I wouldn't consider myself particularly great at managing conflict or negotiation. However, my skills have definitely strengthened ever since I began using coupons. These are some of the strategies that have been very helpful to me for resolving coupon disputes at the register.

4 Retail insights you need to know

My very first job—EVER—was in retail (and so were my next several jobs). My total retail experience (along with my education) adds up to more than a decade of work under my belt in this industry.

I can still recall many experiences with kind and not-so-kind customers. I also remember feeling much more motivated to go the extra mile for customers who approached me with respect and empathy, and often we would be able to get their issues resolved to their satisfaction.

4 Retail insights that can help you when talking with staff:

  • Many retail store managers have high employee turnover. This may be for seasonal or other reasons. Ergo, they are always training new staff on policies, procedures, etc.
  • It can be very hard to live on a retail employee's paycheck. Even full-time retail employees may have a second job to cover extra expenses – so they’re always tired.
  • Retail itself can be scary, HARD work. It’s on-your-feet, learn-as-you-go, long hours type work.
  • Retail employees want to take your coupons. But they also don't want to get in trouble with their boss, or—worst case—have their pay docked because they permitted an incorrect coupon redemption to go through!

4 Tips to prepare for your shopping trip

One excellent negotiating tactic is to be very prepared before you even enter the store.

If you have everything in your shopping cart organized, coupons matched correctly with their items, and coupon policies in hand—this can go a long way towards reducing problems at checkout.

4 Tips for planning your shopping trip:

  • Make out your shopping list in advance. Star the items you plan to match with coupons.
  • Use a coupon envelope to carry the coupons you plan to use. This can be a lot faster and easier to manage than carrying your whole folder or binder with you into the store.
  • Read each coupon carefully! Just be sure you have the right coupon matched with the right item before you get to the cashier.
  • Print and carry the store's coupon policy. Store policies can be lengthy and tough to memorize. Having a copy with you will help everyone out—cashier, manager, and you (print out store coupon policies for 60 popular stores here).

Coupon redemption conversation starters

So let's say you want to redeem a coupon, and the cashier states it cannot be used for XYZ reason. What do you do or say next?

You have 3 basic options:

  • Agree. "Okay, no worries—just ring it up full price." (or put it back).
  • Argue. "Yes it can—ring it up with the coupon or I'll complain to your boss!"
  • Discuss. "I have a copy of your store coupon policy right here. Could we check with your store manager to make sure we all understand how this coupon can be used?"

In choosing discussion over caving or arguing, I also like to remember what the Dalai Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

All you can do is kindly and respectfully present the evidence that supports why your coupon should be accepted, and await the response.

4 steps for resolving a coupon redemption question:

  • You present your item. Here it is, the product you wish to buy.
  • You present the coupon. Here, you highlight the fine print that shows why it’s legitimate.
  • You present the store coupon policy. Here, you highlight the relevant text supporting redemption.
  • You wait for the verdict. The store staff redeems or doesn’t redeem your coupon.

If, after you make the effort to be kind and respectful, and to present all your very organized evidence—the staff still declines to redeem your coupon, this can be very frustrating!

So then you must remind yourself you still have plenty of options left to get a favorable resolution.

5 Options for resolution

Your options should be tried in this order…hopefully by option #5 you will be rewarded for your hard work with a favorable response!

  • Store cashier. Choosing your cashier wisely (i.e., choosing a cashier you know, or someone who has been with the store for a long time) can help ease redemption issues.
  • Store manager. Getting to know your store manager can also be helpful in resolving redemption questions.
  • Store survey. Most stores will invite customers to take a survey about their shopping experiences, and even offer an incentive to do so. This can be a good way to report redemption issues and seek resolution.
  • Corporate customer service. You can always reach out via email, phone, mail, or social media to seek clarification and resolution at the corporate level if you’re not satisfied with the outcome of your in-store discussions.
  • Corporate social media. In many competitive industries today, including retail, contacting corporate via social media is one of the fastest ways to get a response—one Tweet or a Facebook query may be all it takes to get your issue resolved.

Related article: KCL’s Extensive List of Must-Have Coupon Policies

Coupon Redemption Issues: How to Ease Your Talk with Store Managers and Staff