It’s been a month now since Target rolled out a new coupon policy aimed at thwarting counterfeits. How’s it going so far? It seems to depend on whom you ask.

When it comes to accomplishing what the policy is supposed to accomplish – preventing the use of counterfeit coupons – Target says it’s been a resounding success. When it comes to ensuring that honest couponers aren’t inconvenienced, Target says it has procedures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen.

But when it comes to how well those procedures have been put into practice, many Target shoppers appear confused, upset and unconvinced that the employees at their local Target are as well-trained on the new policy as they should be. Over the past several weeks, a number of Target shoppers have gone online, and to the retailer’s social media pages, to ask why so many of their coupons don’t seem to work anymore.

“Target, my coupons are no good anymore?? I promise I’m not a Coupon Queen scamming the system,” one shopper wrote to Target on Twitter. “Does Target no longer accept manufacturers coupons?” another Twitter user asked. “I went specifically for a product that I always buy at Target… when I scanned the coupon, the scanner said that Target wouldn’t accept it. If I’d known, I never would have walked in today.”


Coupon influencers are weighing in, too. “Literally none of my coupons would work at all… I voided my transaction and left,” one YouTuber told followers recently. Employees “acted like I was annoying for using coupons. That made me mad. Never had that at Target before.” “I think Target is the worst now,” another YouTuber said bluntly. “This is a hot mess.”

It’s not supposed to be this way. Last month, Target adjusted its registers so only coupons validated against a master file of known, legitimate coupons would be automatically accepted. That means counterfeit coupons – which by definition are not on any list of legitimate offers – are automatically rejected at the checkout.

The problem is that not all known, legitimate coupons are on that master file yet. Manufacturers must participate in the master file program and submit their coupons, otherwise their perfectly legitimate coupons will be rejected. And shoppers using those coupons will be left wondering why.

Target says coupons rejected by the point-of-sale system will be manually reviewed and accepted if they look legit. “Our checkout team is empowered to address the needs of individual guests while also adhering to our coupon policy,” a Target spokesperson told Coupons in the News. “When a coupon is denied by POS, we have trained and empowered our team to put the guest first by manually adjusting the price and collecting the coupon.”

But many shoppers say that’s not happening in their stores. Some self-checkout users, in particular, are unsure what to do when they scan a coupon and get an error message. The message doesn’t notify an employee to offer assistance – it just says the coupon can’t be accepted.

Even in staffed lanes, there are problems. “The cashier told me they just couldn’t accept the coupon. They didn’t know why it wouldn’t work, but because it wouldn’t scan, they can’t accept it. I ended up not buying the items,” a Twitter user told Target. “The cashier refused to apply the coupons manually and honestly acted like she had no idea about this new policy at all,” a Coupons in the News commenter wrote. “So Target’s statement that employees will work with the customers to adjust the price for valid coupons after inspecting them is not what’s actually happening.” One frustrated Twitter commenter told Target it “seems like your actual policy is: ‘We may or may not redeem your coupons – you’ll just have to wait and see when you check out.'”

Of course, when you consider online comments, complaints always come across louder than compliments. But even some Target employees weighing in online have complaints, claiming their stores are not following the corporate office’s instructions. “My leads told me not to accept any coupons anymore because of the policy change, even though they are real,” one participant wrote on a message board for Target employees. “It’s confusing because I have to just tell the customers that our policy updated and can’t say why.”

One manufacturer even went so far as to suggest that coupon-using customers at Target shop somewhere else instead. In response to a Twitter user whose Lysol coupon was recently rejected at Target, Lysol’s social media team said, “We’re sorry to hear that. Please try using the coupon at Walgreens or Walmart.” And Lysol manufacturer Reckitt says it is actually a part of Target’s positive offer file program.

Target says things will get better as more manufacturers get on board. After manually accepting a coupon not in the positive offer file, “the team member should ask a leader to review the transaction and share with HQ so we can connect with our industry partners to include additional coupons in the master file,” Target’s spokesperson said. In other words, Target can tell nonparticipating manufacturers, “hey, your coupons are getting rejected and it’s inconveniencing your customers – maybe you’d like to participate in our positive offer file so this won’t happen anymore.” Until then, though, there may continue to be some bumps in the road.

“The majority of our partners understand the value of this proven solution and have been extremely receptive to joining because they know it’s in the best interest of all parties, including the consumer,” Target explained. “For partners rethinking their position, we are confident that results and progress will help build interest and confidence in joining the cause.”

Counterfeit coupons affect everyone. The more fake coupons that retailers accept, the fewer real coupons manufacturers are likely to issue. So stopping them right at the register is a worthy goal. But with hundreds of manufacturers issuing coupons, thousands of Target stores across the country, and hundreds of thousands of employees to train on the new policy, it’s apparently going to take more than just a month to have everything running smoothly.

So if your coupon is rejected at a Target register, try to remember it’s ultimately for the best. Even though it may not feel that way just yet.

Image source: Target

One Comment

  1. Hi and Mighty Target needs to remember where they started. They can be replaced very easily. I can spend my money elsewhere and use my coupons without any issues at check out.

    Reality check.

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