Monday, April 5, 2010

Spending Store Rewards

"Store Rewards" or "Catalina's" are the coupon look alike's that print from a little box beside the cash register at several major chain stores (like Meijer, Kroger and Walgreens just to name a few).

I place a lot of purpose behind my purchasing to maximize my savings and to minimize my out of pocket costs. Each week I purposefully search the weekly sales flyers for items or scenarios that will offer money back for me to spend on my next transaction. Often times, my next transaction immediately follows my first purchase, but sometimes I like to strategically plan to purchase items that are essential to running our home (like meat, trash bags and produce!).

About a year and a half ago I heard rumors in the blog-o-sphere that savvier consumers than I, were spending store rewards at stores other than were boldly stated on the reward. For example, these savvier consumers were spending Register Rewards from Walgreens at Meijer... WHAT?

At first, I was kind of stupefied by this practice... how did that work? My coupons BOLDLY stated that they were "redeemable at Walgreens!" Was that legal? I decided to call Catalina Marketing (the makers of the coupon printing boxes) to find out the truth.

I had a long chat with a woman in the legal department (I skip to the higher-ups instead of talking with the customer service reps when at all possible) and she informed me that IF a store reward stated that it was a Manufacturer's coupon (NOT a "Store Coupon"), that it was allowed to be accepted at any store that allows coupons to be redeemed, but that the store was NOT obligated to accept a coupon with another store's advertising logo on it! Huh? The "Redeemable at Walgreens" statement was just an advertising logo?

From that point on, I began looking for store locations that would accept ANY store's reward coupons! At first, after I had been declined being able to spend my store rewards at my local Meijer store, I decided to comb my local shopping radius to find another local-ish Meijer that would accept them... and with a 5 minute longer drive, I did find one!

Finally, after about a year of driving out of my way when I had a wad of store rewards to spend, MY typically shopped store began to accept the rewards! YAY! It was awesome!

BUT... today, I went to my local stomping ground and I was informed that they no longer will accept store rewards with other store's advertising on them... WHAT? My cashier told me that a memo had just come out!

I tried to get as much information about the situation as I could from my cashier, and I asked to speak with a manager. Here is how I have handled myself in this situation:

1. Never try to pull a fast one! Yes, you might get away with doing something that you are not supposed to do, but it will always be at someone else's expense. Cashiers can get in trouble for accepting store rewards when they have been told NOT to! Instead, seek out a store manager and ask what you are and are not allowed to spend in his/her store.

2. Explain your situation. Kindly! Be sure to keep your thoughts short, sweet and to the point. Let the manager know what you like and what you don't like:

a. I like shopping at your store, its convenient, friendly, offers great sales.

b. I don't like that other stores accept store rewards and you don't accept them!

c. I like keeping local money local and shopping in my own neighborhood.

d. I'd hate to have to take my business to another store, but I need to care for my family the most inexpensive ways possible, especially with Michigan's tough economy!

3. Point out the bonuses for the store. By accepting store rewards, you are building a base of loyal shoppers, moving items off of your store shelves and into grocery bags and earning $.08 per coupon/store reward spent.

4. If all else fails, kindly ask if the manager would allow you to spend your store rewards that you have with you that day.

Today, after my local store claimed that they were revoking the right to spend store rewards with other store logos on them, I began asking questions. After making my purchases, I spoke with a store manager who offered me $3 cash since I wasn't allowed to spend a $3 Kroger store reward (plus I got to keep the reward) and when she returned she also gave me a $10 hand written "catalina" because she felt badly about the change in policy.

In between when the manager went to the customer service desk to compensate me for the policy change, I saw another (higher-up, in a suit) manager, and I spoke with him as well. He told me that he saw NO problem with me spending other logo'd store rewards since they are indeed Manufacturer coupons, and that he would look into the situation further. I was given his permission to continue spending whatever store rewards I pleased in his store.

The best advice I can share is to know what you want and ask for it! And keep asking (or looking for another store) until you get a satisfactory answer. In most cases, it is lack of being properly educated, on the use of spending coupons (by the store employee) that earns you the answer "NO!" Be a (gracious) educator and you may just get what you are looking for!


Staying Lean

Beautifully written!


I agree! Great post Laura!


Thank you for posting this update.....

I have seen previous posts of yours on this topic, but had not tried to do this myself.

Personally, I am not a fan of attempting something in a store that should work, but might not....this is not a statement against you or other bloggers, just a personal line in the sand.


Thank you. I hope this 'change' is not chain-wide. I just began using these RR at Meijer's because I'd rather use them there than where I received them. It's a better deal, and we like Meijer's a lot overall.


What I don't understand is, why would they all of a sudden change the policy if, as the Catalina company says, they are being reimbursed (and given a handling fee!) by the company? Seems to me this would be an ideal situation for the stores in question...they get reimbursed, they get the handling fee, and they get a shopper to spend money at their store using a coupon that directly advertises a competitor?

Playing devil's advocate, though, is it at all possible that the store changed the policy because they WEREN'T being reimbursed? Or that the procedure to get competitor Catalina's reimbursed is too big a hassle for the stores in question?

Laura Webber

I'm not sure of the exact reason, but I often find that one loud/cranky manager usually gets their way- regardless of what corporate policy is... Target is notorious for this!


would you be willing to share what store still takes them? I am afraid to try this and I don't feel comfortable talking to managers. My time is so short i just prefer to go in and out. I am glad you posted this. I was confused when you said you use them this way. now I understand.

Laura Webber

I've personally spent them in Livonia, Brighton, Wixom and Walled Lake! My favorite store to shop is Livonia!


Livonia at 96 and Middlebelt? Thanks again for the help.

Laura Webber

Yep, that's MY store (but I share!).