Kmart Assistant Manager Hates Your Coupons, Will Not Process Your Transaction

If you’re one of those really smart coupon hoarders, you know to save up for double-coupon offers, because then you can get things for next-to-nothing. Nicole has used this strategy at Kmart in the past without problems, but this time she ran into an assistant manager who refused to honor the promotion, saying, “It’s not our policy. It’s not written down, but that’s the policy.”

First, here’s some info on how to double up coupons for maximum savings. If you’ve never done this before, you can thank Nicole for the quick recap.

  • Sometimes, maybe 25% of the time, you’ll get a coupon for $.50 that you want to use to purchase an item that costs $.99 or $1. If the store doubles coupons, the coupon will automatically ring up as another $.50 if the item is $1, or $.49 if the item is $.99. Every store I know, including Kmart, has programmed their registers to do this. On Harris Teeter triple coupon days, even more coupons do this and you can get a ton of items for free.
  • Every self-respecting frugal knows this and there are myriads of blogs listing the “free after coupons” items at various stores.
  • Kmart is having double coupon days this week. They normally don’t double at all, but for a limited time are doubling coupons up to and including $2.00. There are some restrictions on this—no more than four of the same coupon, no more than 25 coupons per day, etc.—but they’re easy to follow.

That seems pretty straightforward, right? But not if you run into the Assistant Manager at this particular Kmart, who makes up policies on the spot to avoid completing sales that confuse him.

I went to Kmart (960 Kildaire Farm Road; Cary, NC) Monday night and spent about 45 minutes gathering up the items I wanted to buy. All of them were free after coupons. It took me awhile because about half of the items were completely gone—other shoppers had gotten there Monday morning (or Sunday night) and used their coupons to get the items for free. The other half of the items were almost gone and I was able to get the last or next to last item.

I went up to the cash register and the assistant manager rung me up. If the coupon was valued more than the item, the register automatically adjusted the value of the coupon to match the value of the item. When he got to the end of the transaction, he frowned and said, “I can’t process this transaction.”

Me: Why not?

Joseph: Because it’s saying your total is -$1.46.

Me (laughs): No problem. I’ll just pick up these cough drops—that will bring the total over $0.

Joseph (frowning more): No. I can’t process this transaction.

Me: What do you mean?

Joseph: I’m not giving you these things for free.

Me: You’re telling me that if I had brought these items up here with $20 of other items, you would not sell me those items.

Joseph: Not these items.

Me: So it’s Kmart’s policy not to accept coupons on items like this.

Joseph: No, it’s our policy.

Me: Our?

Joseph: Our store.

Me: Could you show me that policy?

Joseph: Oh, it’s not written down, but that’s the policy.

It went on like that, and I maintained my cool and was exceedingly polite. I asked for his name (Joseph), he refused to give me his last name, and had no employee ID number, but I did hear him give another employee his manager code (5003-1) so that the employee could clock out a third employee.

What he told me was either unacceptable ignorance on the part of a manager at best, or a downright lie at worst.

Half the items I was looking for had already been purchased. You can’t tell me that people didn’t use coupons to purchase them, that they needed chapstick and just happened to choose Nivea over every other brand, and Vaseline lotion over every other hand lotion, and so on.

If it was truly the policy of this Kmart, wouldn’t their registers be programmed to flag those items, and not ring them up, instead of adjusting the coupons down? And why was I able to purchase items like these previously?

I decided to go to another local Kmart, and I made sure to purchase two items that would put my total over $0. The cashier rang me up, took my coupons, and checked me out. No comment, no problem. So it’s obviously not the policy of that Kmart not to take those coupons.

If this is truly the policy of this particular Kmart store, that they won’t take a $1 coupon for a $1 product, it’s not noted in the ads. It’s not noted anywhere in the store. Joseph couldn’t produce anything in writing. The cash registers aren’t programmed that way. The clerks aren’t educated about the policy.

I wouldn’t be so irritated if it was not clear that other people had used their coupons without a problem, or if he had been able to produce a policy, or if it had been written in the ad, or if the other Kmart had the same policy, or if the registers refused to accept it, or if someone, anyone, in the blogosphere had noted this was a policy of of Kmarts…if any of these things were true, I’d be in the wrong. As it stands, I don’t believe I am. I can’t help but think that if I had purchased something that had put my total over $1, he would have accepted the transaction.

I definitely won’t go back to this Kmart again. I may or may not return to the other one when double coupon days roll around again. I’ll tell you one thing: I will not spend over $3 per transaction at a Kmart ever again—I’ll make sure I have coupons or I won’t shop there.

Nicole, there may be laws in North Carolina that Joseph broke by refusing to accept your coupons. You should contact your Attorney General’s office and ask about state laws regarding coupons.

(Photo: tedmurphy)