Coupon CAUTION at Dollar General

I typed this up over a year ago while I was trying to figure out why the coupons were not working at Dollar General. At first, it seemed random, some worked, others didn’t. It was very confusing. After some unfortunate trial-and-error, in which I was the one that lost money, I was able to figure out why the coupons scan differently at different places. Once I had this figured out, I was VERY spooked about using coupons AT ALL at Dollar General. Or, if I did, I would just run in for one or two things so I could watch it like a hawk while they were ringing up. I no longer buy 10 things, or even 3 things, at one time at Dollar General. Of course, that’s very inconvenient, so I limit my trips there and just concentrate on the stores that are better about coupons.

Like I said when I met with the group in person, everything you choose is a balance between time and money. When I do my Price Trackers, sometimes I find a price is lower at Dollar General. One thing to keep in mind, they do not take competitors coupons, and they do not double manufacturer’s coupons. So once I factor that in, my Dollar General list will usually dwindle from about 20 items down to less than 5, sometimes zero. As it turns out, I don’t have much of a need to go there anyway.

I had found that a lot of times on convenience food (snacks, quick fix stuff, cereal, etc.) the everyday price was lower than the everyday price at the grocery stores. If something wasn’t on sale at the grocery stores, and I needed it, I could use a non-doubled manufacturer’s coupon and get it at Dollar General. This was happening a lot while my son has been in college. Main reason is, he does not have room to stockpile at his dorm/apartment, and he’s not much interested in chef-style cooking, so he just likes easily packaged stuff, things he can grab and put in his backpack (granola bars, fruit roll-ups, juice boxes), so I always tried to stock him with convenience food to keep him from wasting money at the drive-through fast food stops. That’s where this analysis (below) came from. I had typed up this analysis over a year ago, so I do not know the status of the software/hardware issues with the registers and the coupons at all our local stores, but I just had so many bad experiences that it scarred my thinking and I haven’t gotten over it yet.

So, here’s what I found …

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There are many DG’s in my town, they are in every plaza, and most are very small with little selection. There are two large ones a little further away with better selection. Anyway, on “Super Saturday” with the printable Dollar General $5/$25 coupons, I had several, so I decided to go to several Dollar Generals and get stocked up on things I always use. Also, my son lives about an hour away and doesn’t have much money, so if I see things he likes that keep well and are low priced/cheap with coupon, I pick up extras and save them for him. So Saturday will be great for stocking up. This is what I learned:

1. There are “new”, “old”, and “new” registers. Manager opinion and cashier training varies, but we’re all used to that.
2. The “old” cash registers will only take the coupon if it is scanned RIGHT AFTER the product the coupon applies to. If the cashier waits until the end of the transaction, and tries to scan all the coupons, it will not allow a single one. The cashier will have to go through a lengthy process of voiding items, re-scanning them, then scanning the appropriate coupon. With that in mind, the “old” registers will only take the $5/25 AFTER everything is scanned, including coupons. I learned only one store in town still has this “old” register. I won’t go back. WHAT A PAIN.
3. The “new” registers (honestly I don’t work for DG so I have no idea if the registers really are new, or if it is a matter of software updating, some sort of setting, or just the way the managers handle things, I really don’t know, this is just what I learned as an outsider) will automatically match coupons to products scanned, at any point in the process. The cashier can scan all the product, then scan the $5/25, then scan each coupon and they will all match up to the products. I learned the small stores that are all near my house have this “new” register. BUT …. BUT … BUT … it makes mistakes based on the bar code!!! It took some time to figure this out. I lost $2.50 this way. Here’s what happened – they had Hamburger Helper for $1 each, and I have a MFG Q for 75c/3. I got three. They had Starburst for 65c each, and Skittles for 50c each, and I had MFG Q for 50c/2 Starburst or Skittles, so I had two coupons. They had Trix cereal for $2, I had a coupon for cereal (Trix was specifically one of the ones listed and it had a picture of Trix on the coupon) from a blinkie for 75c/1. They had Fruit Roll Ups and Fruit Gushers (Betty Crocker) for $2 each, I had 2 MFG Q for 50c/2. They had Chex Mix for $1 each, I had coupon for 50c/2. My son likes all of the above. So here is what I bought, in this order:
Fruit Roll-up
Fruit Roll-up
Fruit Gushers
Fruit Gushers
Trix Cereal
Starburst
Starburst
Skittles
Skittles
Hamburger Helper
Hamburger Helper
Hamburger Helper
Chex Mix
Chex Mix

(There were other things I bought, and other coupons, that put me over the $25, but I’m not including them here so I can show this example, because the other coupons worked.)

At the end of the transaction she scanned all the coupons. Some she had to turn her key and hit a button and type things in, some beeped, there was LOTS of back and forth and picking them up and putting them down and I couldn’t keep track of which ones she had and which ones she didn’t. At the end, the total was different from my calculations, but there were people waiting behind me, so I paid quickly and left, and decided I’d figure it out later.

Here’s what the register discounted:
Fruit Roll-up
*Coupon -0.75
Fruit Roll-up
Fruit Gushers
Fruit Gushers
Trix
Starburst
Starburst
Skittles
Skittles
Hamburger Helper
Hamburger helper
Hamburger Helper
Chex Mix
Chex Mix
*Coupon 0.75 off

The other transactions on the register tape would show the right coupon matched to the right product (they were different amounts and all with quantities of 1). My 50c coupons did not go through on any of them, and she didn’t give them back to me! With all the beeping and scanning and trying again and picking them up and putting them down and re-stacking them and picking them up again, I lost track of which ones she used and which ones she didn’t. The nearest thing I can figure happened is it matched in order, by bar code, in the order she scanned, with the closest match in the list. Or I don’t know what. If I can find time I’ll go back and get this straightened out, because right now the store has five of my coupons that I didn’t benefit from and that they’ll get reimbursed for. But I am told that …

4. The “very new” registers are compatible with the new bar coding and this won’t happen. None of the stores in my area have this yet. We’ll see.

Anyway just wanted to pass on this word of caution. Good luck out there!

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If the bar code thing is confusing, check the bar codes on products you buy and you’ll see what I mean. Ones that are by a certain manufacturer – like Proctor & Gamble, Kraft, Unilever … on the bar codes, the first group of numbers is the same on all their products. The group of numbers on the right-hand side is what identifies the product itself specifically. So, if you have a General Mills coupon, and you are buying any three General Mills products (Chex mix, Cheerios, Fruit Roll-Ups) the cash registers might identify the coupon to the family and not the individual product.

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