Over the past months, a trickle has turned into a torrent of e-mails from people telling me that X store doesn't take printed coupons and Y store does but only if you use less than five and Z store has no limit and… you get the point. The thing is, in this example, Walmart was X, Y, and Z store!
So, I set out to see if there was a universal corporate coupon policy for any of the big name stores. I compiled the list below and began emailing corporate offices asking if they accept Internet coupons. Long story short: yes, most have an official policy and in the majority of stores, printed Internet coupons are okay.
But as I've hinted to, everybody seems to have a horror story of a cashier who refuses to accept the coupons and suddenly the total bill balloons. Nine times out of ten, that cashier is in the wrong and this is where a little education, planning, and hopefully this post will come in handy. If you shop regularly at any of the stores below, you might want to print out the policy and carry it around in your purse when you go shopping next!
There's no reason for anybody to be denied savings when they're rightfully entitled to them, especially in this economy!
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A&P – Holy Mother of…A&P simply did not want to respond to my e-mails at all. But after a mere trillion messages by me, I received an e-mail with the following statement:
The internet is a powerful vehicle for getting information out to people and at the same time it is also a vehicle for false information. Unfortunately, internet coupons are not accepted in our A&P stores due to an abundance of fraudulent coupons circulating over the internet.
I know this is not the answer you and your readers want to hear at this time, but we are listening to you and other customers who are seeking alternate means of stretching their food dollars. Currently, we are working on a solution that would allow our customer's to download coupons from the internet directly to our loyalty cards electronically. We are exploring this idea and hope to put it into fruition in the near future. I apologize for the delay in my response, as I wanted to wait until we had more information of the new clipless electronic coupon service we will be offering. We are working with an external vendor and hope to have this service available starting August 7, 2009. [ed: so…it's released now?]
So that's kind of promising as it sounds like they'll be rolling out their own Cellfire version within a month in the past.
Acme – See SuperValu
Albertsons – See SuperValu
Aldi's – No official response was received, but the general consensus on the Internet is that Aldi does not accept any coupons – printed or otherwise.
Costco – I kind of expected this response, but it's always good to double check.
Costco Wholesale does not accept general manufacturer coupons. We have our own coupons and promotional offers, which are distributed to members in the mail and at our locations at various times throughout the year.
We are able to offer consistently low prices because our buyers negotiate the best deals with our vendors. Manufacturers often will simply ‘load’ the cost of a coupon program into the original pricing of their product. We will not permit our vendors or buyers to do this since there is no advantage to the member.
– They sent me an epic response, but a few months later posted their policy online:
CVS/pharmacy accepts internet/print at home coupons that include a barcode.
Dominick's – See Safeway
Food Lion – Upon emailing their customer service center, I received a short reply that included the following: “We will accept internet printed coupons in our stores, however, we reserve the right to decline acceptance if the coupons are deemed to be fraudulent.”
Fry's – See Kroger
Giant – Their website has this to say:
Customers with a GIANT BONUSCARD may redeem coupons that have been printed from the Internet. We do not accept internet coupons for free products, or those with a value greater than $5.00. We reserve the right to refuse any internet coupon that appears to be fraudulent.
– “We gladly accept internet manufacturer’s coupons for product; however no “free” product internet coupons are accepted.”
Ingles – After a few e-mails, I finally got the following response:
We will NOT ACCEPT “FREE” internet coupons, only cents off. We will only accept 2 internet coupons per manufacturer product per visit per day. We reserve the right to reject any internet coupon that is altered or does not scan properly.
Jewel – See SuperValu
Kmart – I never initially heard back from Kmart and proceeded to do a ton of legwork collecting circumstantial evidence. Then literally 10 minutes ago I got the following response:
“Kmart does accept secure print-at-home coupons. Effective March 1, 2009, Kmart will accept industry-standard, secure print-at-home coupons. If the coupon dos (sic) not scan properly it cannot be accepted. Kmart will not accept coupons for more than about 75% of a product's value. Kmart will not accept “FREE product” (no purchase required) print-at-home coupons.
Kroger – “Effective November 2007, all Kroger divisions accept industry-standard, secure print-at-home coupons.” And for the record, Kroger is the parent company for many other supermarkets, like Ralphs, Fry's, and another dozen or so. Scroll down a bit on the previous page to see a collection of the logos of all their subsidiaries.
Martin's – Their website states the following:
Customers with a MARTIN'S BONUSCARD may redeem coupons that have been printed from the Internet. We do not accept internet coupons for free products, or those with a value greater than $5.00. We reserve the right to refuse any internet coupon that appears to be fraudulent.
Meijer – They recently put their coupon policy online, which states:
“We accept all valid internet coupons.”
Piggly Wiggly – Repeated emails went unanswered, however I was able to get in touch with their Carolina division, which operates many of the PW stores in the Southeast.
Yes, Piggly Wiggly accepts printed coupons from reputable websites, such as Coupons.com, Upromise and SmartSource.com. No “FREE item” or “CASH back” internet coupons are accepted. Limit one coupon per item per visit.
Publix – “Publix accepts manufacturers’ coupons (limit one per item), Publix coupons (originals only—no copies), valid Internet coupons, and coupons from nearby competitors identified by each Publix store.”
Ralphs – See Kroger
Rite Aid – After years of speculation, they finally issued this statement
Rite Aid will accept internet / print at home coupons up to the equivalent value of $5.00 off. A Rite Aid coupon (with the Rite Aid logo) is NOT considered an internet coupon (even if printed off the internet) and is therefore not subject to the $5.00 maximum.
Safeway – “We can only accept Printable Coupons if they scan properly at the register.” It's worth pointing out that while they accept BOGO coupons, they do not accept straight up “free” coupons.
Save-A-Lot – See SuperValu
Schnucks – They have this to say:
As with all manufacturer coupons, only one coupon per item can be applied. Internet/home-printed coupons for FREE products will not be accepted unless the coupon is issued specifically by Schnucks (as in a Facebook offer, for example). Internet/home-printed coupons with a value greater than $5.00 will not be accepted unless the coupon is issued specifically by Schnucks (as in a Facebook offer, for example). We reserve the right to decline acceptance of any coupon that does not appear to be an original and/or any coupon that does not scan properly.
ShopRite – Here's the response I received, which includes a link to an amazingly helpful site in identifying counterfeit coupons:
Periodically, we receive notification from the Coupon Information Corporation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the integrity of the coupon redemption process, that fraudulent coupons are being circulated via the Internet. This process is currently under investigation as coupon fraud is a Federal offense. As a result, front-end personnel have been instructed to pay closer attention to information on the coupons. If there is a question, the store does have the right to reject the use of the coupon however, our stores should accept all valid coupons. For more information on fraudulent coupons, please visit www.cents-off.com and click on the coupon information link on the left side of the page.
Stop & Shop – “We happily accept Internet coupons except in situations where manufacturers have alerted us to specific fraudulent coupons.”
SuperValu – Repeated emails went unanswered, so I have them a call at 877-932-7948. Their customer care center managed to track down a copy of their policy, which I transcribed below.
General SuperValu policy is that coupons must be printed from authorized Internet retailer. It must say Internet Coupon or Manufacturer Coupon at the top. A qualifying purchase needs to be made, of course, and the coupon can not exceed $5.00 or be for a free product offer. A bar code must be printed on the coupon and the coupon must have an expiration date that has not passed.
Target – Their new coupon page says “We gladly accept valid internet coupons.”
Trader Joe's – Looks like Trader Joe's is a no-go. Or are they?
At this time we do not offer any sort of coupons or discounts for products purchased in our stores. Our reasoning for this is that we, unlike many other larger grocery stores, already work really, really hard to keep our prices as low as possible without artificially high profit margins.
Okay, sounds clear enough. However, about two weeks later, I received this message:
Thank you for your inquiry. Trader Joe's can only accept coupons from manufacturer's only. We are unable to accept any coupons from 3rd party distributors.
So…wait, what? Internet coupons ARE manufacturer coupons. But since the manufacturers aren't the ones distributing them, Internet coupons don't count? That's kind of lame, but okay, good to know.
Walgreens – After years of leaving it up to “local manager's discretion,” Walgreens finally published an official coupon policy that states “Walgreens accepts valid internet/print at home coupons.”
Walmart – Ah, the store that started this all!
Internet coupons should be legible and say “Manufacturer Coupon.” There should be a valid remit address for the manufacturer and a scannable bar code.
– I've officially run out of ways to segue into a blockquote:
We take internet coupons with only two restrictions. FREE coupons are out, and the fine print, to minimize checker uncertainty, is that the word FREE can't appear on the coupon. This includes Buy One Get One Free offers. The other restriction is that the electronic coupon value (or the double value) may not exceed the value of the item being purchased; the same as for other coupons.
Whole Foods – I hope you like unhelpful corporate policies, because here we go!
We are a decentralized company divided into regions that function fairly autonomously. Coupon acceptance policies vary from region to region and in the case of internet coupons, from store to store. I would direct shoppers to contact their local Whole Foods Market store directly to inquire about the coupon policy of that location.
Winn-Dixie – All aboard the train to Confusedville!
Thank you for contacting us. Winn Dixie does accept online coupons except from the following marketing site: VYRL Marketing – Online Coupons.
Small problem though: Who the bloody bleep is VYRL Marketing? I vaguely remember them from back in 2008 when they botched a coupon campaign on Facebook and other social media sites and according to Google, that's what pretty much everybody else remembers them for.
Repeated emails for a clarification went unanswered, however their official website directly links to SmartSouce, so it's a safe assumption that they at least accept Internet coupons from them.
Letter to Retailers – And finally, SmartSource, one of the main sources of on-line coupons, has a Letter to Retailers that you might want to print out if you use their coupons. It explains where the coupon came from, why it's legit, and how to ring it up. I think this is a phenomenal move in the right direction towards retailers and coupon sources finally recognizing the importance of each other in terms of mutual survival.