Store’s Love Coupons! I Heard it First-Hand from a CEO Last Month!

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As most of you probably know, I used to be a grocery store manager and also spent a tour of duty with SuperTarget.  It’s amazing how many connections you gain in your lifetime.  In fact, I still have a ton of connections in the retail industry.  It doesn’t really help me save any money, but it helps me keep in touch with the pulse of the retail sector so that I can relay accurate information to our fans.  One of the benefits of being in the grocery business is that people who are successful tend to move around to different companies based on their level of success.  Let’s face it, we all shop.  We all know which stores are managed right and which ones aren’t.  Unfortunately, the talent pool isn’t very deep, so good, talented people are constantly on the move.  This actually worked out to my benefit last month.

I got a call as I was headed home from a business lunch.  It was a buddy of mine that is in management with one of the major national grocery chains.  It was interesting to hear from him.  I hadn’t really told him about The Coupon Wizards or what we were doing over here, but he managed to find me anyhow.  I had always taken care of him when we worked together so I guess this was his payback.  His CEO was getting ready to go live on a webinar with all of the store managers in their chain.  The topic, you ask?  Coupons and their impact on this chain’s business.  He asked me if I would be interested in “sitting in” on the call!  So, here I was, listening to the CEO of a major grocery retailer address his people: the front lines, store managers, head cashiers, customer service managers and district managers.  Anyone and everyone that has anything to do with the operations end of these stores was on the call.  It was very apparent that the subject was important.  You don’t have calls like this unless there is a major need to drive change in your organization.  With the CEO being the one to address the masses, it was a very interesting dynamic.  As I listened to him address his team, my jaw nearly hit the floor with what I heard.

As I drove down the road, I honestly wondered if this guy was reading from the first slide of “What’s the Coupon Magic?”  In all seriousness, he addressed every single point that I bring up when I talk about that slide.  He told the people that they were paid the money for the face value of the coupon plus the handling fee.  He told them that it was their job to ensure a great guest experience in the stores and that knowing and executing their coupon policy was a primary job responsibility of all store management.  He further went on to express his disgust for the number of complaints received at the corporate office from people who had been loyal customers of this chain for years.  They were fed up with being hassled over a coupon here and there.  He told the staff “If you are willing to lose a $200.00 order from someone who has shopped in your store for years over a .50 coupon, you need to re-evalutate your career.”  He continued on “You all need to realize that the people who pay our salaries are the people who shop in our stores.  They are the ones that have been here before Extreme Couponing and they are the ones that will be here after the fad passes.  They are the ones that tell their friends to shop with us.  They are as loyal to us as we are to them.  The minute you question them or make them feel uncomfortable, they will be your competitor’s best customer and advocate.”  Where was this guy when I was in the industry?

The challenges about customer relations as it pertained to couponing lasted for over an hour.  He addressed the fact that the stores actually made more money on a $200 sale that was paid for with coupons than one that was paid with a credit/debit card, cash or check.  One store manager was actually bold enough to ask “I hear what you are saying, but if the coupon isn’t for the item, why should I take it?”  I found the response to be very interesting.  After a moment of silence where he was obviously carefully choosing his words, the CEO responded “When we take a coupon, what happens with that coupon?”  The store manager, dumbfounded by the most basic of questions, said “I’m not sure what you are asking me?”  “What do you do with a coupon when you take it?  It’s a straightforward question.  When someone hands you a coupon to use and you scan it or key it in, what do you do with it?”, the CEO asked.  “Well, I suppose we add them up and reconcile them against our cash office report and then put them in the manilla envelope in the office so that they can go to the clearing house.”  “Right!” said the CEO.  “What happens with them next?”, he said.  “I supposed they scan them and determine who gets credit for what”, the store manager said.  “Right again!” said the CEO.  I could see the trap being set as this guy continued to paint the picture but the poor store manager was like a deer in headlights.  He asked a question expecting to get flippant response, not the Spanish Inquisition!

The banter went back and forth for a couple more minutes.  The point to the CEO’s questioning was that he wanted the store managers to realize that it really wasn’t of financial consequence to the stores if they took a coupon for something that it wasn’t intended for.  Now, I will stop here for a second to let you know that he was very clear that he did not condone coupon fraud or misuse in any way.  In fact, to be very specific, this whole scenario revolved around a coupon that had a picture for one thing and a description for all of the items covered by the coupon and it appeared to be “gray area” to the store management.  The CEO’s point was “Is it really worth .50 to get rid of a $200 order?”  Of course, from a business perspective, the answer is absolutely not!

The call continued with some of the horror stories of Extreme Couponers that have done things that are completely fraudulent and actually of detriment to the stores and the manufacturers.  The CEO was very clear that the company’s position on Extreme Couponing was steadfast.  They were not welcome in their stores to shop the aisles and ransack the shelves.  If people were coming in to score 100’s of units of something with coupons and robbing the shelf for the regular customers, they were not welcome.  He stated that if they wanted to legitimately use their coupons and score bulk purchases that the store mangers should spend the time building a relationship with them and ordering the bulk quantities (within reason) ahead of time.

At the end of the call, it was very clear that this gentleman was committed to being coupon friendly.  So much so that he stated “Heads are going to roll over coupons.  You are all listening to what I have to say but are going to head back to your stores and continue on with the status quo.  Let me assure you that the status quo is that we are coupon friendly.  If I am going to have to make an example out of someone because they are not taking our initiative seriously, it will be unfortunate, but it will be done.”

It is refreshing for me to hear this kind of perspective from the leadership of an organization.  This is the philosophy that I practiced in my career and what I preach on the webinars today.  It’s good to know that the message is loud and clear from the leadership of some organizations.  Others are not so progressive in their thought process.  It will be a battle that we will continue to fight on a trip by trip basis until we find the stores that welcome us with open arms.  I suspect, coincidentally, they will be clean with full shelves, plenty of cashiers to check you out and an available, visible management team.  Just a hunch 🙂

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  1. Catherine Skoog says:

    Loved this article!!!! I have worked in all types of retail for the past 20 years. This exactly how I was taught customers service when I first started and how I trained my employees once I was a manager. It really does make for loyal customers. It is also true that bad experiances do get passed around and customers will not shop with you once you have broken their trust.

  2. Gaelynne Vanden Bosch says:

    This reminds me of the experience I had at Shopko yesterday. I was using one of the $8 off covergirl items on a purchase. The cashier I had was a young girl and got confused as to how to enter the coupon. When she asked the cashier next to us for help, oh my goodness did holy HELL break out! This lady was horrible, awful, and in my humble opinion, satan himself. I ended up leaving a cart full of products. I also told this cashier she should really look into a new profession because honestly, that was not the shopping expierence I ever want to have again. Told her also, the coupon works at Walmart and they price match and she just cost Shopko a $50 sale today not to mention the sales in the future because I do not want to hear someone like that checking customers out. I did mention to customer service how helpful my clerk was and the fact I was walking out was in no way related to her service.

  3. Ash kaforey says:

    Fantastic article and very well written. I work for a major grocery chain, and love to offer my customers a great reassurance that I LOVE coupons. I also love to let people know, that I’m extremely coupon friendly, and when in doubt to come see me. I have many people I see every week with a stack full of coupons. I welcome them with open arms, because frankly I know just how wonderful they are and what thy do for our family and theirs. Thanks for that David! I really enjoyed that. It’s nice to know some people are on our level, especially the “big” guys!!!

  4. Love this article! Very glad to hear there are some stores standing behind us! My household feeds 6 people so we buy a bunch of food so when I’m trying to save money by using a coupon then I’d like to have a good experience…..

  5. Barbara Lochridge says:

    I was approached by a manager at the commissary a couple of weeks ago. He loved my coupon organization and told me to check out He also said they love us couponers!!

  6. Love this article, David. I really appreciate you taking the time to write it and share it with us. I wish there was a way we could get it out to every retailer on earth!! THANKS!!!! We are fortunate here to have great stores that NORMALLY welcome us. BUT, there is a bad apple in every bunch, and because of a few unethical couponers, they are ruining it for the rest of us when larger stores like Target and Walmart adjust their policy’s because of a handful………..

  7. Rachel Cooney says:

    This is awesome! I have a brother who just started as a cashier at Walgreen’s and since he knows I’m an avid couponer and not a scam artist or bad person because of it he goes out of his way to make sure that the people coming through the line know about all the sales and coupons that they could be getting with their purchases 🙂 I taught him well!

  8. I work at a local grocery store in a small town. We are the only one in this town. My GM generally has the same attitude as this man from the artical. Although we do have one cashier who hassels everyone about everything, including coupons. I think that it is a shame that this cashier is this way to our customers and it upsets them very much. Some people just need to get over themselves, life is to short and everyone needs a break these days. Good couponing everyone!

  9. I wish that more cashiers were taught about their store’s coupon policy, as well as how to detect a fraudulent coupon, and the proper use of coupons by reading the description. I have been asked to teach a coupon class and have been in the works on this project for the past week. Not only do we need to educate about proper use, but about our store’s policies, and to encourage shoppers to inquire as to any possible changes since their last visit. Our local supercenter just began doubling in August and I learned every detail of the new policy. This was not to just benefit myself on the pros, but to prevent any mistakes and to be able to explain to the seasonal hires when there are doubts or questions as to the new policy they had to learn on top of their everyday jobs. It is sad to say, but even a customer service rep didn’t understand what could and could not be used. I am always polite and never take it personal, instead I find that if you are kind and explain while you have the policy in hand the transaction usually goes smoothly.

  10. Christine says:

    I’m glad to hear that store CEO setting the staff straight. I hope it’s for the grocery store chain I always go to. I have had such bad treatment from some of the cashiers, you’d think I was trying to rob the place, yet I was just buying less than $100 in groceries (and using/stacking coupons properly). Some of us on fixed incomes: social security, disability…, we need these deals, and don’t appreciate being looked at like we are scamming them.

    • I also loved this article, and I am also on a tight budget and don’t appreciate when cashiers treat me like I am up to no good, it takes up time and other customers become more aware of me standing there, I don’t like that, if I wanted attention I would wear a costume or something, some stores treat you like you are trying to rip them off when other stores take the same coupons with no hassle, I had trouble once when a store took the 5.00 off cpn. off 25.00 from their store and didn’t deduct it,she put it in the register slot and said she didn’t remember, etc. then the other cashier says I was under the 25.00 after my cpns. so I didn’t apply, she was wrong, I emailed company and the man was just as mad as me, he sent me a 10.00 gift card and now I print out 2 store cpns so I have one they can read over where it says it applies before other coupons. Always email company about issues, so they can fix problems or bad employees. BTW, I went back to that store with my cpns and gift card and got 5 bottles of Wisk detergent for free, I just paid the tax.

  11. Amazing article, thank you so much!!! I’ll be printing this for my Wal*Mart management because it’s time for them to get on board. My commissary and PX absolutely loves me, but WM is less than likeable. We shop at Target, Kroger, and Walgreens too, but they’re such a drive it’s not often…my stores are definitely coupon friendly though.

  12. Elaine Spink says:

    David, Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It was very well written and informative. It’s refreshing to hear a CEO of a company talk about coupons and stress how important they are to the store. It was also great hearing about the same topic in your webinars. There is a Stop & Shop about five miles from my home. I have shopped there only a couple of times. On my first visit I introduced myself to the Assistant Store Manager and told him I was new to the store. He was kind of surprised when I did this, I told him that I use coupons the way they were intended to be used and he thanked me for that. The second time I went there my coupons did not double. The manager was at the service desk and he remembered me. I asked him about the coupons and why they didn’t double. I had not run into this before and I didn’t know if there was a code on the coupon to let me know it shouldn’t double or something else I should be aware of. He didn’t know why but told the guy behind the service desk to double them. Unfortunately, the store is old, dark and not very well stocked so I have chosen to go to another store further away from my home. It really surprises me that they have stayed in business for that long. Thankfully, I have not had a bad experience since I learned everything I know about using coupons from you, the admins and the wizkids. Taking the webinars a few times has really helped me in so many ways including thinking outside the box. I attribute my positive experiences when using coupons to all you have taught me in the webinars. I prepare my shopping trips the night before I go. I use the store ad, the ad match ups and the coupon database. I am well prepared when I step into the store. Using a list and sticking to the list has been so much easier than before. I do not buy things that aren’t on my list. I also only buy things that we need or use to build my stockpile. I love the filing system! I cannot imagine using a binder. So far so good on using coupons the way they were intended to be used. As you say, kill them with kindness and that’s what I do! I apologize about the long post but things just kept going through my mind as I was typing this. You have no idea how grateful I am to you for teaching me the effective, ethical and the right way to use coupons! I thank you for everything you have taught me and continue to teach me everyday! I am so blessed to be part of such an amazing FB community! I look forward to learning and sharing what I learn with others!
    Elaine Spink

  13. I hope the webinar was for Target. I stopped shopping Target because I was so tired of the battle at checkout.

  14. Buffy Rigsbee says:

    Would it be wrong to print this article and mail it to the local stores that in town? I too am tired of the battles of the check-out.
    Yesterday I had $70 in groceries and 1 .50 coupon and they had to call the store manager.

  15. I would bet on this being Publix. I was told something similar by a publix asst c.s manager a few weeks ago about some big meeting about couponing.this had to be it.Cmon David give us a hint lol.. Btw, this is Jimmy (the guy who comes up from time to time to buy the publix coupons in bulk). Love the website btw. Great job!

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