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Dear Jill,

I had two coupons for pasta. I bought multiple boxes, but the store would only accept one coupon. Shouldn’t they have accepted the coupons I had? There was the normal per-purchase wording, which the cashier initially had an issue with. Customer service came over, and I explained the difference between per purchase and per transaction, so then she had an issue with the second sentence: "No more than one coupon for the same product in the same transaction." I’m not sure what that even means. Thanks.

Eun N.

Unfortunately, there’s not an industry standard as far as consistency of the terminology used within coupons’ fine print. Each manufacturer is free to word their offers in whatever way they see fit. Let’s go over some of the common (and less common) wording limits on our coupons.

Limit One Coupon Per Purchase: This statement appears on most coupons. Each single item you buy is defined as a “purchase,” and you may use one coupon “per purchase” — that is, per item. If you have two $1 coupons for cereal, you may buy two boxes and use one coupon on each box.

If you have a coupon for $1 off two boxes of cereal, your purchase to satisfy that coupon’s requirements is two boxes, and so on.

Limit Two Like Coupons Per Transaction: While each item you buy is a “purchase,” each trip through the checkout lane, in which you pay for your individual purchases, is one “transaction.” Two “like” coupons means two identical coupons. If you subscribe to four newspapers, you could not use all four identical coupons to buy four items in the same transaction. Not all coupons have a per-transaction limit, and it is more common to see this wording on high-value offers, such as those for laundry detergent.

Now, let’s take a look at some less-than-common coupon terminology.

No more than one coupon for the same product in the same transaction: While this wording seems to mean that you cannot use two manufacturer coupons on the same, single item, what it actually means is that you cannot use more than one coupon (of any value) for this particular product in the same transaction. This is the wording that my reader found on a coupon for pasta. For instance, if she had a coupon for $1 off one box of pasta, but she also had another coupon for $1 off two boxes of the same pasta, the terms would prohibit using both coupons to buy three boxes of pasta in the same transaction.

Void if gang cut: We don’t see this wording too often, but whenever a brand opts to use it in their fine print, I will inevitably receive email asking if there are really hordes of coupon gangs cutting and using coupons together! As strange or funny as this may seem, this is not what this particular phrase refers to at all. “Gang cutting” refers to the practice of stacking multiple, identical coupon pages on top of each other, then cutting the entire stack of coupons together.

Why would manufacturers care how coupons are cut? If multiple, identically cut coupons are submitted for redemption, the manufacturer may view this as an indication that coupons have been sold to the consumer in a single lot.

Because resale of coupons violates the terms printed on most coupons, the manufacturer can refuse to reimburse the store for the value of any coupons that are gang-cut. Once coupons travel from the store to the redemption center, gang-cut coupons are machine-identified, and because their gang-cut appearance indicates that the coupons may have been sold by a third party, the manufacturer does not have to reimburse the store for them.

It’s quite likely that a single person choosing to buy multiple newspapers might stack identical coupon pages together to cut them all at once to save time. However, this practice can ultimately hurt your store if the brand refuses to reimburse the retailer for the coupons’ value, simply because of the way they were cut.

Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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