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Coupon Mom Answers: Can you get cash back from coupons?

by Stephanie Nelson

Question: This week CVS Pharmacy has the Contour Blood Glucose Monitoring machine on sale for $9.99. I have a manufacturers coupon for $30.00. I tried to purchase the item from the retailer and use my coupon but was told that I couldn't get the face value of the coupon. The retailer stated that they could only give me the item free. It is my understanding that the manufacturer will reimburse the retailer the full face value of the coupon with an additional .08 cents. I have had several retailers deny to give me the full face value of the manufacturers coupon when the item is less than the coupon. Is this legal? What actions can I take as a consumer when a retailer denies me the right to use a manufacturers' coupon?

Coupon Mom Answers: You pose a very interesting question that I have never been asked before! However, I see your situation a little differently than you do. From what you describe here, it does not sound like the retailer denied your right to use the coupon. It sounds like they were willing to let you use the coupon, simply redeeming it up to the product's cost. Most stores have a similar policy. The only stores I am aware of that take off the full coupon value, regardless of the product's price, are stores that haven't adjusted their software systems to restrict the coupon redemption to a maximum of the product's price. It sounds like you have found that to be true as well, since you say that "several retailers" have not redeemed the coupon's full value in similar situations.

However, I would encourage you to look at the situation from a broader perspective. Using that coupon enables you to get a $30 product at no cost. Even if it is on sale for $9.99, it is still valued at $30. Paying nothing for any product is a good deal, but paying nothing for a $30 product is a great deal. It did cost the manufacturer money to produce the product, it cost the retailer money to stock and distribute it, and it even cost the manufacturer money to place the advertising for the coupon you have. There is still a cost to other parties for that $30 product even if you get it free. We certainly cannot expect retailers or manufacturers to pay consumers cash out of their pocket in addition to incurring the financial loss of giving us coupons to get free products.

Stephanie Nelson has shared her savings tips on ABC News' Good Morning America, Good Housekeeping Magazine and hundreds of local radio and TV stations. You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at Copyright 2007 Stephanie Nelson.