Target Shortchanging Customers On Coupons

Coupon-clipping Target shoppers are ticked off at the news that the retail chain has been shortchanging customers on some manufacturers’ coupons since at least mid-summer.

Target says it has known about the issue since August and is trying to fix it:

We are aware that some coupons are not scanning for the full amounts… We are aware of the issue and are diligently working on a fix for that and will implement it as soon as possible.

The L.A. Times cites the example of one customer who, as recently as Wednesday, claims her $1.50 coupon on feminine-hygiene products was somehow reduced to $1.02 when scanned at the register.

“You really have to watch the registers, and for people who don’t, they don’t know they’re getting ripped off,” the customer told the Times. “I think this is a serious issue that a lot of people aren’t aware of… I don’t understand how a national company knows there’s an issue but hasn’t done anything about it.”

The Target rep says that customers whose coupons don’t scan properly “can bring their receipt to guest services for a refund of the difference.”

Yes, because they should have to spend extra time in line at Target because the company can’t fix its computers. That is good customer service.

Target shortchanging coupon users [L.A. Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. obits3 says:

    $1.50, $1.02… it’s only 48 pennies, what’s the big deal?

    • Mulva says:

      Target is receiving full compensation for the coupon from the manufacturer, regardless of what was deducted on the register. That is fraud.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      If you round the pennies it’s $0.50. Is it significant now?

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Yup. Round that to the dollar, and you get $1. Round that to the $2, and it’s $2.

        So, you see, Target has shortchanged me $65,536. And I might just continue rounding.

      • nbs2 says:

        If you suppose that the media is going to utilize the most sensational example if can find, then 48 pennies is the extreme. What is the threshold for caring about pennies? 10? 25? 37? Clearly you (and others) believe it is greater than 2.

        • jessjj347 says:

          Again, you’re not considering the full scope. Target has millions of transactions, so think about how much money that could be if each customer was ripped off for even one penny…yep already in the 10s of thousands…

          • nbs2 says:

            In both this and the DD case, the issue isn’t just how the corporation is affected, but how the individual consumer is affected.

            The Grocery Shrink Ray might save Brand X millions of dollars, but the more visible concern is that a consumer is getting less than they were before.

            • jessjj347 says:

              Yeah, that’s true too. I actually read an article (maybe it was linked from Consumerist?) saying that even if food prices go down, manufacturers won’t ever lower food prices. So, instead they just put out more coupons, because the hope is that less people will take advantage of them (probably true).

        • dorianh49 says:

          They came first for my pennies and I didn’t speak up because I didn’t care about pennies…

    • DigitalMariner says:

      But if you have 10 coupons that shortchange you almost $0.50 means you stand to lose $5. If I took $5 worth of stuff every visit, I doubt Target would consider this such a low priority.

      The bigger issue is if you check coupon boards and blogs, this issue has been ongoing MUCH MUCH MUCH longer than target is admitting in the press (closer to June/July than mid-August). Again, if Target was being shortchanged (say the registers took each coupon off twice) instead of the customers, would it really take this long to recode the register software?

    • Bob Lu says:

      You are saying I can has 30% of your cheezburger?

    • jessjj347 says:

      The big deal is that Target has a huge customer base. They’re not profiting $.48 illegally, they’re profiting $..48 x 1000s of potential customers (e.g. $480 for this one coupon in the hands of 1000 customers). This is also just considering one coupon instance, so I could easily imagine them making thousands of dollars if not 10s of thousands on all of the errors…

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    “We are aware that some coupons are not scanning for the full amounts… We are aware of the issue and are diligently working on a fix for that and will implement it as soon as possible.

    Translation: “We decided to try something new to make some extra money and hoped our customers wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, some did so we have to make sure everyone gets full value for their coupons now.”

  3. blogger X says:

    Target’s slogan should be changed to “Expect Less, Pay More”.

  4. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    What you do is watch the screen like a hawk watching a prairie mouse and when you see it come up incorrectly, stop the cashier and ask why it’s doing that. The cashier will notice, fix it, and we can all move forward with our lives. I just make sure to pick a really short line so people aren’t waiting behind me. I took $14 off my last trip by using coupons.

    • Taliskan says:

      Exactly, this.

      Though, at Target I have been getting really good cashiers who keep an eye on the coupon amount and what shows up on screen. Out of all the times I’ve been using coupons I think I only had a 3, maybe 4, issues with coupons but the cashier always caught it before I said anything and fixed it. It’s certainly left a favorable opinion for me with my local Target, at least.

      • Kuchen says:

        I have had the same experience with the Target I go to. They usually scan the coupons at the end and watch as they go through to make sure the amount is correct, manually changing it if it doesn’t scan correctly.

      • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

        Yup, I always have to keep a beady eye on the cashier and the cash register when using coupons at Target. It’s a systematic problem with their POS software but if you shop there regularly, those small miscalculated amounts add up to a significant chunk of change over time.

    • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

      “ a hawk watching a prairie mouse..”

      I like your phrasing…

    • chipslave says:

      Yes thats easy to do with a screaming toddler.

      • Doubts42 says:

        Sounds more like a parental discipline problem than a target problem. I have never had any issues taking my toddler to the store with me. i find i can hold a child and watch a screen at the same time. I can even use my free hand to get my wallet and debit card out.

        It still sucks that target did this, but I will gladly reimburse everyone in my line at target for any misread coupons if it means i don’t have to share the line with some screaming brat and the clueless parent.

  5. apd09 says:

    I had this at CVS, my coupon was 3.99 in value but they rang it up as 3.49. I corrected the mistake and they gave me the .50 for it. You do need to watch them carefully. It is hard though when you give them all your coupons at the end and they sit there scanning them in quickly and you can’t see what coupon is being scanned so you know if the amount is correct.

  6. Spaceman Bill Leah says:

    As one of the comments on a different article about this pointed out: the error also affects items with the “$5 Gift Card with purchase” dealie. The computer automatically prevents a manufacturer’s coupon from being credited in conjunction with the gift card freebie.

    • tkates says:

      I haven’t found this to be the case with $5 gift card deals I’ve done for cat litter/cat food.

      • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

        I just had that problem this past weekend. We tried using the coupon and it consistently kept giving us the “qualifying item not found” or whatever error until finally, in frustration, the manager just threw a gift card at my husband. It was weird.

  7. RandomHookup says:

    Here’s the original Consumerist post on this issue from back in August:

    Looks like a programming error in Target’s register logic.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      One man’s programming error is another man’s feature.

  8. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s scanned until after the fact. Example: my local Rite-Aid has the scanned items display on the little screen on the device used for swiping credit/debit cards. The most items you can see on it at any one time are about seven before it scrolls off. And if the cashier is rapidly scanning, there’s no way you can follow the scans at all. Pretty $#@@!! annoying, but all the other Rite-Aids in the region have the same stupid, customer-unfriendly equipment. You gotta examine the receipt after the sale is over.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I like the Price Cutter grocery here. They have a big monitor above the register where you can see everything the cashier rings in and the total and it’s in great big numbers so even half-blind people like me can read it.

  9. JulesNoctambule says:

    This happened to me twice last week at two different Target stores. Once, I had to go to the customer service desk to get it resolved (coupon was for $1.50 off cat treats; rang up as 80 cents) but the second time the cashier caught it herself and commented that ‘The computer has been doing that lately’, which makes me wonder.

  10. ElizabethD says:

    Here’s how I’m saving lots of money at Target:

    I don’t go there anymore. It’s one of my worst impulse-buying danger zones, so I stay away now. Works like a charm!

  11. somnambulist80 says:

    Before pointing fingers at Target, I’d really like to know if both the UPC-A and GS1 are scanning incorrectly and if the errors are only in Target’s favor. UPC-As are pretty easy to generate decode — the two digit value code maps directly to a standardized chart of offers — but GS1s have more data density and don’t directly map to a list of offers. Think of it this way: UPC-A is like saying “chocolate cake” whereas GS1 is saying, “Here’s a chocolate cake, now figure out the ingredients”.

    UPC-As are being phased out in favor of GS1s over the next year, so expect to see more errors during the transition as retailers sort out their systems.

    (Disclaimer: I work for a very large prepress company which does most of Target’s store brand packaging. My office doesn’t do any work directly for Target, but we do generate Target-branded coupons for our customers.)

    • RandomHookup says:

      Most of the pinpointed errors involve multiples (e.g., $1 off 3). They changed the registers to automatically deduct the correct amount when the coupon value exceeded the sales price ($1 coupon for 99 cent item), but now the coupons for multiples only recognize one item out of the multiples and use that price as the maximum value allowed.

  12. SugarMag says:

    In the last two months or so I’ve been shopping at Target more – since their grocery section expanded and I can save a bit more. I just noiced in the last 2-3 weeks about the grocery shortchanging. One of the short changes – it was to be $1 off three cans of meow mix – applied only 57cents off – and it was a TARGET coupon. Geesh. You think that would be one that was right.

    Guest services were nasty and rude when I confronted them about it – and demanded *I* go back to find the coupon from the checker then bring back to them. Interrupting a busy checker with a line to hunt for a tiny piece of paper among hundreds of pieces is my idea of a good time.

    In the past, the coupons wouldn’t apply at all. I tell the checkers now and they’ve been careful about it, waiting for ‘beep’ to continue and whatnot.

    btw – I find the checkers generally nice and professional. The guest service desk, not so much – and comes with a 5-20 minutes wait too – woohoo!

    I cannot believe what I endure to save a few bucks. (i’m talking in general across the board, not just Target).

  13. Bye says:

    They have to get money for their political contributions to anti-gay politicians somehow.

  14. Omali says:

    I work at target, and our computers are from the 1980s, they’re not supposed to support the software target put on a couple years ago. Our registers crash a lot, and it’s not surprising at all that the registers are screwing up the transactions.

  15. SugarMag says:

    I think over 15 years ago Safeway was “stealing” like 10 cents from every customer by overcharging them. Based on the millions of extra cash they raked in for defrauding said customers they were fined mucho.

    Or I’m making that up. It came from my memory somewhere’s.
    I dont think it was a coupon thing, meaning, I dont know if coupon shortchanging has the same expectation for accuracy.

  16. Graymalkin56 says:

    Interesting how the errors are always in Target’s favor. Actually, not so much interesting as blindingly obvious.

    Unless the mistakes are in fact going both ways, but the consumers benefiting from the break aren’t complaining to Consumerist…

  17. evilpete says:

    Does Target pocket the difference on manufacturers coupons?

    If so it’s fraud.

  18. AllanG54 says:

    This to me is as annoying as when I go to a self checkout line and have to get change and the machine is out of pennies. Now, it might not bother me to lose 1 cent but 4 cents honestly does bother me and the store ends up making quite a bit over the day or even just a few hours.

  19. gemiwing says:

    I have no doubt they were aware the first day it happened. Take a conservative estimate of twenty registers- count them down and notice that a large percentage of the tills are off on coupon amounts the print out says you should have and the amount you have in paper. Multiply that by thousands of stores.

    I’m assuming that Target has a computer program one uses to input till data/countdowns and yes, I’m sure they’ve known about this for some time.

    Fraud would be dependent on whether they went by the register printout of coupons to send for manufacturer reimbursement or the paper coupon amount.

    All told, this could be quite a large sum indeed. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

  20. DanRydell says:

    Probably an attempt to drive those obsessive coupon clippers to other retailers.

    • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

      Why? Target doesn’t lose money on coupons. they get reimbursed for the full value of the coupon, even if the shopper is only credited for a percentage of its value.

  21. ptkdude says:

    I was just at Target about 30 minutes ago, and used some coupons. After the cashier scanned each coupon, the register stopped her and a message on the screen told her to confirm the coupon amount and correct it if necessary. It looks to me like Target has put a control in place to correct the problem until they get a more permanent solution.

  22. BK31 says:

    We noticed this right away after I had a $3 off coupon for some body wash and were only given $1 off. Since we noticed after the transaction had ended, but before the next person was rung up he had to do some special thing and ended up refunding us the $2 in cash. The only reason we noticed it was because there was no $3 coupon on the receipt. Since target only lists coupons as manuf coupons, and not under the item it pertains too, if you’re not watching dilligently at checkout when their ringing you could easily miss it.

  23. BK31 says:

    oh and i was wondering how the reimbursements work for target then too. Don’t they get reimbursed for the coupons by the manufacturer somehow? So if they only credit the consumer for so much of the coupon they’re ‘stealing’ the savings from the consumer, but then are they getting reimbursed for the full amount of the coupon and getting that same amount of money that they ‘stole’ from the consumer again from the manufacturer? Maybe I’m unaware of exactly how coupons work, but I always assumed the stores got credited from the manufacturer somehow if it was a manufacturers coupon.

    • LuckyLady says:

      Yes. Retailers do get reimbursed plus paid a handling fee for each coupon submitted. So if Target’s only giving the consumer half of the face value of the coupon off, they are still getting the full reimbursement of the coupon’s face value plus the handling fee. So they could rake in some serious bucks at Target doing this. Something doesn’t smell right.

  24. italianbaby says:

    this happens to me all the time. before i go into my local target i already have the amount that i owe after coupons figured in my head.
    so it was no surprise when i went a few days ago and the cash register said i owned $6.75 more than the amount i had figured. after cashing out i went to guest services had to take everything out of the bag and re-ring it all over again,and they got my coupons from the cashier.
    sure enough, i was overcharged $6.75 plus tax. $7.15. they gave me my refund. it’s just a hassle to have to cash out twice.
    i’m a coupon queen and have gotten $80.00 worth of products at target for $2.40.
    i love target, but they do short change you on the face value of the coupons and sometimes the coupons don’t scan, but the cashier thinks they did scan.
    it’s customer beware. you just have to keep your eyes on the register as they ring up each item. in the end it’s all worth it. :)

  25. midwest says:

    But still no fix, and no time frame for a fix. I love how Target says “some coupons aren’t scanning right”. More than just that. B1g1’s are a mess. GC deals are a mess. I just do not understand how this can continue for months on end with no resolution. Go back to the old system. Post signs. Educate managers and cashiers. ANYTHING!! And it’s more than thousands they are making off this. Think about it….. 1700+ stores nationwide. At just $10 per store “error” per day since they “acknowledged” it in August adds up to:

    1700 stores x $10 = $17,000 x 63 days since they acknowledged = $1,071,000!!!

    And that’s at $10/day/store. You KNOW it has been month’s longer and can bet it’s more than $10/day/store. Just thought I’d put the numbers out there for you to ponder…….

  26. Scamazon says:

    I don’t shop at Target anymore….

  27. Spinfusor says:

    Considering how terrible the registers were when I worked there (up until two weeks ago) as a cashier, this doesn’t surprise me. Target spent so much money remodeling for PFresh, but absolutely nothing on its ancient registers and backend systems.

    (the only problem I ever had with coupons was with ones that should have been accepted, but weren’t)

  28. sopmodm14 says:

    i had a problem with a vendor coupon,but it worked at a walmart and at TRU

  29. DanKelley98 says:

    Its either amazing or predictable that Target managment permits such incompetence. I’m guessing the latter.

  30. psykomyko says:

    Ah, the same Target computers that scan IDs and store customers’ personal information but won’t reveal which info, where it’s stored, how it’s stored, how long it’s stored, nor how secure it is. How comforting. Perhaps a class-action suit or something might force them to get it together.

  31. Theslapshotkid says:

    A few days ago I was at a target a purchases some headphones that were on sale. When at the register they were priced at $29.99,at they were on sale for $19.99. When I stopped her, she rolled her eyes and told me it was not her problem. I asked to see a manager who fixed the problem and did not seem to are bout the workers bad service.

  32. dwhengel says:

    Here’s an update to the Target & Coupon Scanning problem:

    Supposedly it’s to be fixed within the next 10 days.