Sunday, May 1, 2011

UPDATE: I spoke with both CVS corporate offices and the district manager that oversees this location.  I was politely informed by both that the ability to use 2 buy 1 get 1 free coupons has indeed ended. Both were sincerely apologetic of the situation I encountered this past weekend and assured me things were going to be addressed. Let's all hope it is for the best! I am still uncertain of whether I will visit this location again.

I am a frugal shopper, I say it loud and I say it proud! Between my boyfriend and I, we have 7 kids, 3 fish, 2 cats and a frog. We also have a house payment, utility bills, sports fees and the other assorted costs of living. For me, being frugal isn't a choice-it is a way of life. I comparison shop. I sign-up for freebies. I clip coupons. Did I just say I "clip coupons"? What I should have said is that I horde coupons. I am well known among family and friends as the go-to person for a great bargain, elusive coupon or a store's coupon policy. I have a large black binder that I refer to as "My Bible". Within its black vinyl cover lies my money saving treasure-100 pages of baseball card sheets filled with money saving goodness. It also houses my shopper cards, recent ads, rebates, and the coupon policies for the stores I frequent. My boyfriend now consults with me before he makes even the quickest trip to the store, "Honey, do we have a coupon for that?". My kids have been threatened within an inch of their lives if they ever disturb this book or its contents. Why go to such extremes? As I said before, we have 7 kids, 3 fish, 2 cats and a frog. If your house was overflowing, you would want to save as many hard earned pennies as possible, too.

Growing up, I loved watching reruns of The Brady Bunch. As a kid, it was my favorite show. Amazingly enough, I actually learned some valuable lessons from all of that good old, wholesome 70's cheesiness. The one lesson I took to heart was "Caveat Emptor". In an episode from season 3, Greg purchases a car from a friend of his. Mike being the all knowing father he is, teaches Greg about the Latin phrase caveat emptor, which means let the buyer beware. (You can view the episode on Youtube) While this particular episode revolves around a buying a car, it applies to every day living in the real world. As consumers, we must take precautions to protect ourselves whenever we make a purchase. What does all of this have to do with being a frugal shopper? Well, let me tell you!

Last Sunday, I visited the CVS location here in town with the intentions of using several buy 1 get 1 free coupons I had accumulated. Their long standing coupon policy has always been to accept 2 of these coupons as long as 2 items are purchased. In fact, I have a printed copy of their policy which explicitly states,

"two manufacturer coupons can be used on a buy one get one free purchase as long as two items are scanned at the register. The system logic sees two items scanned and will allow two coupons" 

To me, this policy seems pretty self explanatory, but for several staff members at this location, it is as clear as mud. Last Sunday, I had 4 such coupons for Axe bodywash that expired at midnight. It was a use it or lose it situation, but when I went to checkout I was told I had not purchased enough bodywash for them to honor the coupon. I was told I would have to purchase 4 bottles to get 4 free. Normally, I carry my coupon binder with me whenever I head out, but I didn't want to bring it out for such a quick trip. I tried explaining to the cashiers was there corporate policy was and I was met with looks of confusion. One lady even told me "But that's like us giving away our merchandise". Yes, it is, but that is the policy put forth by their corporate offices. Another cashier asked when i had received my coupon policy from their corporate offices. I told her it was last summer and she informed me that "Well, corporate changed the policy sometime in the last 30 days". I was immediately suspicious and vowed to call the customer service line for further clarification. (To view the copy of the CVS coupon policy I have, please click on the image to the left, it will open in another window).

Early Monday afternoon, I called and spoke with a customer service representative for CVS and was told there they had only been one change to their coupon policy and it was regarding the use of cell phone coupons. The company had once allowed the redemption of coupons downloaded to shoppers' cell phones, but they have since ended that practice. She assured me that using 2 buy 1 get 1 coupons was indeed still a company policy. She apologized for the confusion and told me that the manager would be in contact with me. She said was very sorry that I lost out on over $20 worth of products and was misled by the cashier who told me of the alleged policy change. I felt confident I would not have any more problems at this store. I was wrong.

Last night, I went to redeem a set of 2 similar coupons and was once again met with resistance. Since I had been unable to reach the store manager during the week, I decided to see if he was there and discuss the issue with him face to face. I calmly explained the situation to him and even produced the printed copy of their corporate coupon policy for the cashier and he to read. Neither the manager nor the cashier would read the email so I read it aloud to them several times and they continued to argue with me over the policy. The manager even once stated "Well, that's not MY policy". He told me it was his policy to allow a buy 1 get 1 free coupon to be used if paired with a buy 1 get 1 free sale so both items are free, but he said he would not honor the 2 coupon policy as stated by their corporate offices. After much arguing, he allowed me to use the 2 coupons I had last night and I was told that going further no such allowances would be made.

I walked away from CVS with my 2 bottles of bodywash and a very bad taste in my mouth. In this day of "extreme couponing", I am very well aware of the lengths some frugal shoppers go to save a buck. Just as it isn't ethical to engage in illegal activities to make money, it is unethical to engage in such activities to save money. Last night, I was made to feel like a criminal for trying to shop intelligently and within the guidelines set forth by the company. I will be calling the CVS customer service line again tomorrow when it opens and I will once again be asking for further clarification on their coupon acceptance policies. What I will not be doing is ever patronizing this location again. It was demonstrated to me last night that customer service is not a priority at this location.

In the retail world, not all companies are created equal. Not even all store locations and managers are created equal. The goal of this posting isn't just to criticize. As a consumer and a business person, I implore those of you working in customer service to put the customer back where they belong-front and center. If you know what your policies are, please teach them to your co-workers. If you do not know them, make an effort to learn them. It will not only make your job easier, it will make your customers happy. Happy customers are repeat customers and that means a healthier bottom line. If you don't want to do your job, kindly step aside and let someone else have the opportunity. You may not take pride in your work, but someone else certainly will! If you are a consumer, educate yourself to the best of your ability. Many company websites will make their policies public knowledge. If you can't find what you are looking for, send them a quick email and ask for clarification. If you anticipate a problem when heading out to a store, print off a copy of their policies to have on hand. Never ask an employee to do something that violates these terms, but do stand your ground if you know you are in the right. Take the time to learn the names of those serving you and those you serve-they are human beings, the same as you and me. Say please and thank you. Common courtesy and respect go a long way from either side of the counter. I grew up in an era where customer service was of the utmost importance. Today's society has created an atmosphere of quantity or quality. Let's all work together reverse this trend.

--Aimee Thomes Plesa

The Springboro Voice
Springboro, Ohio 45066
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  1. Thanks AImee for all the hard work you have put into this issue. Since I was a witness to our successful trip to that CVS less than two weeks ago! Keep it up!

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