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Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Target store managers can override the coupon policy

Today I got some news that many Target shoppers have long suspected: Target store managers are the ultimate authority in how their location handles coupons, even superceding the chain's printed coupon policy.

Though this was bad news for me in the moment -- and worse news for the poor shoppers stuck behind me in line -- it's actually useful information for everyone to have access to.
Here's what happened to me, and the information I got from the Target corporate office about it.

I popped into the Target store at the RIM this afternoon to pick up some odds and ends -- a few Carefree packages, travel-size Pantene and Herbal Essences bottles, some Easter candy, and some Revlon emory boards, along with some non-coupon items like Up & Up trash bags, hand soap, and gift wrap.  

I hit a sticking point at the register with the Herbal Essences trial-size bottles.  I had Target coupons for $1 off Herbal Essences, Aussie or Pantene bottles that had no size exclusions on them.  The cashier refused the coupons prior to scanning them, saying they couldn't be used on trial-sized items, but that they were meant to be used on 'bottles'.  

So I got the loss prevention manager over, who restated what the cashier said.  I asked him why the coupon language didn't include a size exclusion, when Target coupons are usually quite good about that.  He said he didn't know, but that regardless, they would not accept them.  At that point, I ended the transaction, got my coupons back, and asked for the store manager.

Here's where things got interesting!  The store manager basically took a stand, not over the size exclusions, but over a penny -- in other words, that I was attempting to purchase a 99 cent item with a $1 off coupon.  

She adamantly refused to believe that Target has a policy about adjusting a coupon value down -- even though it says it specifically in their coupon policy that they will.  According to her, the RIM location has never done that -- even though they (and every other Target store I've ever been to) have done that on my transactions in the past.   
She told me, and this is a direct quote, "If we did that for you, you would get the product for free, and that's not what the coupons are meant to do."
Oo-kay.  I asked for her district manager's name and contact information, and she refused to give it to me, but directed me to the corporate hotline.

So I got out to the parking lot, sat in my car and called the Target customer service line.  I talked to a very nice lady who basically told me that the store manager has the final say of how coupons will be used in his or her store, including:
  • how many coupons can be used per transaction
  • how many like items can be purchased with coupons per transaction (the rep just repeated herself when I asked 'Does that mean, in some cases, just one?')
  • whether or not coupons can be used at all on trial-size items
  • and, most troublingly, any other concern the manager might have about the transaction.
In other words, if a Target location doesn't like coupons, they don't have to accept them.  Period.  

It doesn't matter that there is an corporate-wide coupon policy in place -- a manger can over-ride that for his/her particular store at any time, without a consistent explanation that will stay the same from store to store, or even from day to day within the same store.  And a customer's choice is basically whether or not to shop that particular location.

Guess what my choice will be?

If this has happened to you at a Target store, leave a comment below or over at the San Antonio Budget Grocery Facebook page, so we can get a list of which stores to frequent and/or avoid around town.

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