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It seems like a simple enough strategy to boost profits – sell more stuff at full price. But it’s a tough strategy to implement, without alienating some of your biggest fans.

That’s what CVS is finding out, as it delivers the second half of a one-two punch to some of its biggest spenders – and savers – by denying them the coupons they crave.

It started earlier this year with the pharmacy chain’s “no sales weeks”. The circular-free experiments started off slow, in just a few test markets. But the tests gained steam a couple of weeks ago, as shoppers in nearly 20 states were not offered a weekly sales circular, or any in-store promotions, at all.

And then longtime shoppers started noticing that they had stopped receiving personalized coupons via email, online, or in stores.

“I used to receive weekly coupons by email on Thursdays,” reads one of many comments on CVS’s Facebook page. “Also, I would receive Extra Savings coupons on products when I signed into my account. I am no longer receiving any of these offers.” Added another, simply: “What is going on?”

CVS reports that it sent 25 million emails a week last year, containing personalized offers for members of its ExtraCare loyalty program. The retailer also makes personalized coupon offers available online, and via its in-store ExtraCare Coupon Center (otherwise known as the “red box” or the “Magic Coupon Machine”). ExtraCare members redeemed a total of 38 million personalized coupons last year.


But those figures are bound to plummet this year. For the past several weeks, more and more CVS shoppers have been noticing – and complaining – that the coupons they had received weekly for years, have suddenly stopped coming.

CVS’s official answer, repeated ad nauseam in recent weeks, is less than forthcoming. “Our offers vary week to week and are personalized for each shopper, so not everyone receives the same coupons or communications.”

But NO coupons?

Many suspect there’s something a little more sinister going on.

CVS representatives contacted by Coupons in the News refused to elaborate beyond the same prepared statement the company has been reciting for weeks. But some persistent shoppers report that store staff and some customer service representatives have been a little more candid.

“I was told ‘I use coupons too much’ to get them anymore,” one shopper wrote on CVS’s Facebook page. A reader, whose coupon supply has also dried up, told Coupons in the News that a CVS representative “made it clear it is a reflection of my savings/spending ratio and/or my use of coupons in transactions,” and that “this issue would likely continue unless I dropped significantly more money out of my pocket.”

So it appears to be a couponing Catch-22 – CVS will happily send you coupons, but if you actually use them, then you won’t get any more.

While shoppers didn’t necessarily see the “no sales week” experiments or the disappearing coupons coming, it turns out CVS dropped some big hints over the past year, about an upcoming change in strategy. Some of it has to do with a desire to move away from “one size fits all” promotions, and some has to do with CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco products.

“Exiting the tobacco category will cost us approximately $2 billion in revenues,” CVS CEO Larry Merlo told shareholders in a 2014 year-in-review report. So one of the company’s goals is to come up with ways to “recapture this lost revenue elsewhere across the enterprise.”

One way, is “to invest in those customers who provide the most value” – that is, customers who don’t just come in for the deals and end up costing the company money. Luring shoppers into the store, with frequent promotions and coupons, may no longer be doing the trick. “Chasing empty sales is a good short-term solution,” Helena Foulkes, CVS’s Executive Vice President, told investors late last year. “But it is not a strong long-term solution for our customers or our business. We prefer to pivot towards personalized promotions, to drive more profitable sales.”

And “personalized promotions”, in many cases, may turn out to be no promotions at all. That would certainly result in “more profitable sales”.

Plus, there was a happy side benefit to getting out of the tobacco business. When asked what types of products they’d like to see added to stores after tobacco products were removed, customers’ top choice was “healthy food.” And CVS began seeing dollar signs. “Healthy food is less sensitive to promotion,” Foulkes told investors. That means CVS can sell more of it at full price, “which is aligned with our strategy to drive profitable growth.”

But many longtime CVS shoppers are bristling at the idea that they’re considered unprofitable, or unwanted. “I spend THOUSANDS a year at this store!” one unhappy Facebook commenter wrote. “Why does CVS bother to offer store coupons and rewards programs if they punish people who use the coupons?” another asked. CVS “needs to actually communicate to your customers why they are not receiving promotions and coupons,” a third commenter wrote. “Without promotions and coupons, your prices are outrageously high, plain and simple.”

As studies have shown (like this one from GfK), couponers do actually end up spending a lot of money out-of-pocket in their preferred stores. Other studies (like this one from the Retail Feedback Group) say that savvy shoppers serve as brand ambassadors for their favorite stores, and the positive word of mouth they share, is worth more to the store than it’s costing them in discounted sales.

CVS, though, is apparently trying a different approach. “If you did not receive offers,” its prepared statement concluded, “rest assured that we’re still committed to providing you with great value through our ExtraCare rewards program. Make sure to stay tuned for more exciting things coming your way.”

With disappearing sales circulars and now vanishing coupons, CVS shoppers may already have had about all the excitement they can stand.

Photo by JeepersMedia



  1. your coupons bring the items to somewhat competitive prices which attracted me to shop there, otherwise your merchandise is much cheaper elsewhere. No coupons, no customers.

  2. Wow, I shopped at CVS just for fun when I got those coupons, then in late 2019 I received an email from CVS “congratulating me” on being in the top 3% of their savers, like they were happy for me and it was a good thing! (That sorta motivated me to really save I guess.) Then maybe 2 months later, not a peep – no ads, no coupons, not even crickets.

    I had no idea this had been happening to others for over 5 years already.

    Oh well, I’ll be okay without shopping at CVS. The people in the stores are very nice in my area though so good shout out to them!

  3. JR.
    Sorry , but without the coupon discounts your items are way to high. I will now buy at Walmart or Sam’s club. Your business sales will now decline, and I for one, won”t be returning as a customer. I’m tired of the political bullshit that many stores employ, thinking the customers are suckers or fools. I had been a customer for over 20 years, bye, don’t let the door hit you in the butt.

  4. I guess selling quality merchandise at fair prices and providing great customer service is too old-fashioned. Scams and trickery are obviously the more sound business practices.

  5. Here I thought that it was because CVS stopped selling cigarettes and lost a full 20% of their sales because of that. They had to curtail coupons and had to raise prices.

  6. Most vexing rewards program ever! I’ve pretty much given up on CVS due to their creative restrictions on what you can use the coupons for, the short time span they are valid, and the fact that I only seem to get coupons after I go shopping and no longer need anything. I can’t recall the last time I succesfuly used the extrabucks. Worse, when the moon and venus actually align such that I can use a coupon, the product I want to be is already on sale but for a less discount than the coupon and they won’t offer me the option to charge full price and then apply my coupon. For the most part, I have found that their regular prices are so high that CVS has become a place I avoid if at all possible. So way to go CVS…you’re program has completely turned me off of your chain.

  7. Today, CVS denied me a 30% off coupon because I bought sale items. I don’t recall that happening before. Is this part of the new restrictions? If so I will start going to Walgreens. I already get my Rx there & enrolled in their rewards program. I just don’t understand it as well. Also, Walgreens in my area tends to be better stocked with items I buy.

    • The % coupons have never been valid on sale or promotional items. It says so right on the coupons. While disappointing, nothing new and not part of the changes discussed in this article.

      • Thanks for the info. The % coupons seem to be the only ones I’m getting now. Haven’t seen any extrabucks in a while. Haven’t paid too close of attention since I’m not much of a couponer except at CVS. Still considering a switch to Walgreens.

  8. Money is power. Consumers/customers have the power to decide where, when and how to spend their money. Products will not move and will expire. Thousands of dollars of profit are wasted.

  9. I didn’t shop at CVS the first 48 years of my life. The last year I started shopping at CVS because I could get good deals with coupons. I also spent a lot of money. If I don’t get coupons and deals I’ll go back to shopping at the four stores surrounding CVS who all charge much less. CVS is cutting it’s own throat. You don’t drive away people who shop multiple times a week and spend a lot of money just because they get a few good deals. I put up with being treated like a criminal for using coupons. I put up with the managers and staff saying vile things about other shoppers or telling me about their health problems or radical political beliefs or how much they detest the poor. I listen to all that just get the occasional free item. NO MORE! CVS better get come to their senses or else Walmart, here I come.

  10. Can’t you just go into a CVS and say you don’t have one of their rewards cards and get a new one and use that one? So they can’t track that you use the reward cards too much or are costing them money? I have more than one rewards card from them and many other retailers 🙂

    • While this works to get a NEW card that isn’t havign the restrictions, it doesn’t help those with ECBs already attached to their current card who utilize the “rolling” system.

      For example, if I have $50 in ECBs you can usually assume I paid $50 cash to get them so it is like I converted my cash to CVS money. Many couponers use the “rolling method” to keep their ECBs at the same level (or higher) each week so they limit the out of pocket expense each week. Across time, we end up spending quite a bit in the store to get the ECBs (and other things) but not always in one week.

      If the person in this example gets a new card, they have to spend their $50 ECBs without rolling. Which is the equivalent of getting $50 worth of products as if we paid cash in the first place. This works for many people as a solution, but for others- due to a variety of circumstances- it is less than an appropriate option.

  11. This is bad, almost as bad as Target flat out saying they will be running “less sales on grocery items.” Not like their sales were great to begin with. It’s an industry-wide approach as they are recovering monies from their lost revenue from the years of extreme couponing as well as buying into this “economy is getting better” BS. If the suppressed for years interest rates go up one point, you will have $5 loaves of bread and $8 gallons of milk on the shelf. That’s how bad it can and will be once the real correction kicks in.

  12. I too, will be using Walgreens more often. The ExtraCare program is easier, and has a longer expiration date, but a good couponer can make use of Walgreens Register Rewards too. I have no loyalty to any store or chain and I am an avid couponer, but an honest one. I don’t make copies of coupons or anything illegal. However, I am going to shop where I can maximize my savings for my family and if CVS is not going to be that store, well then, they’ve lost my money. If the manufacturer’s are the ones that fund the Extra Care copuons, then CVS is not out any money, so if I pay $1.00 for everthing in my cart, what do they care? They’ll be getting reimbursed for the coupons. It’s getting harder and harder to save, so wherever I can save the most – that’s where I will shop. And don’t get me started on having “sale-free weeks”! Good luck with that CVS! Ask JC PENNEY how their no coupon / no sale marketing strategy worked out for them. It almost put them out of business.

  13. If the CVS stores in my area stop featuring weekly sales, that’s the day I will stop going to CVS. There are plenty of other places to shop. As much as I hate Walmart, their prices are usually cheaper to start with and you can use a coupon on top of that. Bad decision by CVS.

  14. I got a 25% off an entire purchase coupon in the mail from CVS this week and they gleefully accept all of my coupons. When we actually got usable coupons in our Sunday papers, I beat them to death during the height of extreme couponing. Regardless, the biggest problem out there now are newspapers NOT putting sale ads and coupons in their papers for WEEKS at a time. Instead forcing you go to digital and buy the subscription one at a time. That’s ridiculous. All of the drug stores in Abilene, TX also have been hiding the Dallas paper( with real, usable coupons) behind the counters for months now. The regular ARN papers here on Sundays now gather dust. They aren’t even worth stealing. I saw my first P&G insert in my area since Feb this week. Manufacturer’s have gotten wise and basically have killed extreme couponing. Now they get bigger bonuses and the consumer, no matter where they shop, are being taken to the cleaners.

    • I agree, you might not be able to stockpile like you used to do. But I’m still going to get my item for almost free, I just won’t have 40 of them. I’m actually liking it more as well – I don’t spend near as much in stores, but with my family, and the “clutter” of extra items has actually become more stressful to me. I just try to maximize my grocery savings each week and let the rest go. But if CVS thinks that “no sales” is the way to go, I feel sorry for them. CVS makes a lot of their money on people that run in to grab a gallon of milk or if they’re out of toothpaste – but I’m too frugal for that. NO WAY am I paying $4.29 for a 6 oz. tube of toothpaste – that’s nuts. Drugstores are way overpriced and most people will not pay regular price for that. If I’m ever out of something (not likely), I’ll drive the extra 2 miles to Walmart and buy it there.

  15. I haven’t used CVS for awhile now! For all of you commenting that you’re going to be switching to Walgreens..well I sincerely hope that you give it a try! Please do yourselves a favor and at least try it!! I’ve been shopping at Walgreens foe awhile now and I’ll go out of my way to get there..forget you CVS!! Shame on you!!

  16. As someone who worked for CVS as a manager for several years I would say the following:
    1.) Entirely too many people abused the coupon policy. It was time consuming to deal with people that were stealing, YES STEALING, from the company by abusing the system. It caused lines to back up and at times for the police to be called because people refused to leave once denied their coupons. Now let me explain what abuse looks like before I set off everyone on here…You are allowed one card, per household. Period. Unfortunately people used multiple cards, friends cards, etc and then combined coupons from all cards to get products for nothing. Yes, this is against policy but these people would call corporate and complain about poor service and get their coupons honored anyways and usually a gift card as a reward for their poor behavior. Then there are several people selling their coupons and/or trading these coupons on eBay, craigslist, coupon sites, etc. Again, this is theft. Then there were the photo copiers that printed coupons like currency and used all over town. Yes we can tell the difference, yes the system tells me you’ve already used it, yes we were going to take it anyways because you’ll just call and complain anyways. Don’t even get me started on the folks abusing the RX transfer coupons by transferring scripts out every other month to get $25 per script. Some ran into the hundreds per family, per month.
    2.) We reported abusers. Those people get cut off. Extra bucks get canceled.
    3.) Yes, we all communicated abusers to local stores. We simply keep cutting off the cards. We actually communicated with other local stores in the community for excessive abusers. Please understand, coupon abuse is fraud and illegal. NO, not all of you are/were doing this. But this is likely the reason behind the reduced coupons. When 10+ people per day, at 7600+ stores every day are committing fraud, it ruins it for everyone. Millions of dollars are lost because of this behavior.
    4.) Buying your entire cart for $1 and then coming back next week and/or going down the street and returning it all without a receipt to get full value, off sale, on a money card that never expires (unlike your coupons) is not a new trick. Yes we know about it, yes it’s reported to loss prevention and corporate. Yes, people have gone to jail because of it.
    5.) Manufactures, NOT CVS, fund the extra bucks. They clearly did not see a return on their investments and have slowly stopped funding them. Just because it doesn’t say Procter and Gamble doesn’t mean they didn’t pay for it. CVS doesn’t bank roll coupons.
    6.) People were making their own coupons (yes, it can be done) and/or using illegal coupon site. No, Tide isn’t giving away 150oz bottles for free. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

    If any of this applies to you, YOU are the problem and a thief. If it doesn’t, you now have insight as to why you are not able to shop the right way. One bad apple ruins the bunch. If it doesn’t apply to you, great job being responsible! It made my job better! If it does apply to you, I’m not interested in excuses, reasons or justifications. I no longer work in the industry and you are the reason I hated dealing with couponers. We all enjoy saving money, but too many are no better than shoplifters. Good day!

    • I used to enjoy CVS until they started treating everyone with a coupon like a criminal. Our two CVS stores de-stock sale items on the shelves so there are only one or two on “buy two get three. They argue and embarrass even well heeled customers using CVS Extra Care Bucks.

      Fun Fact: When you sign up for Extra Care you give up HIPPA rights over your Rx info, so it’s traded and sold by CVS corporate to 3rd parties.

      A further fun fact, I have 5 regular Rx’es. With one, I had a run in with a salty pharmacist who, after 8 years of refilling w/autofill online decided my having my having an allergy spray *one day* before the Rx was due was unacceptable so returned all 5 Rx’es to stock. So, I weighed the games CVS plays with its customers along with the expense of my Rx’es. It turns out my invoices monthly to my insurance were over $1200. I pay the same copay, so never really noticed the itemized statements. I called a local pharmacy. Same Rx’es in BRAND NAME were less than $250 when billed to my insurance. AND they don’t sell my PRIVATE medical information.

      CVS isn’t hurting for money. CVS is a giant multi-million dollar corporation that is never held responsible for robbing its customers blind in Rx costs. People using coupons is an indicator of poverty. Perhaps if they weren’t price gouged on Rx’es they wouldn’t have to worry so much about penny pinching, watching the fliers, coupons, and sales.

      I moved my Rx’es and told the “manager” to get bent. I will never shop at CVS again. I’d rather see what bit of money my insurance kicks in going to a local business that respects its customers.

    • You are completely incorrect that selling coupons is theft or illegal. There are no laws broken – however, if a retailer (sales clerk) heard someone say, “Yeah, I bought 40 of these coupons from e-bay”, they are within their rights to refuse the coupons because it does VOID the terms of the coupon (per the manufacturer). However, if I choose to buy a Sunday paper and clip coupons and then give the rest to my neighbor, I too, have basically violated the terms of the manufacturer, but it’s not illegal. Believe me, I am a member of a large well-known refunding site and this has been endlessly debated and researched. If it was illegal, e-bay would not allow the sales – they HAVE revised their buying/selling policies because the manufacturers put pressure on them to do so. But trading and buying coupons is NOT illegal – there is no law on any books that says that.

      • Coupon informatin corporation says NO!

        Direct from their website FAQ:

        Can I buy coupons?
        No, there are good reasons not to purchase coupons. In addition to being in violation of the manufacturers’ policies, it simply does not make sense to pay for something that is given away for free.

        Coupons being sold on the Internet or by other means may be stolen property or counterfeit. Individuals attempting to use these coupons may be subject to prosecution

  17. I am sorry, I will look for better deals somewhere else. 🙁 I will try Walgreen’s out. I have been with Cvs for many years and my meds. Not sure about that any more.

  18. Maybe CVS should have kept the tobacco products instead of trying to do something good. CVS need sales and now with giving less coupons they will be losing more money. Doesn’t make sense to me. I used to shop there a lot when I was getting great coupons from the coupon box, but now all of the coupons are for stuff that I would not purchase. Only shop there if there is a good sale and I have manufacturer coupons or the occasional 25% off coupon. The prices are just too expensive for someone like me. Walgreens is no better for me, haven’t really shopped there because I have had problems using coupons, and their staff is clueless when it comes to them plus the manager basically made my coupons useless by filling in the prices and then telling me that I can’t use them. So both stores are off limits for me.

  19. I have complained about this for over a year now. I’ve emailed and called CVS to which they responded with a generic response over and over. They have “no idea” why I no longer receive the weekly email coupons. This year I’ve spent probably one fourth or LESS of the money at CVS than previous years. Yesterday I actually received a percent off coupon in the mail. But, the damage is done CVS. I now look for deals elsewhere for the most part. Here’s a thought for you…… what happened to JC Penney when they decided to no longer offer coupons?……

  20. Sounds similar to JCPenneys when their (former) CEO stated that they would not have coupons anymore and that customers had to be “re-trained.” I remember how well that went over – lol!! Well Cvs, I accept your challenge. I haven’t gotten a Thursday email or box coupon in almost a year and just yesterday I bought $60 worth of merch fo $7 OOP. Target is still my go-to place with store coupons, cartwheel and manufacturers coupons. Triple-dip baby!!

    • Lol …. I also remember JC Penneys doing away with the coupons. If they would have paid me a reasonable consultation fee, I would have gladly told them that not offering coupons would be a mistake and they would have saved themselves a lot of trouble. “Retrain” customers … hahaha …. what a laugh! Consumers are not stupid. Why do corporations seem to think that we are?

  21. Well CVS, you have been a trusted store within my family for generations ( from VA, MD, CT, DC) however over time the prices rose which they should due to the cost of living etc. But we still decided to stay loyal because of Ecbs, Coupons, and Sales which we considered a win win situation, but after reading this and noticing the self satisfying strategy on CVS end. I must say with tears your prices are beyond reach for those who rely on sales to survive in this slow growing economy and regretfully we will be moving to Walgreens. I guess all good things come to an end…

  22. I have had the same issues as others are writing about, no emails,no coupons. I will use up my extra bucks and be done. I did all coupon shopping there but, Walgreens is now offering better deals. Without coupons and percent off or dollar off emails CVS is too expensive. I will even pull all my prescriptions for me and my husband. CVS did their loyal customers wrong!

  23. So I wonder how much $ they brought in without all the sales??? I for sure won’t shop w/o my coupons, prices are far to crazy… Good luck cvs!! haha

  24. Same thing happened to me. I got three coupons & the lady behind me got a whole bunch of them. Makes no sense! I would thing CVS would want to keep their loyal customers. Not push them away to other stores. I’ve decided to head to Walgreens this week & more than likely the following weeks to come. Shame on you CVS.

  25. i only got 3 coupons from the red box this week s d the lady after me got at least 12!! I was kinda pissed!!

  26. I rarely shopped at CVS because I thought their prices to high. I started couponing and it lowered their prices, but now without the coupons, it is back to being to expensive.

  27. Here we come walgreens!

  28. They will still have my business if they bring on more organic, non-gmo food/supplement products. I have no choice. I have an autistic son who is allergic to so many things! Let’s see if they still offer me coupons (as a supreme couponer & organics buyer) if not, many other stores to make my “home purchasing store” to choose from. 🙂 I am so thankful for choices. 20 years ago, I didn’t have very many.

  29. I have gotten NO personalized MCM coupons in three weeks now. It’s been MONTHS since I have gotten a Thursday email. When I went in to cash out some ECBs that were expiring I spoke with my favorite manager about it. He and I have spoken about the no email coupons before, and I knew it was because my savings were too high. I told him they’d cut me off of MCM coupons now and he said that I must have savings too big, that a few customers had complained about it and that he had “unofficially” been told a slight percentage would have this happen.

    I told him to “officially” tell his upper management team that Walgreens had great deals, and they don’t discriminate.

  30. I have been shopping at CVS for years,hardly ever go to Walgreen’s but have changed my mind and have been shopping mor at Walgreen’s and getting better deals and rewards.it’s sad because my CVS is walking distance from my house but am willing to drive to Walgreen’s…. Bring back the good deals and coupons and incentives and I will come back!!

  31. I havent received any for three weeks and guess who hasnt shopped at cvs … i had ecb that was about to expire so went and bought enough to spend it .. im done with them prices are too high with out coupons ..

  32. we switched to Walgreens.

  33. At the end of 2012 or 2013, I received an email from CVS congratulating me for being in the top 6% of savers in the country. Since then, I have not received a single threshold coupon from them. Needless to say, I buy very little from them now. They obviously made the decision at that time that they did not want my business.

    “Exiting the tobacco category will cost us approximately $2 billion in revenues…..” Does this figure reflect only the loss in tobacco sales, or does it include the other items that customers picked up while they were there to make a tobacco purchase? CVS may have taken a much bigger hit than they anticipated.

  34. You can lose our business CVS. It’s your choice.

  35. Since they have started this non scence I have started finding better deals at Rite Aid and branching out . CVS use to be the only store I shopped at , bur Rite Aid, Walgreens, and other store will be giving them a run for their money.

  36. I have noticed a significant drop in emails coupons and I think it’s poor business when I seem to use CVS as my favorite couponing store. Guess I will go across the street and learn Walgreens policies.

  37. This isn’t a new policy. I noticed a while ago that I stopped getting good coupons on Extracare cards that I used regularly. I had one card that we never used and it got better coupons at the kiosk and via email. The secret is to switch to a new card every so often, but you need to cash out your Extracare Bucks from the first card in order to do so. Also a bit of a problem if you have the prescription reward program tied to that card.

    I do agree that It’s unfair.

    • It’s not brand new, and even CVS admits that, but it’s much more widespread in recent weeks than ever before (which CVS won’t admit).

      • One thing you might be interested in looking into is how CVS has 3 price “tier” stores. I always thought it was based on the type of neighborhood they’re in, but when I looked closer, it appeared to be based on how much competition they had from other drug stores in the neighborhood. My local store is the most expensive tier and we do not have WG or RA nearby. The cheapest store in the area has both nearby. The mid-priced store in my area had a RA nearby (it closed but I guess CVS never updated their category). Has anyone else noticed this? Sale prices are the same between stores but if you have a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale or the like, you’ll pay more at the higher priced store.

      • PS it’s not just based on CVS coupons that you use, it’s rolling Extracare Bucks (which of course are coupons). They want to reward people who spend real money in addition to just rolling the ECB into new deals (which of course used t be a lot easier than it is now).

  38. I live in the Chicago area & have noticed a huge drop in coupons from the red box too. Guess Walgreens will be my new coupon store if this continues!

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