Thursday, September 8, 2011

CVS Coupon Policy: The Lack of a Written Policy ~ The Frustration Continues

I like to play by the rules.  I read the instructions in a game and follow the rules as I play.  I remember an old Burger King commercial used to say, "rules were made to be broken,"  I disagree, I think they are to be followed and usually provide freedom.  A railing near the edge of an observation deck on a tall building (a rule as such) provides the freedom to lean on it and look out--without it we wouldn't feel safe to get so close to the edge.  This part of my personality carries over to couponing.  A written coupon policy, which CVS lacks, allows me the freedom to save by using coupons at a store according to the policy knowing each and every time the coupons will be accepted.

In July it was announced that CVS sent an email to all stores with new coupon usage outlined and that a written policy was to follow in the fall (see this older post for details).  I recently found the following posted by
Didie (a forum leader) at We Use Coupons--I am copying it word for word to be sure I don't mess it up in the interpretation:

I called customer service twice this morning to make sure I got told the same thing after hearing rumblings about a change in CVS's coupon policy.

As of July 1st, 2011 CVS has changed their coupon policy. We are no longer allowed to use a $ off coupon, along with a BOGO coupon on 2 products. We can only use (1) BOGO coupon. E-mails have been sent out to all stores this month about the change. Of course it will take a little while for all stores to implement this new change. This is a sad day my friends :-(

ETA: I just called again (for the 3rd time) to confirm about the using of 2 coupons on a BOGO sale and they informed me that we are no longer allowed to use 2 coupons. We can still use a BOGO coupon on a BOGO sale though.

So in a nutshell:

* We CANNOT use a BOGO coupon along with another $ coupon.
* We CANNOT use 2 coupons on a BOGO sale.
* We CAN use a BOGO coupon on a BOGO sale.
* We CAN use a BOGO coupon and a CVS coupon on a sale.
* We CAN use (2) coupons on a Buy One Get One 50% off sale.

I had known about the BOGO sale and only one coupon per two items (explained this way by customer service:  because the register acknowledges it as one product--which if that is true I am confused as to why they allow a BOGO coupon on the same sale).  But I had a CVS coupon for BOGO this week (the Skittles) and I used two manufacturer coupons with it as I always had with coupons since it was not a sale, but a coupon. Now I am not sure I should have done that even though the register took it (not a sign that it is by the rules) tho this is not directly addressed in the rules above.

One reader mentioned her store told her that they no longer accept a CVS coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same product. She asked at another store and was told the same thing.  It could be a district manager's misinterpretation or choice and all stores in that district are enforcing it, or another change to the policy may have been added and will eventually trickle down to all of us.

I have not called CVS customer service to ask about the policy personally because that can be frustrating, too.  I can call twice in one day and get two different answers (notice Didie called three times).  They have great customer service, don't get me wrong, I think they are tops, but coupon usage interpretation is confusing and until they have it written it out in the store the confusion will continue between customers and clerks.

Overage is another frustration. When a CVS coupon is for more than the product it will often scan for the full price, and then again it may not.  They used to scan at the full price always and it became a habit to expect it. As to overage on manufacturer coupons, my store has never given it--they adjust the coupon down. But some readers have said they always get it and one reader called and asked and was told it is up to the store if they give it or not.  And then again some readers have said their stores will do neither--they will not take coupons for more than the product, even a penny, and will not adjust them down.  A reader recently shared that she and her mom were shopping in the same store with the same coupons and came out with different totals because they had different cashiers.

I am glad that I have one CVS that I frequent--I know what to expect and can ask about any changes and learn a new way. When I think about shopping at another CVS, for vacation times, etc., it makes me nervous.  Tho I will use coupons as I  understand the policy to state and CVS rules expect, if that store interprets it differently they may think I am trying to cheat the system, or worse yet committing coupon fraud.  There is a general feeling of distrust for couponers out there right now in the retail world and not having a written policy adds to that.  I feel for those of you who shop at various CVS stores--it can be tense filled and frustrating.

Old habits are hard to break--if you have been CVSing for years you have a whole new way of thinking when it comes to shopping and figuring coupons and deals.  Now we need to unlearn what has become second nature. That is another reason I like shopping at a CVS where the employees have learned that I try to follow proper coupon usage--even if I forget and slip back into the old CVS shopping mode by accident, they will know it was an honest mistake and remind me why I can't use that coupon.  It's also nice having a CVSing buddy (Sarah) so she can say, "Mom, you can't do that," or "you can do such and so."  And she is there for me double check with on a deal I may not be sure about--it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks.

Wow, quite the chatty Cathy here aren't I?  What have you heard recently? What do you know about the changes?  What couponing frustrations do you encounter at CVS?  And if you ever see me share the usage of a coupon that looks like it is against the rules, please let me know. I want to practice ethical couponing and will not intentionally misuse coupons or steer you wrong.  But I am very human, and make mistakes.


atlmuzikfanzinc said...

My CVS said in the Midwest market you can't use two printable coupons with the same bar code. And I told them your allowed two prints of each coupon, so it's impossible for each print to have a different barcode if its the same coupon. I think the limit of two of each coupon is reasonable. It's not like you have 10 of the same printable coupon. They told me to call before I come in, and I feel like that's a waste of my time. I really don't think they research the impact of some of these changes before they make them.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate your not wanting to "cheat" a CVS employee we have many that really press hard.

Anonymous said...

I work for CVS (and yes I coupon!!!) When I go to work on Friday I will ask about the "Written" policy and see what they have. I love when couponers come in..I see the deals they make and do the same..LOL Best shopping ever. I have one customer who gives me her coupons if she has extras. Love my couponers... My take on coupon rules is : If the coupon scans I take it and if it doesnt I read the fine print to find out why. I can always override if there is a porblem but usually the register does it correctly.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Agreed, SLS. I think they are confused on the 'bar code' verses the other code numbers. I know they had issues with people copying coupons and using dozens. But all coupons have the same bar codes. many stores I shop at limit it to two printables per item, like you said, that makes sense.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Anon, I can only imagine those who try to cheat--I have had cashiers tell me once in a while a story of someone trying to cheat and they are often very rude about it.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Thanks, Sue, for that insight. I find it confusing lately that they apparently changed the policy but not the cash registers and often they will still take the coupons the old way--from reports readers have shared. I hope you can find out more insider details on the new policy. Thanks.

Dee said...

A written policy would be so helpful - it won't solve all problems. You know what I mean if you shop at other stores with written policies.

From cashier to cashier things change and with every beep, you get that funny look like you are stealing or cheating. I was told way back in March by one CVS that I could not use 2 $/$$ on a bogo sale. I called corporate and complained and they stated that I could. I tried another cvs on the same day and it went through.

Since then I shy away from using 2 Q's on a bogo sale (ie Skittles)

CVS is a wonderful place to shop but can be truly frustrating at times. I feel your pain.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

You're right, Dee, it won't solve it all, but it sure will help. At least if it is posted at the store you can point it out when they refuse. I do hate those funny looks.

Ashley M. said...

I didn't think you could ever use a cents off on a bogo since it can be argued that the bogo coupon claims two products because without buying two... you couldn't use the bogo coupon. So... just to keep the peace... I never use a bogo coupon and a cents off coupon together at any store.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Ashley, I never did for years--I couldn't wrap my mind around it. Then a CVS cashier told me I could--I emailed CVS and asked and they said, yes you could use the cents off on the one you were paying for and the BOGO was for the second one that you got free. So then I did and got a lot more savings that I had been missing. Great idea, though, to just bypass it so as not to cause any issues.

Mary said...

SLS, regarding the same barcode issue on coupons. Tell them to look at the authenticity code, usually located in the top right-hand corner of the coupon. This verifies that each coupon is authentic, and will print a different authenicity code even if it is printed twice (hitting back button on internet page). I understand if they are 'making up' this rule then they will object anyway. But, I am also stating this because everyone needs to understand that BREAKING COUPON RULES HURTS EVERYONE. Manufacturers are now able to identify severity of coupon fraud (i.e. copying coupons), and will refuse paying the vendor for coupons they have accepted by error. I can't blame any vendor for stricter policies, but we can help them by following basic coupon rules. And your right Cheryl, just because a register scanner doesn't beep, doesn't mean you are following the rules. I love your website and enjoy the ease of shopping with coupons. My sister has recently started couponing (after I showed her a couple of my CVS shopping pics), but she couldn't figure out how I was aware of so many great deals on name brand products. I was glad to refer her to your website, and just like I thought, she is hooked on using coupons at drugstores. Thanks, Cheryl, you make is so easy to save with CVS.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Thanks, Mary, for the encouraging words--this is one of those days when I wonder if the site is making an impact.

-Carol said...

I enjoyed the above article. It reflects the frustration a lot of us have. When in doubt I first ask the cashier. This makes her feel empowered and she is usually a little more flexible. It also takes away my nervousness. Before I knew about the bogo sale coupon policy I wasn't sure so I asked the cashier if they toke the MQ's for both items. She said I'm not sure let's try it. :) It worked. Nice cashier. When I had a CVS Q for b1g1 Skittles I decided to try two MQ's It made sense to me. It went through fine. Cashier had no issues with it. If the cashier would have refused it I simply would have said, "I wasn't sure you have no written coupon policy." Then either buy the product or asked her to take them off. All in a very civil matter. No arguing. It's not worth it. Screws up my figures though ... and can be frustrating. I try to keep in mind chances are it's not going to turn out perfectly but in the end I'm still getting a fabulous deal :)
Thanks Cheryl for all your hard work.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Carol, you are so right, it is not worth raising yours or their blood pressure with being unkind. Definitely messes up the figures. This week my cashier accidentally entered a BOGO free coupon for too much, she tried to cancel and fix it and it wouldn't let her take it off. She said I guess you get a bonus on that one. Then she got this funny look and said, "but that will mess you all up." I had to laugh--she knows I figure to the penny. I told her since I was starting with no ECBs this week I would have to pay something anyways so it would not mess me up.

Coupon Clipper said...

Yesterday the red magic machine printed out a Q for a One Free Skinny Cow candy bar/pkg. I tried to combine it with the B1G1 insert Q. First they looked at it like it was in some ancient language. Then hey said I can't use both.

Should I have been able to?

Also, I have a question that Sue brought to mind when she mentioned she is a CVS employee. Are employees allowed to pre-shop before store opens or before sales start? I ask because I was at a new Wags and the Beauty Dept. Cashier was so happy to see me couponing in transactions. She said that she and "most of us in this store" use coupons and get the deals. Then she pointed to her shopping basket on the floor behind the counter filled with products I wanted but were already cleared off the shelves (and it was only Sunday late aftn.). She said I have mine waiting to check out when I leave.

So I'm wondering if this may be a trend and reason for why shelves are empty from the start or early on in my local CVS and Wags.

I'm neither commenting or judging. I'm just inquiring.


Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Coupon Clipper, I would have said yes you should have been able to use those two coupons--I think I even read of others doing it on couponing sites. But with all this confusion on the policies I can't be sure--and then the cashiers are confused, too. And CVS has fired employees for misuse of coupons so they are afraid to take something incorrectly.

I know at my store cashiers are not allowed to have baskets of stuff behind the counter. But I wouldn't be surprised if many cashiers do that. At least at CVS we can get great rainchecks for the items--though it can be disappointing and it is more work. But I have come to like rain checks.

Coupon Clipper said...

Cheryl, About the rain checks - are the rain checks for the sale price as well as the ECBs, or would I be missing out on the ECB when I use the rain check. I haven't asked for rain checks because I assumed that they would not give me the ECBs if purchased after the ad week ends. Thanks.

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

Yes, Coupon Clipper, that is what is so great about them. You get just what is advertised in the ad. You pay for it then they use your receipt to scan the bar code and enter the code of the deal and the extra buck prints out. One fun thing about them is the extra bucks round up to the next dollar--so once in a while you will have an extra buck for $1.69 say and it will print for $2. Just a little bonus.

Unknown said...

They have posted a coupon policy! :)

Cheryl @ Simply Shoeboxes said...

THANKS!! Candy, off to check it out.