Woman Says Target Shortchanges Customers On Coupons



Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO interviews a woman who accuses Target of systematically screwing customers out of hard-clipped savings by reducing the value of their coupons.

The woman, an avid couponer, said Target routinely slashes her expected savings. She looks out for the errors and takes the receipts to customer service, where workers cheerfully hand her the correct change. A WCCO camera crew followed the woman on a shopping trip on which Target gave her a discount of only $1.99 on a $4 coupon.

A Target spokeswoman acknowledged the glitch to WCCO, explaining “We are working on a fix. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our guests. They can certainly return to a store with receipts if they didn’t receive the complete coupon amount.”

Have you noticed the problem at your Target?

Target Accused Of Not Giving Full Value On Coupons [WCCO]
(Thanks, RandomHookup!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. pop top says:

    Well they’re working on a fix and they’re giving people their money when requested so the only thing I could think of that would be a problem is Target not having their cashiers double-check that all the coupons rang up properly before completing the transaction.

    • DariusC says:

      50% of all coupons!*

      *For us!

    • Difdi says:

      So, why do the receipt checkers not catch this?!?

    • badgertale says:

      Cashiers don’t check because everything is automated…I mean, no one even tells them how much change to give back to customers! The computer in the cash register does…Why would we expect them to “THINK” about anything they’re doing?

    • GeeJaa says:

      Seriously? As a consumer, you find it acceptable to ring up at the wrong price and to then need to go stand in line at the service desk for a adjustment? Regardless of the method of payment chosen – be it cash, check, charge or coupon – there is an expectation that the order will ring correctly. In fact, coupons are a profit tank for Target more than any other method of payment – in the instance where they credit 1.99, they file the claim with mfg and are reimbursed 4.00, Target is making pure profit while every other party gets short changed. This is fraudulent handling of coupons.

  2. Southern says:

    Aren’t coupons all scanned by barcode now? That would indicate a problem with the computer, not with the individual cashier.

    • c!tizen says:

      Which is why the title reads “Woman Says Target Shortchanges Customers On Coupons” not “Woman Says Target Cashier Shortchanges Customers On Coupons”.

    • Dragon Tiger says:

      It’s not a problem with the computer, it’s a problem with the person who enters the data into the computer. Whether this is done store by store, or done at corporate and sent to individual stores, that’s what determines the extent of the problem. For Target to call it a glitch implies it’s a technical problem when it’s not.

    • RandomHookup says:

      From what I’ve read on other boards, it is a bit of a coding problem. It appears it happened when Target reprogrammed their registers to automatically deal with coupons that are of a higher value than the item (e.g,, a $1 coupon is accepted automatically on a 99 cent item — that’s Target’s policy). The new problem is that a coupon for an amount off of multiple items — say $2 off of 4 Pop Tarts — is deducted from the 1st item only and it uses the price of that item as the deduction.

      The register logic is wrong and it also appears to use broad categories from the same manufacturer to determine where to apply the coupon. If you buy 4 items from P&G, the 1st coupon attaches to one of the items, even if the coupon is for a different item from P&G.

      Sounds like some major work needs to be done to fix these issues.

      • Southern says:

        Thank you Random – That is a very concise & insightful diagnosis, and does indeed explain this issue.

      • FatLynn says:

        Let me just add that this means their code QA process missed something big, and when they fix this, they will probably re-double their testing. This will not be fixed quickly.

  3. vastrightwing says:

    Of course, they would never think of purposely doing this while cheerfully giving people the full amount who bother to check. Of course not! They take this very sersiouly.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It could be a manufacturer’s coupon issue – if she only has one coupon, and she uses it at Target, how does she know that it’s Target’s fault and not the manufacturer’s coupon that’s the problem? There are companies that design and put the barcodes on these coupons. Why not ask them if there’s a problem?

    • Southern says:

      According to the (linked) story, “She shopped around and found she had the same problem at other Target stores but not at other retailers.” and that other coupon clippers that she knew where having the same problems (but only with Target).]

      I must admit, I don’t even look at my grocery store receipts to see if they took off the full value of a coupon or not.. Guess I should start paying attention to that.

  5. mbz32190 says:

    Could the problem be she is using the coupons at a value over the price of an item? It all depends on how stores handle these:
    1. They will scan right through even if the price is lower than the coupon value (Walmart is known for this–so the customer ends up saving a buck or two on their other items).
    2. Cashier will reduce the value of the coupon to match the item price (which isn’t really fair, as the store gets the full amount on the coupon back, so profit for them.)
    3. Store may not accept them at all. I know a few grocery stores near me will refuse to take a higher-amount coupon.

    • msbask says:

      Did you read the article at all??? She had a coupon for $4 off when you purchase 10 Weight Watchers meals.

      • elangomatt says:

        Try learning to live with the fact that many people DON’T read the linked article. You could always just correct the person’s errors and then suggest they read the linked article next time. Snarky comments are never necessary.

        • msbask says:

          I asked a question: Did they read the article at all? You reading “snark” in that is your own issue.

          Duly noted that you are in favor of explaining the article over and over to everyone who doesn’t bother to read the article but posts mis-information about it?

          (Now THAT was snark)

  6. cjcharv says:

    The Grocery Shrink Ray no affects coupons as well!

  7. hypochondriac says:

    It could be a computer error. I remember my math teacher telling me when scanners were new. She used to catch errors a few times, and then had to argue with the cashier that the computer was wrong

  8. racordes says:

    They are dragging their feet, hoping that most shoppers won’t notice the shortage. No matter how cheerfully they make up the difference, most people won’t notice and Target gets away with it. People have been telling them about this problem for months and when WCCO asked them about it, they said that that was the first time they had heard about it. They were lying. Many people spoke up to say they have made complaints about it over the last year. Walmart isn’t looking so bad anymore.

  9. JulesNoctambule says:

    That’s happened to me twice in the past month. Once I caught it, but the second time I didn’t notice until I was home and going over my receipts. Now that I know it’s a Target problem and not just an issue with one store I’ll be paying more attention every time.

  10. redspeed says:

    I havent used coupons much at Target, but I can confirm their prices are always incorrect in their favor. Every couple of trips there something is always ringing up higher than it should be and sometimes I dont catch it until after I leave. Theyre usually good about fixing the mixtakes afterward but its a big hassle. I know this can happen at any retailer, but Target seems to be pulling something shady since its always happening there…

    • redspeed says:

      Figures I typed “mistake” incorrectly by accident…

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’ve experienced that plenty of places, like you have, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it at Target. Everything is usually pretty clearly laid out and the stores have the price check scanners every so often. If the price check scanner has a price different to the label (in their favor), I’ll take a photo of the label. I always check when I’m at the register and I make sure that I have committed to memory the price I expect to pay.

  11. Thorzdad says:

    “We are working on a fix. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our guests.”

    Translation: We’re working on a way to not get caught.

  12. duxup says:

    I’ve found Target a very coupon friendly place. If the coupon isn’t working or something to that effect they just enter it manually. I keep a close eye on my receipts and they’ve been accurate from what I’ve seen.

    • whatdoyoucare says:

      I agree completely! I love at Target you can use one Target coupon along with one manufacturer’s coupon. For a while Target had a $2 coupon for diapers on their website. I stacked it with $2 coupon from the manufacturer for a nice discount.

  13. TheMonkeyKing says:

    Coupons? What coupons? Imma ‘Merican and do my part for the economy by paying full price for everything?

  14. Jacob says:

    I have verified a bug in Target’s coupon computers.

    First some background: Many stores have policies that say that a coupon can’t be redeemed for more than the price of the product. If I have a coupon that is $1-off, but the item only costs $0.90, then the coupon will be reduced to $0.90, which still makes the item free. Target is one of the stores that do exactly this.

    Target’s problem (at least one of them) is that they don’t figure that a coupon can require the purchase of multiple items. For example, a coupon can be $1-off two items (Coupon blogs will write this as $1/2). This is a problem if the price of one item is less than the value of the coupon. If I have a $1-off two coupon, and the item costs $0.90, then Target will reduce the value of the coupon to $0.90, even though the cost of two items is still greater than the value of the coupon.

    I figured this out a few weeks ago. I clipped a coupon for $1-off three scotch tapes. That week, Target was selling the tapes for $0.50, and they tried reducing my coupon to $0.50. I complained, and since the cashier didn’t know how to adjust the value of the coupon, the supervisor came over and tried giving me a story about the coupon really being just a Buy-2-Get-1-Free coupon. I was about to just walk out of the store when they fixed the coupon value.

    • frugalmom says:

      Yup, this has happened to me too. Various couponing forums have noticed this happening nationally, once Target changed their computers to automatically adjust coupons down when they exceeded the price of the item. I had a $5 off 2 Benadryl items coupon and the register autoadjusted it down to $2.48, the price of one item. I didn’t notice until I got home, so I just returned the second item next time I was in the store.

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      Target shouldn’t be doing that with manufacturer’s coupons. They get reimbursed the full face value, provided the consumer meets the conditions such as number of items purchased, etc. I shop for groceries at H-E-B (Texas chain), and if I have an item on sale for 89 cents with a $1/1 coupon, they take $1 off the total bill, no adjustments or haggling involved.

  15. Emperor Norton I says:

    Target also has a problem with coupons for free items.
    Their system requires the cashier to enter the price of the free item after scanning the barcode & then doing an override.
    That’s just incompetent programming as the item has already rung up.

    • elangomatt says:

      Target isn’t the only place where the cashier has to enter in the price for free items. I have never really understood why entering the price was necessary since it has the price in the system. Kroger still has to do that and Kmart registers still required it as well back when I worked there a few years ago. I have gotten into the habit of putting things that I have a free coupon for as the very last items in my order so the cashier can still see the price on his/her monitor.

  16. PupJet says:

    The problem *I* see with this is that she PROBABLY didn’t read the coupon to see if there were any restrictions. I read the full story and they said that she purchased 10 of these meals that she bought; however there are also restrictions on what particular varieties/flavors that they will issue such a thing for.

    Instance, you buy 10 Hot Pockets of various flavors. The coupon only states (albeit in fine print) that certain ones are ‘on sale’. Therefore, the logic behind such is “Okay, you bought these ones which ARE on sale, so we will reduce price by this much, but the rest you pay full price for.”

    Something about this particular sounds fishy to me…wait, is that on sale with a coupon?

    • midwest says:

      Actually, that particular coupon was stated for ANY Smart Ones products. And that coupon IS NOT the only one. This has been going on for months. Don’t assume something is fishy. Do you really think a news channel is going to run a story like that about a huge corporation with out something to back it up?? There was a follow up. Google it. People from across the country contacted that news channel. It’s a real problem.

      • PupJet says:

        Actually, yes I do believe a news channel has the ~ABILITY~ to ~misinterpret~ things to be point blank about it. If you believe ~EVERYTHING~ you hear on the news, then the issues that you face are your own.

        My “assumptions”, as you so notably put it, on certain aspects are based on the fact that I work retail and people often times ‘presume’ that it “since it’s in the paper, it must be valid on all items of such” when it was their failure to read that should be questioned. They even come in AFTER a certain coupon or sale has expired and PRESUME the same. Whether or not such a thing is true in regards to this case of such is beyond me because I don’t live in her area and all the times I’ve been to Target, my coupons have always been for full value because *I* read the fine print AND I make sure that it’s still valid.

        So for you to tell me that my basis for my own reasoning is just an assumption is a vagrant attempt to shoot down *MY* opinion on the matter.

    • dwhengel says:

      She did purchase what the coupon required her to purchase in order to use the coupon. I have some $1 off 2 any Bic Stationary Products, and they were on sale at Target for $0.60 each. I bought two, and the coupon scanned for $0.60. The CSM looked confused, when I pointed it out to her, she scanned another one (since I got 10 of the Bic Stationary Products, so could use 5 of the $1 off 2 coupons), which still came up $0.60 instead of the $1. She had to void off the scanned coupons and manually do $1 manufacturer coupon to the register. Had I not known that this was already an issue (and this was back mid-July), I wouldn’t have been watching as closely. But I also knew what my approximate total should have been, so hopefully would have caught it before I left the store if I hadn’t caught it at the register. This was at the Customer Service booth, because I was also price matching a couple of other items.

  17. elangomatt says:

    I have no doubt that someone did a crappy job of programming the coupon system. I would assume that it was written with someone who really knew very little about how many different types of coupons there are. The problem should have been caught in quality testing, but if they did not test any of the $2/4 type coupons and once again the tester having little knowledge of coupons the problem could have made it though testing. We will never have a chance of finding out, but I wonder if the flawed software was written in this country or if it was outsourced to another country to save money. Once the flawed program makes it out into production, it is conceivable that it could take a long time to get the relatively complex software rewritten. They would also want to thoroughly test the new software this time around to make sure they don’t roll out another buggy piece of software. Now I am surprised it has taken a year with nothing fixed yet, but I would expect it to take at least a couple months.

  18. brinks says:

    You can’t rely on 16-year-old cashiers who earn minimum wage to verify and correct everything. Target needs to borrow some supermarket or big box store POS programmers to fix this issue. My previous experience with other retailers was that these types of errors could be resolved within 24 hours of being reported. Shame on Target for letting something like this go on this long.

    • elangomatt says:

      While I agree that this should have been fixed a long time ago, I bet the software is having to be completely rewritten. It is probably flawed logic in the software rather than just simply re-entering data on the coupons.

  19. thegoodshopper says:

    First, the woman on video didn’t use the terms systematically screwing customers. That may be the author’s assumption but I didn’t hear her say that from the original and follow up video.

    Hopefully, now that Target is made aware of problems in their register’s scanning of coupons, they need to resolve this issue ASAP, not just for publicity’s sake.

  20. WickedCrispy says:

    Easy Solution, don’t shop at Target, Wal-Mart, or Best Buy.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      And if you live in an area where not doing so would make life pretty expensive? Not so easy, the.

    • dg says:

      I agree 100%… Target, WallyWorld, and WorstBuy are on my lists of places to avoid at all costs… If I lived in the sticks, I’d order online with Amazon, and get the free shipping… plan ahead to bundle up the orders so you hit the free shipping threshold and can wait a few days for it…

  21. midwest says:

    There is now an online petition for Target to resolve the issue:


  22. dg says:

    What fix? Your cashiers are THAT stupid that they can’t read the $4.00 on a coupon and enter $1.99? Oh wait, my bad, sorry, this is TARGET… I forgot…

    Yeah, it could be a scanner problem too, but really guys – just get IT to work on it for 5 minutes. Oh yeah, this is TARGET, I forgot again… this makes them money, costs the consumer cash… what could I have been thinking?

  23. Suaveydavey says:

    This has happened at another store, [wm]. It’s difficult for me to dispute, after I have presented the cashier with twenty or so coupons and they are stuffed along with the rest of the days coupons under the drawer. I know I’ve lost out on some high value coupons, but can’t necessarily prove it.

  24. Clyde Barrow says:

    Target Management: A Target spokeswoman acknowledged the glitch to WCCO, explaining “We are working on a fix. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our guests. They can certainly return to a store with receipts if they didn’t receive the complete coupon amount.”

    Corporate: Damn, we got caught.

    Conclusion: They knew what they were doing all along.

    • thegoodshopper says:

      I think there will be a problem for those who caught the wrong scanning of their coupons when they get home. How can one prove the face value of the coupons they redeemed at the TIME OF PURCHASE if coupons are no longer available? this is possible only for those who catch it immediately and let CS get their coupons from cashier’s register and start matching them. Otherwise, it is difficult to prove it without them looking at the coupons used.

      UNLESS Target will open itself for potential abuse and just give credit to people who *think* Target owes them some amount, then consumers may quit complaining and just claim their gift cards or cash from Target.

  25. PLATTWORX says:

    “Well they’re working on a fix”

    Um, one of the largest retailers in the country knows it’s registers have not been properly calculating coupon discounts and can’t IMMEDIATELY have the software fixed? The POS systems their competitors use seem to work fine.

    I take the spokeperson’s comment as an admission of fault and the start of a class action lawsuit. Just watch.

  26. Splendid says:

    the problem i’ve noticed at my Target is that the corporate officers use the revenue to fund hate groups in Minnesota.

  27. italianbaby says:

    i can agree on this one. i’m also a coupon affectionado and i have started counting how many coupon i give to the cashier at target and their monetary value. every time i go they short change me $4.00 to $6.00.
    i just cash out and walk to customer service and they retrieve all my coupons from the cashier and we go over each and ever transaction. i’m always correct and they are apologetic. but it’s a hassle having to wait on line twice, one at the registers and again at the customer service line.
    from what i understand they are upgrading software to reduce this problem.

  28. ninjatoddler says:

    Haven’t been to Target since they started controlling governor races here in MN. The movies about a future where corporations control everything is getting closer by the day.

  29. Dallas_shopper says:

    My local Target does this all the time, or the cashier “forgets” to scan my coupons and I’m then directed to customer service so they can fix it, and the line is always a mile long. I can’t help but think that it’s intentional because it’s so pervasive.

    I no longer shop at Target anyway…I decided a couple of weeks ago to give up my Target habit for many reasons. This is on the list, but it’s nowhere near the top.

  30. BoredOOMM says:

    She purchased a $4.00 item for $1.99 and expects the store to give her $2.01 more than the FREE item. This makes all coupon users look bad.

    • dwhengel says:

      She didn’t use a $4 coupon on a $1.99 item. She used a $4 coupon that applied to 10 of the Smart Ones frozen meals. So she was getting $4 off of items totaling around $20. From the article:

      On Monday, Gunderson had a coupon for $4 off if she bought 10 Weight Watchers Smart Ones meals. A WCCO-TV crew went along with her to the North St. Paul Target to redeem that coupon. Her receipt shows — Target only took $1.99 off her bill, not $4.

    • midwest says:

      um… no. She purchased TEN $1.99 items to the sum of $19.90. The coupon was for $4.00 off when purchasing TEN. She was credited $1.99 instead of the full $4.00. She met the terms of the coupon but the register only gave partial credit.

  31. massageon says:

    I live in minneapolis and this just happened to me the other day! It was an actual target coupon for those new kleenex paper towel things ($3.99) for free and I also bought a regular box of kleenex ($1.39) and they gave me the box of kleenex for free instead. I was kind of upset when I realized it in the car, but my Husband said it was a waste of time to go back in for a few bucks.

  32. catnapped says:

    Just for the record, this is STILL going on. I’d read this before and thought nothing of it until TODAY when I noticed on the receipt it only took $1.24 off instead of the $1.50 (off 3) coupon value. They sure are taking their sweet time fixing it.

  33. 4Real says:

    I have issues with getting the cashier to even scan my coupons. They either shove them in a drawer before the scan them or tell me I didnt buy the item on the coupon. So I have to fight with them to just get them to scan them.

  34. catnapped says:

    Problem is still occurring if anyone is wondering. Seems like their crack IT staff is right on the ball diligently working to fix it.

    (that was sarcasm in case that went over anyone’s head)

  35. timmsa says:

    Actually they are still pulling this type of stuff.
    I was in there a while back ( like 2 weeks ago) and I had a $5 gift card. The cashier scanned it and then removed it, and then when I said something she took off 5 cents off my bill. I then went to customer service and the guy acted like I was lying. He told me that I had to go back to the cashier that I went to and get all my coupons. Then I find out that they throw away those gift cards. They sit right in the trash all day.

    Then another time, they shorted me $6 off my bill. Spent another 30 minutes at the customer service desk because again they had to collect all my coupons and go through them 1 by 1 to make sure they didn’t come off.
    It is just crazy after all the hype that Target has gotten that they still are trying to pull this. Or as they say they are “trying to fix the problem”