Coupon Policies Are Not Always Enforced

Have you ever looked at store coupons and seen rules and stipulations a mile long, and said “Forget it” to the whole thing?

Not so fast!

At least if you’re shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

We’ve had a couple instances of very good luck using coupons that, according to the rules on various coupons, shouldn’t have worked.

Two Bikes

Last year, my wife was in the market for a new bike.  I think this was prompted by the fact that my sister-in-law had just got a new bike, and while usable, the aqua green 10-speed from the 1990’s just wasn’t alluring.  We do quite a bit of bike riding during camping trips, so she used birthday money to get her bike.

My sister-in-law actually came up with the suggestion to try to use our Entertainment Book coupon, where Dick’s has a few entries.  I looked at the coupon and it had some brand exclusions, one of which was the bike my wife wanted.  I asked my sister-in-law and she said that they took hers without a problem, even though she bought a bike from the same manufacturer.

Sure enough, when I went to the store to pick up the bike, they took it without so much as a second glance.

We saved $15!

Two Canopies

Last year when we had my daughter’s first birthday party, we borrowed a couple of 10×10 canopies from my aunt and uncle.  They worked great.  So much that we thought it would be a good investment to buy a couple for ourselves.  We knew we’d have parties and gatherings at various points, plus we also figured it’d be good to take one on camping trips, as it could be good to add covered space in addition to the awning on the camper.

They typically retail for $100, but we saw one for $80 and were thinking about getting at least one.

Then, my wife hit the jackpot.  There was a coupon in the Sunday insert that allowed you to buy one for $50.  That’s half off!  We asked my parents for their coupon, and went in with the age old strategy of deciding to buy one each, since the coupon clearly stated ‘One per customer’.

Then, I remembered what store I was working with.  I looked in this year’s Entertainment Book and saw that they had two coupons that we might be able to work with.  One was $10 off $50 and the other was $20 off $100.

I looked at the coupon and it also said ‘Cannot be combined with other offers’ but what harm did it hurt to try, right?

We took all the coupons with us, and walked up to the register.  Our first option was to use the $20 off $100 coupon, so I asked if we could put both on the same order and use two coupons.

“Let me check,” the cashier said.  She scanned both items in, scanned one of the coupons…and both of the items immediately went to $50.  So, they don’t even program their computers to match the written policy.

We then asked if we could use the coupon from the Entertainment book.  She looked at it, scanned it, entered the value, and we got an extra $20 off.

All told, with tax, we paid slightly over $84 for two canopies.

Earlier in the week, we had been prepared to go get one for a sale price of $80.

So, even with what we were prepared to pay, we got two for the price of one!

Just goes to show that the fine print which is written on coupon policies might not always be enforced, so next time you think about tossing that coupon, think about giving it a shot.  You might be surprised.

Readers, have you ever had luck using coupons that you didn’t think you would be able to?  What deals did you score?

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Entertainment Book Filed For Bankruptcy

Update: Entertainment has asked me to pass along that they have resumed operations (click here for their press release), and that merchants are expected to continue honoring their coupons until the expiration date.  Thanks to Jennie at Entertainment for finding my post and passing along the information.  Best of luck to her and the rest of the workers as the company works through this!

I’m from the Detroit area, so this got quite a bit of news coverage: The Entertainment Book, known for its coupons on a variety of dining establishments, stores, and other services, abruptly shut down a couple of weeks ago.  Unsuspecting employees showed up to work only to find that they were ceasing operations, and everybody was sent home.  No severance, no benefits, nothing.  The company was filing for bankruptcy and that was that.

mb-enter201304The reason that made such big news around here is that the headquarters are in Troy, a suburb that lies about 20 miles outside of Detroit.  The headquarters employed roughly 240 people, all who were suddenly out of a job.

My mother-in-law used to work at a company that shut down a few years back. She was close with someone in the office that, after that company closed, went to work for Entertainment.  Sure enough, she put a Facebook post up the day of the closure and it was not a happy post.

My wife and I have always purchased a copy of the book.  Generally, someone we know sells the book as a fundraiser for their church, school, or other organization.  Typically the price was somewhere in the neighborhood of $20-25.

When we first started dating, my wife and I would go out quite regularly and there were a lot of places in the book that matched up pretty well, and the deals were pretty good.  Most restaurants offered a buy-one-get-one free deal.  Even though most limited the offer no more than $10 per pop, it didn’t take more than a couple of uses before you got your money back on the purchase, and we went out often enough that we ‘made’ our money back many times over.

After we got married, we started going out less regularly, mostly because we had bought a bigger house, and had more expenses.

After my wife left the workforce in preparation of becoming a stay-at-home mom, we cut back even further.  After the birth of our son (and then our daughter), a lot of the bar type restaurants that were perfectly fine for adults only, became crossed off the list.

All told, our use of the book diminished rapidly, so the past couple of years, we’ve often ‘split the cost’ with someone, and while we still got value, it wasn’t like in the past.

We’ve also noticed that as the economy has improved the last couple of years, many of the restaurants made their coupons less appealing.  A pizza place used to offer $5 off any size pizza, and changed it to $4 off of their large pizza only.  Many restaurants made you buy two beverages in order to get the coupon.  We typically get water when we dine out, so even on a $10 coupon, that generally made it worth only about $5 to us.

Even before the bankruptcy, we had been talking about this potentially being our last year of buying the book.  Now, it looks like that decision won’t be a decison.

Are current coupons Entertainment still good?

The question that many people asked, myself included, was whether the current coupons would be good.  Since their website gives no indication that anything is amiss (it appears business as usual, so my guess is they fired the web designer along with everybody else), you can’t get any answers from the company.  Only one news report actually gave any information about this, and even that was vague.  It basically said that when the company filed for bankruptcy, it made null and void any contracts, meaning that participating restaurants and other businesses could opt out of accepting them with no penalty or legal recourse.  It was suggested that many will continue to honor the coupons through the expiration date (November 1st) and that you should call beforehand to find out.

I thought about calling, but quite honestly, I will only do so if we plan on actually using one.  I guess my thought is that many providers might not have registered the news, and why tip them off and give them cause to think about changing their policy?

For us, it wasn’t as sad news as this would have been a few years ago.  My guess is that competition from other deal opportunities, such as Groupon and Living Social, made their model a little stale.  Add to the fact that those newer companies can deliver their product without the overhead of printing and distributing big paper books, and it’s easy to see why Entertainment Book didn’t make it.

Do you have a current Entertainment book?  Have you tried using any coupons over the past few weeks?

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