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The case of the confused cashier

Has this ever happened to you? You finish filling your cart with the week's groceries, head to the checkout lane and place your items on the conveyor belt. The cashier announces the total and you hand over a nice stack of coupons. Then, the cashier pauses. You hear the words, "I don't think we take coupons from the Internet." The cashier hands them back to you and you ponder what to do next.

While most of my shopping trips run very smoothly, occasionally even your Coupon Queen encounters a cashier issue or two. So what do we shoppers do?

One of our biggest tools to deal with checkout problems is the store's coupon policy. Most stores have a written policy that states exactly how they handle coupons presented in the checkout lane.

Many stores post the policies on their Web sites and others have a copy at the customer service counter in the store itself. What's in a coupon policy? Information that shoppers can use to better plan our shopping trips! Coupon policies state specifics such as, We accept Internet coupons, We accept expired coupons or We accept competitors' coupons. Everything we need to know about what kinds of coupons our stores should accept is spelled out for us right in the store's policy.

Armed with this knowledge, well-informed shoppers know exactly what coupons our stores should accept! The most commonly heard issue with cashiers does involve the store's acceptance of printable Internet coupons. If you're told that the store does not accept them, ask to see a copy of the store's coupon policy. Most grocery stores and supermarkets do accept Internet coupons that are legitimately printed and are not photocopies.

Unfortunately, due to the rise in coupon fraud, stores are getting more stringent about the kinds of Internet coupons that they will accept. Most legitimate Internet coupons contain a unique ID or barcode identifier and several other key features that stores use to ascertain a coupon's validity. And any time the Coupon Information Corporation, a nonprofit organization that monitors coupon fraud, identifies a new, counterfeit coupon, it sends stores an alert to watch for coupons known to be fraudulent or counterfeit.

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