Returning Couponed Items? What You Need to Know
So you go to the store armed with coupons in the hopes of scoring some great deals. At the register, you hand over the coupons and pay the remaining balance in cash.
When you get home, your husband looks at the deodorant you bought and says “This is gel! I only use solids!”
Can you return the deodorant? And how much money will you get back? Will it be the $1.50 you paid out of pocket? Or $2.50 – the product’s full price?
Many people have questions about how coupons impact returning an item, and unfortunately there is not one single rule governing the procedure.
While most stores will allow you to return any merchandise no matter how you paid for it, stores vary on whether or not they’ll also reimburse you for the coupon’s value, too.
This said, most stores will reimburse the complete value of the product, and here’s why:
A coupon is not a discount on an item.
It’s actually a method of payment - just like cash. Once the coupon is scanned, it goes into the store’s system and they will be reimbursed by the manufacturer for that amount.
If they only refund what you paid out of pocket, the store would be coming out ahead.
In our example, if they only paid $1.50 for the returned deodorant, they’re actually coming out $1 ahead when the manufacturer pays them for the coupon. They’re getting the product back to be resold and $1, which in a way is like the store robbing from the manufacturer.
Returning the deodorant and getting $2.50 back is a simple and non-problematic example.
"For the sake of all of us,
practice ethical couponing."
When you think about this on a large scale, things get tricky.
You see, policies like this can actually tempt people to buy using coupons and purposely return items, which is a huge ethical dilemma in couponing.
People are on both sides of the fence regarding this issue.
In one coupon group I belong to, there was actually a woman encouraging people to do this, even saying she had an arrangement with the store manager so she never has a problem returning hundreds of dollars in merchandise, as she would purchase 50 bottles of shampoo (for example) using coupons and then come back the next day to return them all.
Personally I think planning an act like that is fraud and should have consequences. In essence, you’re stealing money from manufacturers in order to make a cash profit for yourself.
From what I can tell, though, you won’t necessarily get in trouble for doing it. The only exceptions are for people using counterfeit coupons or illegally using real coupons to do this.
In fact, that is how many of them get caught – they use fake coupons to buy merchandise (or real coupons for the wrong items/sizes) and then return the items to receive money.
Eventually retailers catch on to the scam and notify the police to make an arrest.
In general, there are many cases in which you can return an item you bought with a coupon and get the full price back, but I strongly urge you to do the right thing here.
In the end, your fraudulent (though technically legal) actions can hurt couponers, as manufacturers take a hit and begin to offer fewer coupons with lower values.
If you need to return a product you purchased using a coupon, check with your store’s coupon policy first, and for the sake of all of us, please practice ethical couponing.
Photo source: douglasstafford.co.uk