Double Coupons - why the $1 limit?

There are several supermarkets in my area which will give you double the value of coupons you use there, up to $1. For example:

An 80 cent coupon gets you $1.60 off the marked price.
A 90 cent coupon gets you $1.80 off.
A $1.00 coupon is worth a $2.00 discount.
But a $1.10 coupon is worth only $1.10.

Why is this?

I have never seen any supermarket distinguish between the coupons of one manufacturer over another. Therefore, I conclude that the supermarkets do not have any kind of deal with the manufacturers, and so I figure that the manufacturers reimburse the supermarket only for the face value of the coupon, not for double its value.

So then why is a $1.10 coupon worth only $1.10?

I can understand that – in order to attract additional customers – the supermarket is willing to give you additional discounts, over and above that stated on the coupon. I can also understand that the supermarket wants to limit its liability, so that they won’t suffer when people bring in a coupon marked for $5 or $10.

But then a $1.10 coupon should be worth $2.10. Why do they take the over-$1 coupons out of the program entirely, rather than simply limiting the additional amount to $1?

Loss of profit, dearie.

Let’s say I go to the store for a carton of cigarettes. The store probably paid around 17 to 18 bucks for it, and they’re charging me $20. If I bring in a two dollar coupon, and it’s doubled, I would only be giving them $16 for the cigarettes. They’d lose money. So, a buck’s the limit, to cut down on losses.

Gee, Lissa, how could you misunderstand my question? I thought I over-explained myself, and you still don’t get it. (But I do sincerely thank you for trying.)

I understand that they don’t want to lose money by giving a $4 discount when you bring in a $2 coupon. But why won’t they give you a $3 discount? How come coupons over a dollar go for exactly the face value, and not a penny more?

The manufacturer is gonna reimburse the store for the $2 face value, so the only thing the store loses is the same one dollar that they’d be willing to lose if you had handed them a $1 coupon. Why is it that coupons over a dollar are totally excluded from the deal? Why not just limit the extra discount to a single dollar?

Think about it. Even with your massive explaination at the beginning of the thread, people here misunderstood you. Assuming that the people on the Straight Dope represent an elite group of highly intelligent beings, imagine having to explain this to the less-than-sharp masses. It’d be a frenzy, holding up grocery store lines, causing accidents, the whole nine yards. Gotta keep it simple for the masses.

You may have hit it on the head there, bud.

My experiance has been that coupon users will haggle over 1¢ if they think they have any chance of success. Since the doubling formula you suggest is somewhat tricky (not for TSD readers of course!), I bet supermarkets would just rather place an absolute limit- not on coupon doubling- but simply on the size of coupons which may be doubled. This way, their cashiers don’t spend precious minutes arguing with people who might think a $1.98 coupon should double to $2.

Either that or they’re just plain cheap.

Listen to the goddess of wisdom. She makes a good point. Imagine explaining, “We double the coupons, unless doubling would make it over two dollars, in which case it is exactly two dollars, unless the face value is more then two dollars, of course, in which case use the face value.” The poor checker trainees would just open their registers and start handing out money in their confusion. From the store managers’ perspective, that would be a bad thing.

The manufacturers reimburse the coupon for the face value plus a bonus for the store of a few cents. I base this on the information that is printed (granted, it’s in small print) on every manufacturer coupon.

Sorry. Kneels humbly Sheesh. I feel stupid.

As to how coupons are redeemed:

My sister owns a small gas station/convenience store. At the end of every month, she sorts them according to manufacturer, and mails them in a giant envelope to an independant company, who in turn, mail her a check. She says that she doesn’t get as much back (the company keeps the few extra cents) but it’s worth it not to go through the hassle of mailing to each company.

I thank you all for the effort you’re putting into this.

But I just remembered a point that I had intended to include in the original question:

Some manufacturer’s coupons explicitly say on them “Not Subject To Doubling”. Why would that be? Is it possible that the manufacturers do reimburse the stores for the doubled amount?

Sometimes I really wonder about this. For example, I have a coupon for $1.50 off on TWO boxes of cereal. Why not give me two 75c coupons? I’d like to think that this is simply to induce me to buy more cereal. But two 75c coupons would each get doubled, and I can’t help wondering if they do this (make a $1.50 coupon) specifically to get around the doubling.

“Just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”

If your coupon is for “$1.50 off two boxes of Veggie Loops”, you can’t use it unless you buy two boxes. Even if you would normally only buy one box at a time, you might pick up the extra one in order to receive the discount.

But if you have two coupons, each for “$0.75 off one box of Veggie Loops”, then you could get the same proportional discount by buying one box. The company’s sales would not increase as much, or in the same manner, as with the single, bigger coupon.

So in this situation, I doubt the choice has anything to do with coupon doubling.

Another factor: Manufacturers are in constant negotiation for shelf space with grocery chains, especially where new products are concerned. One of the ways that manufacturers get more shelf space is to promise promotional material such as coupons. Coupons which don’t double will be extra leverage in the negotiations.

As far as I’m concerned, placing the limit on the initial value of the coupon is good enough. I’ld hate to look at a coupon and try to figure out if it was doubled or not. And I’m good at math.

BTW, grocery stores don’t make that much per dollar, 1-3 cents, IIRC from the Consumer Reports article I read. Doubled coupons represent a loss; the store only does it to increase traffic and hopefully induce you to buy something with a better profit margin. I usually see the doubling start in the store which is doing the least business.

Mastery is not perfection but a journey, and the true master must be willing to try and fail and try again