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Thursday, May 17, 2012

3 reasons your coupons aren't scanning -- and what to do about it

It's a couponer's worst nightmare -- you're standing at the register with a fistful of printable coupons, watching a cashier refuse them because they won't scan.

Your cashier isn't involved in some secret anti-coupon plot -- there are a couple of legit reasons why your coupons aren't scanning.  Here's 3 things to consider, and what to do about it.

Problem #1: Skimping on printer ink

First off, the error could be printer-related -- if you're printing your coupons on a draft or text setting to save money, the barcodes may not be printed clearly enough for the scanner to read.

Test a few different print settings to determine which one works best on your printer.  It's unlikely that the printer itself is the issue, but if you feel like you need to upgrade, we should see lots of sales as the back to school shopping season revs up later on this summer.

Problem #2: Fooled by a fake?

Secondly, it's possible that you accidentally printed a fraudulent coupon.  The Coupon Information Center finds new fake coupons online almost every day, and while most of them are pretty easy to spot, some fakes are of very high-quality.

Check out some quick tips on how to spot a fake coupon if you think this might be the issue.

Problem #3: Cashier confusion

Finally, it's possible that your coupons do indeed scan -- but your cashier is scanning the wrong barcode.  Manufacturers are in the process of switching their coupon barcodes to a more complex system that helps them fight coupon decoding and other forms of coupon fraud.

Look at the image of the barcode at the top of the page.  In the past, all coupons and register systems worked off a barcode like the one on the left, and going forward, companies and stores will transition to the barcode on the right.

In the meantime, however, a lot of printable coupons and newspaper coupons have BOTH barcodes.  So if your cashier is trying to scan the old barcode into a new register, it won't scan -- and vice versa.

If your cashier has a scanning gun at check-out but is using the flatbed scanner, ask them to scan the barcode with the gun, to see if that helps.  Otherwise, ask for a manager's help -- s/he may know which systems the store is currently using, and therefore which barcode to scan.

You might even experiment with scanning the coupons yourself at a self-checkout register, to see which barcode works at which store!

Read more information about the new barcodes and how they fight coupon fraud over at Barcode US.

Your turn:  How do you handle it when your coupons don't scan at check-out?  Do your cashiers work with you, or have you walked away empty-handed?  Share your experiences in the comment section below.

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