Mama Nibbles: How to Get High Value Coupons for Free - Week # 4

How to Get High Value Coupons for Free - Week # 4

Here are the previous weeks in case you missed out: WEEK #1 & WEEK #2 & WEEK #3

Let's fix that grocery budget! 
Since January 2011 I have been writing companies compliments (some criticisms) on their products and in turn they have snail mailed or even emailed me coupons that are either higher value than your normal from the paper coupon and even some have been for completely free items.  This coming week I encourage you to take 10 minutes and email just five companies.  Results will vary greatly, some companies that have mailed me freebies have mailed other people "cents off" coupons so don't expect to receive the same results.  Since January 2011 I have gotten $542.55 worth of coupons that vary from freebies to cents off for products we love to use and all it took was 10 minutes a week.  I'd say that is definitely worth it! Just locate each website's "Contact Us" section, sometimes it can be hidden so look hard.  If you get a coupon back I'd love to hear about it so come back and comment!

What do I write?
My letters always start with a personal greeting and then I tell them my name and family size.  I like to write something personal such as a memory I associate with their product or how we use a particular item.  Another thing you will want to make mention of in your letter is how much you enjoy their product and which item is your favorite.  The next thing is to make sure you include your personal contact info if there is no form to fill out, that way they do not have to try to reply just to get that information from you.  Lastly I like to end my letter in a sincere way thanking them for their time and then it is ready to send.

This week I am going to educate you on how coupons work with info I have gathered across the web.  Next week I will resume the list.  If you are just joining this will give you a chance to get caught up.

The Life Cycle of your coupon:

1.  The manufacturer decides to run a coupon so they send their request to a design agency
2.  You find the coupon in a paper or wherever
3.  You use the coupon at the store
4.  The cashier adds up her coupons and cash to make sure the drawer balances
5. The coupons are bagged up by the store and sent to their corporate office where they are combined with the other stores coupons into a bigger package and then they get sent to a clearinghouse, sometimes overseas.
6.  The clearing house puts all the coupons that are in good condition on a big conveyor belt and they are scanned, then an automated process sorts them by manufacturer and prepares an invoice for the manufacturer.
7.  They are mailed from the clearing house to the manufacturer for reimbursement.
8.  The manufacturer receives the coupons and an invoice stating how many are there (think thousands).  They then pay the bill.  Some will recount to check for clearing house fraud and then pay the bill.
* Stores have about 6 months past the expiry date to submit their coupons to the manufacturer but that does not mean you should ever try to use an expired one, that is fraud.  Some people have stores that will accept an expired, it is is best to ask the manager directly.*
9. Either the clearinghouse or the manufacturer will reimburse the store.  Included in the reimbursement is .08 cents per coupon to cover handling and shipping.

Some important details we should all know:
If the coupon scans in the store odds are it will also scan in the big clearing house’s automated machine – thus the store should get reimbursed.
If the coupon doesn’t scan, is damaged etc. it is labeled “hard to handle” and is hand processed.  If it is the coupons fault (poor design, bad  barcode etc.) the grocer can then charge the manufacturer a higher handling fee!
The store does not have to submit any info about what you purchased with the coupon.  Therefore if you use a Prego coupon on Pepperidge Farm Toast (because the cashier told you too) the manufacturer will only care/notice if Meijer submitted more Prego coupons than the amount of Prego they purchased. Since Meijer purchases thousands of jars of Prego per year the odds they would have more coupons than product are pretty slim.

When does the store “lose” money?
Some Manufacturers have poor practices with redemption that has nothing to do with the consumer, claiming falsely that coupons are not eligible for one reason or another.

Copies/fraudulent coupons- After a coupon goes through the clearing house and is sent to the manufacturer the manufacturer can still deny the coupon. Internet printables that have unique numbers ( or smartsource) make it easy for the manufacturer to spot fraud. If a coupon does not have a unique number or security code then the manufacturer will usually not accept the coupon.

Store coupons- These are processed in house. First, most people assume these coupons are the store being nice and just giving you money off an item… let’s think about that. This is a business guys, it’s not about being nice.
Stores are reimbursed for “store coupons” through various options:
  • The manufacturer can pay an advertising fee to place their product or coupon in the store flyer
  • The manufacturer can work out a discounted deal for X product, the store then decides instead of making the product the discounted price for everyone, to require customers to submit a coupon to get that price. This is the best plan overall, most shoppers would not care or know about the coupon so they only have to sell the product at the discounted price to a small percentage of shoppers. Therefore they make money on the other shoppers.

Fake Example (profit widely inflated): Fresh Express Bagged Salad gives Meijer a discounted rate of $1 per bag for 500 bags. Meijer decides to sell the bag for $3 and to put a coupon on Meijer Mealbox for $2 off.
100 customers buy the salad with a coupon
400 customers buy the salad without a coupon ($2 profit per bag for Meijer)
In the end: Meijer gave 100 customers the salad without making any profit, however overall they made $800 off the deal.
  • Lastly the store can have a special reimbursement policy with the manufacturer for the store coupons. So they are handled like actual manufacturer coupons above.
The only time they are not getting reimbursed for these coupons in some way is if it is for a store brand item.  Keep in mind those are the items they make the most money on so they still aren’t out anything.
In closing: I hope that gives you some idea of how coupons are handled. The intention of this post is not to encourage improper use of coupons only to make some realize that the use of coupons puts money back in the pockets of grocery store. We are not taking these stores to the cleaners. They are doing just fine. About 10% of American’s shop with coupons (effectively), they get their money back from us through reimbursement programs. 90% of Americans pay through the nose for groceries and they keep the profit always growing for these stores. 

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