Does Target Discriminate Against Coupon Users?

When Carrie Heck of Edwardsville, IL walked into her local Target Store, she expected to use coupons as usual. Never did she dream she would end up being kicked out of the store simply because she was using coupons.

Manufacturers routinely promote the use of their products via coupons for cents of the purchase price. Some retailers, like Target, have taken it upon themselves to monitor and control coupon use within their own retail outlet. The result: discrimination.

Carrie’s encounter was anything but positive as she attempted to redeem four $1.00 off coupons on items that were marked at 97 cents at her local Target Store. The cashier informed her that she could not use the coupons because they were of a higher value than the product.

Carrie, who had been using coupons for 15 years, and who; in fact, had already obtained a coupon policy from Target’s corporate office, suggested the cashier price adjust the coupons and write in the actual cost of the product, a procedure that is performed in many retail stores each day.

It was at this point, that the security guard apparently felt lead to intervene and inform Carrie that she could not use her coupons. Carrie completed her purchase and left the store.

A few days later, she returned to Target with two copies of an email she already had on file at home from Target’s Corporate Office regarding coupons. One of the bulleted items addressed just this concern.

“We can’t give cash back if the face value of a coupon is greater than

the purchase value of the item; in that case, we’ll adjust the value of

the coupon to equal the price of the item. ” Glenn, Target Guest Relations (Corporate Office).

Upon return to Target, she was met with the same security guard from her prior visit. Carrie provided him with a copy of the email from Target’s Corporate Office.

“This time I had my policy with me and I handed it to the guard to read. I just said ‘I wanted you to have this for questions about coupons.’ He just took it, walked away and threw it directly in the trash in front of me.”

He returned with a woman whom Carrie assumes was the Manager.

When Carrie inquired as to if the manager had received the copy she had given to the security guard, she was told no. She then gave the second copy to the manager, who appeared to scan the page and inform Carrie that they did not follow that policy.

When asked for her full name, the assumed manager refused to provide that information. The two employees blocked the carts in a seeming attempt to prevent Carrie from shopping and asked her to leave the store. Carrie was told that the security guard would escort her out, if necessary.

Carrie left Target shaken and humiliated. What had begun as a simple excursion to Target to pick up a few items for her family had taken a nasty turn.

Carrie is left bewildered by the actions of these employees at Target. She clearly was not violating any of their policies, as outlined in the email from the corporate office. Her coupons were genuine. Her actions were appropriate. Yet, she was asked to leave the store.

Her companion, and witness, is bewildered, as well. “At no time did Carrie raise her voice to either of the Target employees. In fact, I believe she had a smile on her face the whole time,” says Shelly who accompanied Carrie on both occasions.

Carrie’s attempts to resolve the issue by contacting the Target Corporate Office, have been met with vague responses informing her that all managers do not have to follow corporate policy and that managers have the ability to limit purchases that they deem are more than a reasonable family amount.

Carrie fully understands that stores can limit what they consider a reasonable family amount, but doesn’t understand why 4 trial sizes of shaving cream would be seen as more than a reasonable family amount, or why that is now an issue when it was never mentioned with the first encounter and on the second encounter, she was not even allowed to shop.

Manufacturers reimburse retailers for the full price of the coupons and provide an additional handling fee. The cents off coupons do not decrease the retailer’s revenue, nor do they increase costs for other consumers.

“We are a hard-working, middle-class family who uses coupons to supplement our income and provide us with a little extra when possible. Stores and manufacturers are gracious enough to offer such a concept to consumers and we don’t abuse it, but rather use it strategically and wisely,” says Carrie Heck.

“Coupons take time and energy to plan their usage, so when a customer enters a store with coupons, there is probably a plan behind it. When the store doesn’t honor its policy, it wastes a tremendous amount of time and energy for its customers and makes very unhappy customers.”

“If stores don’t want to accept coupons, or be coupons and customer-friendly, then they shouldn’t accept coupons in the first place. They should just have it written out of their policy, rather than confuse and deceive consumers that they actually have such a program to help.” states a frustrated Carrie Heck. This is where you should always do your research before you download any of the coupons that are there on any website. It has been often observed that when you read gadget reviews, food reviews, or any other promotional reviews the promo codes and coupons that you get there are easily accepted by most of the stores. 

Kris is our in-house writer with a lot of experience under her belt. She loves to provide her insight about the market trends and her predictions about market trends are often on point.