Rainchecks and Shopping Estimates
I read your article about rainchecks and I have a question. You wrote, ‘While law requires stores to issue rainchecks when an advertised sale item is unavailable, the law does not require them to accept coupons on raincheck items.’
If law requires stores to issue rainchecks when an advertised sale item is unavailable, why are some stores allowed to say ’No rainchecks’ in their ads on some of their sale items? I have run into this issue quite a few times.”
Great question! The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Unavailability Rule is intended to protect consumers by requiring stores to stock a reasonable quantity of products being advertised. The FTC specifically addresses grocery stores and stores that stock food: If a store runs out of an advertised food item and the store refuses to substitute another product or offer a raincheck, it is in violation of the FTC act. If someone were to file a complaint, the store would need to show that it ordered enough of the advertised product to meet anticipated demand or it could be charged with a violation.
However, if a store is selling quantity-limited items during a sale, whether it’s a seasonal promotion, holiday sale or clearance, the store can advertise these products with a notice such as “Quantities limited: No rainchecks.” This disclaimer protects the store from potential FTC violations if it runs out of quantity-limited items. However, it also means you may not find the item in stock once you get to the store. Plus, if your local store does happen to be out of the product, you won’t be able to get a raincheck.
Tip: If you shop at a store that has a price-matching policy, take your quantities-limited store advertisement to the price-matching store. You may find those products in stock there, and you’ll get the same post-sale price.
How do you know how much of something to buy? You say to buy about 3 months’ worth of nonperishables, but how does someone know exactly how much that is? I feel like when a good sale comes, I am overbuying in a big way and would like to slow down a little. I get four newspapers and feel like I should use all four coupons when I shop, so I am always getting four of everything. If it is a coupon for $1 off two items, then I am buying eight with all four coupons.”
Everyone’s household is different depending on how many people are living together and sharing food, personal care and cleaning supplies. Because sales cycles repeat about every 12 weeks, I try to buy enough of an item to last our family until the next dip in price comes around.
An easy way to learn how long a product lasts in your household is to write the date you opened it on the bottom of the product. Once it’s empty, look at the package, and you’ll know how long it lasted. For example, a liquid hand soap pump lasts about a month in our shared bathroom. If the pumps (or liquid soap refills) go on sale, I’ll want to buy three months’ worth – for my family, that’s three pumps.
That said, there are exceptions to nearly every rule. Toothpaste is an example of an item that is often free with coupons. I will pick it up whenever it’s free, because it has a long expiration date and it can sit in our pantry until it’s needed. I’m also never afraid to stock up on paper products like bath and facial tissue or paper towels. I don’t even store these items in the house – they sit on a shelf in the garage.
I understand not wanting to waste coupons, but it may help you to know that I don’t use every single coupon. I keep a reasonable supply of the things we need on hand, but I try not to go overboard.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.