Why do coupons say “do not double” on them?

When people start couponing, they often wonder why many coupons have “do not double” or “do not triple” written on them. The answer to this question is pretty simple and straightforward.

The initial reaction when people see “do not double” on coupons is that the manufacturers are trying to stop grocery stores for offering better deals to their customers. There must be some reason that manufacturers don't want the coupons doubled, but what is it? This initial assumption has little to do with the real reason that you see “do not double” on coupons.

The real reason that this is written on the coupons is for manufacturers to financially protect themselves when grocery stores do decide to double coupons. If you look at the fine print on most coupons, you will see that the the coupons says that the manufacturer will reimburse the grocery store for the face value of the coupon plus a small fee (usually 8 cents).

A problem occurred when grocery stores first began to double and triple coupons. The grocery stores wanted to be reimbursed the double amount while the manufacturers thought that they should only be reimbursed for the face value of the coupon. To make things perfectly clear to the grocery stores, manufacturers started printing “do not double” on coupons so that there was no question that they would only reimburse the face value of the coupon.

Grocery stores are still free to double and triple coupons, but if they decide to do this, the grocery store is responsible for the amount that they discount above the face value of the coupon and the 8 cents handling fee. When a grocery store doubles coupons, the store has decided that it will take a loss on the doubled portion of the coupon. Grocery stores in certain regions decide that it is worthwhile to double coupons to bring in customers (much like loss leaders) to give them an advantage in competitive shopping markets.

Will grocery stores double coupons even if they have “do not double” written on them?

In most cases, the answer is “yes” as long as that the coupon fits within the specific coupon policy of the store that is doubling it. When the coupon is scanned, it will automatically be doubled regardless if it says “do not double” because of the reasons listed above.

The two big exceptions are for coupons printed off the Internet and those which are found from the blinkie dispensers in the grocery store. These coupons usually have bar codes which begin with a 9, while the coupons you get from the Sunday paper start with a 5. If a coupon begins with a 9, it will not double in the store's register system. If the coupon begins with a 5, the grocery store's register system should automatically double the coupon even when “do not double” is printed on it.

There is also a specific reason why these exceptions exist. As explained, grocery store take a hit out of their own pocket each time they double a coupon. The coupons in the store are easily accessible to anyone shopping and get used much more often than those from the Sunday paper. If the store had to double these coupons and frequently take a financial hit each time they did due to their convenience, the store would likely decide that it didn't want those machines in their store. To ensure that the grocery stores allow this type of coupon advertising, they made them so they will not double.

This is all fine and dandy as long as the store register system is able to scan the coupon. If for some reason the systems refuses to scan a coupon, you are left to the interpretation of the person who happens to be working the cash register. The problem comes in that the person working the cash register sees “do not double” and thinks that is a message meant directly for them, not the store in general. Since they are the ones that will get in trouble if they give a discount where one is not appropriate, they will often error on the side of caution and refuse to double the coupon.

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