Dear Jill: I shop at a large supermarket chain on the East Coast. It’s a great store to shop as they double coupons and have been generally a coupon-friendly place to go. However, last month the whole chain changed their raincheck policy, and it is not good. If something sells out during a sale, you can still get a raincheck, but they no longer let you use coupons with that raincheck! Why do you think this is? I think it is terribly unfair to shoppers as their shelves have been clearing out the first day of a sale now, and they don’t restock until the sale is over! If you don’t go the first day, you can’t get those great deals by combining coupons with their sales.” — Ellen A.
You’re not the only one who’s written to me about the changes in this supermarket’s raincheck policy, and I agree that this change isn’t necessarily in the best interest of most shoppers. If you head to the store with coupons in hand and are greeted by empty shelves, you still can get a raincheck for the sale items. However, if you want that best price, the coupon-plus-sale combination discount that most coupon enthusiasts seek, you’ll have to return to the store throughout the week to see if the shelves have been restocked.
No one wants to find advertised sale items out of stock after they’ve taken the time to plan a shopping trip and head to the store. Considering that the store is reimbursed for the manufacturer coupons that shoppers use, you may wonder why the store would make such a drastic change to its coupon policy.
There’s another element here to consider: Abuse of the raincheck policy. How can rainchecks be abused? There are several ways. First, this particular store used to issue rainchecks that had no expiration date. While that may seem like a wonderful benefit to shoppers, the reality is that no-expiration rainchecks extend the duration of a sale far beyond the original, intended purchase window.
You may not realize this, but many times when your store has your favorite brand of juice, cereal or snacks on sale, it’s not the store itself deciding to have a great sale. The manufacturer has offered the store an incentive to lower the price in-store for shoppers. This is called a temporary price reduction, or TPR. You can think of a TPR as an “invisible coupon” in that the price already has been lowered to an attractive amount to benefit shoppers.
Of course, savvy shoppers will pair a coupon with that great, lower-than-normal TPR sale price and take home items at bargain prices. However, the manufacturer of the products has effectively “paid” twice for your discount: Once to the store to reduce the sale price, and again when you redeem a manufacturer coupon. Many brands will stagger issuing manufacturer coupons so that the coupons’ valid use dates do not fall within the TPR sale range for stores in…