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Readers Question Ambiguous Coupon Wording

Decoding the fine print

My eagle-eyed readers have been poring over the fine print on their coupons again. Here are some recent emails detailing how they’re interpreting questionable coupon wording:

Dear Jill,

I got a coupon in the paper for ‘[Brand Name] Cosmetics Lip or Eye product.’ Now, I think this coupon means that I can use it on any cosmetics product, not only lip or eye, because it says ‘cosmetics, lip or eye.’  What do you think? –Marla P.

The brand name of the product is actually “[Brand] Cosmetics.” The word “Cosmetics” is part of the brand name, and the coupon is only valid on lip and eye products from this brand. The fact that there isn’t a comma separating “cosmetics” from lip and eye is another clue.

Dear Jill,

I have a coupon for $1off toothpaste, but it excludes the 4.6-ounce size and a bunch of the lower priced varieties. Of course those are the ones on sale right now. I would like to use this to get free toothpaste, but darn it if they haven’t excluded every single sale-priced variety. What to do?– Cal H.

This manufacturer clearly is trying to boost sales on its premium varieties of toothpaste. While we love getting things free with coupons, your only option is to purchase the premium varieties of toothpaste with this particular coupon.

Dear Jill,

I often use coupons on bags of little candy bars. I have noticed these coupons say they are good on ‘snack size,’ but the candy bars I actually want to buy are called ‘miniatures.’ I think the mini candy bars are a snack, and a ‘snack size’ coupon should be OK on miniatures or any candy bar that is a snack. (Isn’t that all of them?)-Ginger C.

It’s true that candy bars come in myriad sizes these days – everything from “bites” to “snacks” to “minis.” However, the fact that all candy can be snacked on does not necessarily mean a “snack size” coupon is valid on anything that could be considered a snack. The simplest answer here is the correct one: Use the coupon on items marked “snack size” on the packaging, and nothing else.

Dear Jill,

A friend told me that if a coupon has the word ‘any’ on it, it is good on any size of the product, even if there’s other sizes listed. Like, I have a coupon that says ‘When you purchase any 30ct or 50ct.’ Is it true that if it says ‘any’ you can then buy a smaller size?Rory F.

No, this isn’t true. The presence of “any” is referring to the different varieties of the product – flavors, scents or other differentiating features. When the coupon lists specific sizes, those are the sizes that the coupon’s intended to be used on – no others. The word “any” is not a green light to use the coupon on whatever sizes you’d like.

I do realize some consumers do try to push the limits and attempt to use coupons on as many items as possible, even if it means stretching the limits beyond the wording specified by the manufacturer. The best advice on coupon usage is always to follow what the wording specifies. It’s not necessary to look for loopholes or other items the coupon “might” work on. Remember, cashiers also are wise to this kind of coupon fraud.

“I work at a big box retailer and have people trying to use coupons incorrectly. One tried to use a $3coupon that was for one 3-pound bag of dry dog food while buying an 8-ounce tub of wet dog food. When I refused to allow it, the customer said to ‘let it go as it’s called coupon balancing.’ We have so many like this who also try to buy trial or travel sizes, even though coupons say they’re not valid on these. I’ve gotten to the point of hating coupons because seven out of 10 people seem to want an argument. Could you please explain again that this is coupon fraud?”

Jolen K.

© CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

 

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Written by Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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