Who’s responsible for coupons scanning incorrectly?

October 3, 2018

Dear Jill, My grocery store doubles paper and digital coupons up to 99 cents in value. They sometimes offer two digital coupons that are for the same item, but with different expiration dates. When I asked how the system knows which coupon to use, they said they automatically use the one that is expiring the soonest. However, at times, it is taking both digital coupons off at the same time, even though I only have bought one item.

This store never has allowed the price of the item to exceed the coupon value. If something is 99 cents, and you have a 50-cent coupon, they will double it and adjust the item to 99 cents. However, lately some of my digital and manufacturer coupons have exceeded the item price by a few pennies at the register.

Being very honest when it comes to my coupons, do I say something to the store manager? Or, is it their problem to work out the kinks in their system? -- Trish E.

On behalf of both your store and the manufacturers providing coupon discounts to shoppers, I want to commend you for your honesty.

That said, the issues you’re describing are both beyond your control and beyond your local store’s control. Your supermarket’s electronic coupon system most likely is supported by a third party that handles creation and redemption of the store’s digital offers. While you certainly can bring it to your local store’s attention, your store would need to escalate any redemption issues to the software company that supports their electronic coupons.

Let me tell you about my own experience with a local supermarket chain’s electronic coupons ringing incorrectly. This particular store had an electronic coupon glitch: If the system offered an electronic coupon for dollars off multiple items, the system automatically would reduce the discount to the price of one single item.

As a shopper, I found this extremely frustrating. I often would find great deals with multiple-item coupons, but the system glitch often would take more than half the discount away. For example, I had an e-coupon for $3 off two air freshener sprays. The air fresheners were on sale for $1.24 each. Now, you might assume the $3 e-coupon would take off either the full $3 value of the coupon or $2.48 – the cost of the two sprays, making both free. However, because of the glitch, it only would take off the price of one item: $1.24. When buying two air fresheners, the register deducted just $1.24 after the $3-off-2 coupon, leaving me with a $1.24 balance to pay.

Incredibly, this problem existed for more than two years. The store employees were aware of it, but they had no way of resolving it at the store level, nor could they alter or correct the value so shoppers could receive the full value of the e-coupon. I emailed the store’s corporate office, providing numerous images of receipts showing the incorrect e-coupon values being applied. Yet, the problem persisted.

Finally, I enlisted the help of a friend in the coupon industry, who reached out to a brand whose e-coupons often were affected by this glitch. The brand, concerned about their e-coupons ringing incorrectly, was able to cause enough commotion about the issue that the store resolved it with their e-coupon processing partner.

I share this rather lengthy story because, after trying to garner attention to an e-coupon issue for more than two years at my local supermarket chain, I believe you might experience similar frustration in trying to draw attention to these problems with your store’s e-coupon system. Unlike my own situation, in this case, the e-coupon offers are ringing in the customer’s favor.

I believe it is up to the store, the coupon processor and the brands involved to ultimately resolve a situation such as this to their own satisfaction. You certainly can bring it to your store’s attention, but beyond that, it will take the efforts of one or more of the organizations involved to fix the issue.

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