October 20, 2010

Tip of the day—Your coupon ally, the cashier

Yesterday I posted about using store loyalty coupons, and at the end of the post I mentioned ways to make the checkout go a bit smoother.  Today I want to reinforce how your cashier can be your ally in couponing.  I find this especially true when I’m shopping at our local Walgreens.  I have a favorite Wags in our neighborhood, and I know most of the cashiers by name there.  I make a point to go to the cosmetics counter whenever shopping for a few reasons:

  1. The cashiers in those sections tend to have less turnover. They know me and I know them.  Even after a few months hiatus of drugstore shopping, they remembered me and it was nice to see a friendly, familiar face when shopping.
  2. The cashiers in the cosmetics counters at Walgreens get a little commission on their sales.  This makes them even happier to help you. 
  3. They sometimes have coupons that aren’t available elsewhere.  Remember my motto, “It never hurts to ask.” 
  4. The lines are shorter.  When you are doing multiple transactions, it is polite to let other customers go in between your transactions.  When doing so at the cosmetics counter, it rarely is an issue unless you are shopping at an especially busy store or time of day. 

Cashiers can make or break your shopping trip, no matter where you are shopping.  I’ve had some cashiers be so rude to me that I have left a store without making a purchase.  I’ve heard horror stories from other bloggers about experiences where not just the cashiers but the store managers have been over the top rude about someone using coupons.  On the other extreme, I’ve had some cashiers who were so amazing that I’ve called their managers, regional managers, and national customer service lines to commend them on the hard work and a job well done. 

Here are a few general tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Like I said in yesterday’s post, be polite, prepared, and pleasant.  See those tips from yesterday for more details.
  • Have the store coupon policy handy in case you run into any problems.
  • If you are new to couponing, tell the cashier.  I’ve found that when I do this I can gauge how helpful the cashier will be by his/her reaction.  When I was first learning to shop at CVS, a store clerk there made my first trip outstanding because of how patient and helpful he was.  He guided me on what to use in each transaction and how to work the deals. 
  • As part of gauging a cashier’s reaction, if you frequent stores, you’ll learn which cashiers are the most helpful with coupons.  Some can be just plain ugly about it.  Other cashiers are awesome.  I find that some are even excited when I come to their aisle because they learn about the freebies and coupons available through helping me with my transaction.  If I have a choice, I try to pick the aisles of the cashiers I know will be most helpful.  In a perfect world it shouldn’t matter, but anyone who has used coupons for any amount of time knows that some people have strong biases about couponers.
  • Have some integrity.  If in doubt, I ask the cashier about a coupon.  For example, Kroger recently changed their coupon policy to not allow the paper and e-coupons together.  They still don’t have all of the kinks worked out with that, and in my last shopping trip, it let me use them both together.  I asked the cashier about it when I realized what had happened, and he was fine with it.  When I shop I’m not just representing myself, I also shop for our church food pantry.  I want to make sure I use coupons in an ethical manner and treat people respectfully.  You never know who is watching you.  I’ve had off days and snapped at people and I’m sure I’ve made mistakes with coupons at times.  However, when I know I’ve done wrong, I try to amend the situation or apologize if necessary.
  • If you’ve been treated poorly, address it with management or the store owner if necessary.  They won’t be able to fix the problem unless they are aware of it.  In many cases, though, you can use humor or a gentle redirection to address the issue with the cashier directly.   “Sounds like you are having a tough day.”  If treated well, definitely commend the cashier, tell the manager, and call the regional manager.  Positive feedback does much more to guide a behavior than criticism.
  • Realize it may not be about you.  There is a store in our area that is one of my faves for deals.  I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how the store personnel often have an air about them, though, as if they are cooler than anyone else around.  I’m still not at the point in maturity where I can say that I don’t really care what other people think about me, and when I first started shopping there, I was a little self conscious.  As I’ve shopped there longer, I realize that it isn’t really about me.   They could care less about how I dress, act, or what I buy.  My assumption is that they are much more worried about how they look to the world and are concerned about what others think of them.  This isn’t to say that they don’t give me good customer service.  As I’ve grown to know many of them, I realize that they are very helpful, know their stuff, and are happy to help me with any coupon deals.  They appreciate my patronage to the store and want to help me in any way they can.  Another example to illustrate this point is when a cashier acts ugly towards you.  You never know what is going on in that person’s life.  The customer three transactions in front of you could have been mean, their feet could be hurting, a loved one could be in the hospital—you never know what battles they might be facing in their lives.  Reacting with kindness is a choice, and it is one that I’ve found makes an impression.  Remember you draw more flies with honey than vinegar.

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