After spending several hours each week preparing for coupon shopping trips, it can be incredibly frustrating when you get to the store and something doesn’t go as planned. If something goes wrong, don’t panic! Here are some solutions to the most common issues:

1. The store is all out of the product you want.

As a couponer and frequent shopper, you’re bound to encounter cleared shelves. Unfortunately, stores do run out of stock, and some couponers abuse the system by overbuying, but these aren’t things we can control. Focus on what you can control.

Even if it's hard, shop sooner. Go the first day of the sale or the day new shipments come in. If you live in a hub of coupon activity, drive to a less popular store or price match sale prices at Target or Walmart. And if you’re buying in large quantities, always special order.

2. Your coupon won’t scan at the register.

In order to cut down on counterfeit coupons, a lot of stores won’t accept coupons that beep when scanned. Other stores allow their cashiers to override the beeping and enter a coupon manually. Check your store’s policy for details to prevent surprises, and be aware that these are some reasons your coupon may be rejected:

Low Ink: If your printer is low on ink and you’ve been shaking it around to get every last drop (yes, I’m guilty of that), store scanners will have a hard time reading your coupon. Make sure your ink levels are ideal. If you need more ink, check out Ink Farm for inexpensive cartridges.

PDF coupons: PDF coupons allow you to print multiple copies of the same coupon, which means all coupons have the same barcode. A lot of registers will beep if they can’t scan a unique code. Again, check your store’s policy before attempting to use these coupons.

Incorrect product: Oops! You’ve just tried to use a coupon for the wrong product. No worries, it happens to the best of us. Next time, double check your coupon’s fine print to ensure it matches the product in your cart before heading to checkout.

3. Your cashier knows nothing about the coupon policy.

Cashiers tend to get flustered when they aren’t as familiar with the coupon policy as you are. (This is another reason why you should keep the policy handy just in case a deal is questioned.) When this happens, stay calm and politely remind your cashier about the store’s guidelines, whether your transaction triggers a gift card, and if you’re doing multiple transactions.

4. A Catalina doesn’t print when it should.


Catalina coupons print according to the quantity of a product you buy or the dollar amount of your transaction. If you go through checkout without receiving the expected coupon, check your receipt. Make sure you purchased the correct product(s), and that you reached the minimum spending requirement quantity or value. This amount is before any tax or coupons (unless your store advertisements specifically state "After Coupons").

If everything looks correct on your receipt, contact Catalina Marketing Corp directly to request your coupon. Since a lot of Catalina promos are unadvertised, you’ll have more luck communicating directly with the company that produces them than with a store manager who may not have an up-to-date list of Catalina promotions.

5. You encounter hostile and impatient shoppers in line.

One way to avoid grumpy shoppers is by strategically going to the grocery store at a slower time of day. Early morning and after the dinner rush is ideal.

If you do happen to shop during rush hour, start up a friendly conversation with the shoppers behind you, let them know if you have more than one transaction, and if you have extra coupons on hand, offer to give them one. The most important thing is to have the coupons and products organized and ready to go before getting in line so you don’t run into issues that will slow down your transaction.


Related: A Comprehensive Guide to Sunday Newspaper Coupons

Don’t Let These 5 Things Stop You From Couponing