longer, and the cashier was already looking past me, to the next customer.

“But I wouldn’t be getting this Tylenol without using that $1.50 coupon,” I said.

She sighed loudly.  “It isn’t for that Tylenol, but I’ll take it off this time, ” and she took off $1.50.

“But I got 10 boxes, not one.”

“It isn’t for that Tylenol.”

The line was getting longer.

I paid, and took my bags to the beauty counter and asked for the manager.  When the manager arrived, I told her what had transpired and she went back to look at the shelf where the Tylenol was.  She came back with the shelf sticker that stated that the coupon was for that Tylenol size.  She tried scanning it.

“It isn’t for this kind, it is for the Tylenol PM.”

“I don’t want it then, since I was buying it to combine my manufacturer coupons with your Walgreen’s coupon.”

“It’s still a good deal.”

Well, no it isn’t. Walmart has the same size for almost $1 less, but I didn’t say this. I like this manager and I didn’t want to argue with her.

I decided to just return them.

The manager attempted to do just that, but the register wouldn’t cooperate, because of the $4 coupons.  She tried several different ways, in fact. She couldn’t void the whole sale because of the gift cards I’d bought, and she couldn’t give me back my money without taking account the coupons. We both knew there was probably a way to do it but there was a line of customers waiting.

“It’s okay, I’ll just keep them,” I finally said, and I could see how relieved she was.

“It’s still a good deal,” she reiterated before I left.

She didn’t get it.  I didn’t just want a “good deal,” I wanted a “great deal.” I could have gotten a better deal at Walmart, using those $4 off 2 coupons.  I was only buying them at Walgreens because of the opportunity to combine store savings with manufacturer savings. I mean, I’ve even bought cat food (we have no cat) before when a coupon made it free or just pennies!  Essentially, with the inability to use the Walgreens coupon, I spent $15 more than I would have otherwise.


For the rest of the trip, that $15 bothered me.  We also went to Walmart and Hy-Vee, where I found a few good deals to make my trip worthwhile, but my heart wasn’t in it. I kept thinking about that Tylenol deal gone bad.  Katie had to repeat several questions, until she finally snapped, “What’s wrong with you?” As I was explaining to her the intricacies of couponing and how I’d ended up spending too much for the Tylenol, she rolled her eyes and said, “So what? You’ll use it.”

She got that right. We go through a lot of Tylenol in this house.  I thought then of all the super deals I do get in on; the cupboards full of health and beauty items, the cereal that cost less than $1 a box, the freezer full of frozen vegetables, the free lightbulbs and toilet paper socked away, and I reminded myself of what I always say to anyone who has a similar experience.

Get over it.  Let it go.

Another deal will come your way.

At least it is something we will use.

And not cat food.

3 thoughts on “Coupon Caper

  1. Beth says:

    Mary, I have done that before. I would have good intentions of having a great coupon shopping trip and something will make it no so great. Like you, I will go through the rest of the day moping about the $$ lost. I still might be thinking about it 2 days later. I will eventually get over it. It usually takes either someone to tell me to get over it or by then it is time to go shopping again.


  2. Joan Kramer says:

    Had to laugh out loud, because I get it! Only an avid couponer can understand this situation. You still did get a good deal, only it wasn’t the BEST deal. And that is what I always try for; to do the very best I can to make every penny go as far as it possibly can.
    I think what we have to do sometimes, is to step back and take a look at the big picture. Overall, we are doing a fantastic job, and if we screw up sometimes (like when I used register rewards for an item which should have given me additional rewards), or if a coupon doesn’t work for whatever reason- we need to be able to take these setbacks in stride. When a deal doesn’t work out for me, my first reaction is a feeling of disappointment. I know how you felt, because I start to think “I should have saved more.”
    It’s a matter of high expectations; we set the standard so high that when things go wrong, we take it personally.

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