Over the past month or so, sharp-eyed couponers have been all abuzz about new wording recently added to Procter & Gamble coupons that appears to take aim at overage – the cash back you can score at some stores, if your coupon is worth more than the price of the product you’re using it on. Turns out, the wording isn’t really new at all, and overage has yet to go extinct. But that’s not stopping P&G from trying.
“No cash or credit in excess of shelf price may be returned to consumer or applied to transaction,” reads the fine print. P&G has actually been experimenting with such wording for more than a year, sneaking it onto some, particularly higher-value, coupons since at least the summer of 2012. But over the past couple of months, couponers finally started to notice and the word began to spread, as P&G began adding the wording to virtually all of its insert coupons, even (somewhat laughably) its notoriously low-value 25-cent off Bounty and Charmin coupons.
But the wording completely contradicts the coupon policies of some retailers – including the biggest one of them all. “If coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase,” reads Walmart’s coupon policy.
So in the case of such a conflict, who wins? And what exactly is P&G trying to accomplish here – the end of overage as we know it?
P&G is finally offering some answers, though unfortunately, the explanation makes it all about as clear as mud.
“The intent of most coupons is to cover up to the actual price of the product. Hence, overage is an unusual situation and consumers should not expect to receive cash back on the purchase of a product,” a P&G spokesperson told Coupons in the News.
So are retailers that do allow overage, expected to instead adjust down the value of these P&G coupons? “Policies on overage vary by retailer,” was the response, “additionally, retailer practices may differ from store to store.”
Ok then – so if retailers stick to their own coupon policy and allow overage with these P&G coupons, will they be considered in violation of the terms and conditions and risk not getting reimbursed? “We know that the great majority of consumers and retailers will use P&G coupons under the terms and conditions stated on each coupon.”
Hmmm, so then if a couponer uses a P&G coupon, has the full value taken off according to the retailer’s coupon policy, and fails to request that the cashier kindly adjust down the value of the coupon so as not to receive any illicit overage, is the shopper then in violation of the terms and conditions printed on the coupon? “We understand that consumers will use every available, legitimate tool to maximize their savings. It’s a win-win situation for all – retailers, manufacturers, consumers – when you purchase a product on sale using a coupon and obtain even more savings!”
Okay, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere here.
Walmart did not respond to a request on how it planned to square its own overage policy with P&G’s conflicting overage policy. But the key word in Walmart’s coupon policy is “may” – as in, “excess may be given to the customer.” That gives individual stores and managers some leeway – and, as any Walmart couponer knows, its coupon policy is often open to interpretation by whatever store, cashier or manager you happen to run into.
The real question is whether P&G is trying to torpedo the coupon policies of overage-allowing stores, expecting them to fall in line and start banning the practice altogether – or whether its fine print regarding overage is just another vaguely unenforceable rule designed to act as a deterrent. The wording “Limit Of 4 Like Coupons Per Household Per Day”, for example, is designed to prevent shoppers from overdoing it and clearing shelves – but the P&G police aren’t exactly going to haul you in if you use three of those coupons, and another member of your family inadvertently uses a couple more at another store later that day. That being the case, neither are they likely to come after a retailer who fails to circumvent its own coupon policy and adjust down a $2 coupon on a $1.95 item.
But there’s a reason P&G might be particularly averse to overage. It has some high-priced items and, therefore, some high-value coupons that many have taken advantage of – either legitimately, or completely unethically. The company could not have been pleased back in the day, when loophole-seeking shoppers used some of P&G’s higher-value coupons on lower-priced trial sized items – those $10 Crest Whitestrips coupons with no size restrictions come to mind. After P&G added “Excludes Trial/Travel Size” to most of its coupons, some unseemly shoppers just went ahead and used coupons like those Whitestrips offers on inexpensive Crest toothpaste instead, hoping the coupons would go through and they’d make out like a bandit.
So the overage-disallowing terminology could be perceived as a backup – a way to give retailers a heads up that even if a high-value coupon “works” on a lower-priced item, P&G wants cashiers to take a closer look at whether the product and the coupon even match at all.
But let’s go ahead and make one more attempt to get a straight answer from P&G – if an overage-allowing store violates its own coupon policy and adjusts down the value of a P&G coupon instead of allowing overage, and then submits the coupon for reimbursement and gets the full value of the coupon back, in violation of P&G’s own coupon policy, what then?
The answer: “When used properly, everyone benefits from couponing!”
Thanks for clearing that up.