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Catalina coupon

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Catalinas, the shorthand term for those coupons that print while you’re checking out, can often be a nice surprise. If not, you can always leave them behind for someone else to use. But if they end up in the wrong hands, Catalina coupons can cause some serious trouble.

“Fired Over Coupons” blared a headline above a recent article in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Press. The story told the tale of a former Meijer cashier who was terminated for taking two leftover Catalina coupons that her customers didn’t want. She, and many readers, appeared surprised that such a simple action could be a fireable offense. But others say she should have known better – because she’s far from the first cashier to be “fired over coupons”.

Kathy Gizowski’s tale began in 2011, when she took two discarded Catalina coupons offering $20 off any purchase in exchange for filling a new prescription at the pharmacy in her suburban Detroit Meijer. One coupon, she said, she gave to a co-worker, the other she used herself after it was given to her by a customer.

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Adam Green, a Meijer loss prevention officer at the time, told the Press he began investigating suspected employee misuse of the pharmacy coupons. He got a hold of all of the coupons recently used by employees, and tracked them to determine if the employees “earned” the coupons themselves by making their own purchases, or took them from shoppers who didn’t want them.

Gizowski and several others were found not to have earned the coupons – and were summarily dismissed.

Calling such actions “theft”, Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi told the Press that “our vendors invest millions of dollars in coupons with the intention they will be used by the specific customer who receives it.” Company policy is for unused or unwanted Catalina coupons to be destroyed and discarded by employees.

And Meijer isn’t alone in having, and enforcing, such rules:

  • “Catalina coupons are intended for use only by the customer who receives them and not for other customers or associates. Unclaimed or unwanted Catalina coupons are to be destroyed immediately,” states the coupon policy for the grocery chain Jewel-Osco.
  • “Any Catalina coupon(s) that are not given to the Customer are to be destroyed immediately,” reads a Kroger “coupon best practices” guide.
  • “In the event that a customer does not want their Checkout Coupons, tear the coupons in half through the bar code and dispose of them. It is a violation of Kmart policy to take them for yourself or give them to any other person,” states a Kmart internal memo.
  • “If customer doesn’t want the Catalina coupon, it will be torn in half and thrown in the garbage,” reads a Walgreens cashier coupon guide.
  • “If (a) customer does not want their earned Catalina coupon, it is Roundy’s policy that the Catalina coupon(s) are destroyed immediately. Catalina coupons are non-transferable,” states the grocery chain Roundy’s coupon policy.

It seems unlikely that so many retailers would independently come up with the very same policies on Catalina coupons. When asked whether it is Catalina’s own policy that unwanted coupons are to be destroyed, a Catalina spokesperson refused to comment. Retailers do sometimes disagree about whether other customers can take unused Catalina coupons. Some stores leave them sitting out, others look the other way if a customer happens to snag one before an employee gathers them up, while other stores like Jewel-Osco don’t allow it (see Jewel-Osco’s policy above: Catalina coupons are “not for other customers” to use). When asked its position on the issue, Catalina again refused to comment.

Nothing like getting a definitive answer from a company about the coupon policy it expects customers and cashiers to follow.

What is definitive, however, are the rules that retailers expect their employees to follow. A number of unions that represent grocery workers even warn their members about the consequences of innocently taking unused Catalina coupons. “Many employees, including a number of long term employees, have been fired for misuse of coupons. One of the biggest problems is with Catalina Coupons,” advises Maryland’s UFCW Local 400. “If you didn’t make the purchase, generating the coupon-DON’T USE IT!” From New Jersey’s UFCW Local 152: “These coupons are traceable and easily spotted within the electronic system. Loss Prevention teams continually look out for this activity. If you know of anyone who is doing this, please warn them. Let’s get the word out and minimize the chance that members will be caught up in coupon abuse.” And New Jersey’s UFCW Local 1360 adds, “there is no gray area here. Do yourself a favor and don’t risk your job for a free turkey or a one-dollar coupon.”

Gizowski was a union member, and her union concluded that Meijer was within its rights to fire her. Green, the former loss prevention officer, says more than a dozen Meijer employees were fired for the same offense. And many other fired employees of other stores have shared similar tales of woe over the years.

Not willing to give up her fight, Gizowski filed an age discrimination lawsuit against Meijer, claiming that she was targeted for dismissal because of her long tenure and high hourly wage.

She’s not the first to take a “fired over Catalina coupons” case to court. In 2012, an Albertsons cashier in New Mexico filed a lawsuit against her former employer. She claimed she accidentally misplaced a Catalina coupon, and management used that as an excuse to fire her because they disliked the fact that she was active in her union. She won her case. And way back in 1997, a fired ShopRite cashier in Pennsylvania sued her former employer. She did not deny using Catalina coupons that she hadn’t earned herself, but she claimed that other employees had done the same and they weren’t fired. She lost her case.

Meijer eventually settled Gizowski’s lawsuit, without admitting wrongdoing, for $15,000. Gizowski had asked for $400,000. The case settled in July 2013; it’s unclear why Gizowski chose to tell her story now, unless it was to publicize the fact that she’s been unable to find a decent-paying job ever since.

Some would argue that she brought it upon herself, by violating her store’s policies – and that she was lucky to get the $15,000. Others might say that immediate termination is a bit too severe a punishment for such a seemingly small infraction. But if the consequences of allowing employees to “get away with it” is the loss of the Catalina coupon program altogether, retailers may decide that terminating offending employees is a small price to pay. And the employees, they hope, may learn that no coupon is worth losing their job for.

Image source: Catalina Marketing

3 Comments

  1. The UFCW (as more often than not recently), is not doing their job that their membership pays every week for then! Their job won’t be complete until they get these fired employees reinstated with all back pay and seniority intact! Hint: if you file a lawsuit then don’t settle for anything less than you filed it for, always insist on a trial, don’t plea usually don’t get anything near what it is worth!

  2. If every policy and law pertaining to coupons was followed to the letter of the “law” then coupons would cease to exist. It would not be worth the trouble. Many coupons say thing like “one per person” or “one per purchase”. If you interpret that strictly, once you use a coupon you could never use another like coupons on that same item as long as you live. Of course you have every right to use that same coupon the next day or check out twice in one day. In reality rules are only as good as they are enforced and stores should use a degree of common sense. This seems to be something many employees lack entirely.

  3. Pingback: Catalina Coupons - Thou Shalt Not MisUse - EVER!

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