Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rite Aid--just barely hanging in there

Of the three drug stores I frequent, Rite Aid's program is the easiest to explain to a new couponer but the least enjoyable to someone like me who coupons for sport. Rite Aid does not have anything similar to CVS Extra Bucks or Walgreens Register Rewards, but it does offer a rebate program called Single Check Rebates (SCR). It is called this because Rite Aid will send you a single check to cover all of your rebates for the month. You can use the check to pay for merchandise in the store, or you can cash it like a regular check. Occasionally an individual rebate will be offered in the form of a Rite Aid gift card, which would be mailed separately from your check. There is a monthly rebate directory displayed with the sale circulars in the store, and you can also view the rebates online and create a "rebate shopping list."

There are usually several "free after rebate" offers (just like at Walgreens); you pay for an item upfront and then receive the full amount back in your SCR check. Of course, you could use a coupon at the register to make profit. Some offers may require you to buy a certain number of products or spend a certain amount to qualify for the rebate. Examples of these are "Buy 3 Huggies product, get a $10 SCR" and "Spend $15 on Dove products and get a $5 SCR." You do not have to buy all of the qualifying products on one receipt. You just enter your receipt information on the SCR website, and it tracks your rebates and tells you when you have qualified or how much more you need to spend to qualify for any given offer.

Some of the rebates are only valid during certain weeks and are featured in the weekly sale circulars, and others are available all month long. Not every rebate will appear in a circular, so it is important to pay attention to the rebate directory as well. Last month, there was a spectacularly vague rebate--"Buy any 3 Bayer products and get a $10 Rite Aid gift card." One weekly ad showed large packages of Bayer on sale for $6.99 (I don't remember if the rebate offer was referenced or not), so even using a $1 on each of the three packages, I would have to spend $17.97 OOP to get a $10 gift card. This was of no interest to me, as I have aspirin coming out of my ears and would never pay for it. But the next week, the 36 ct. packages of Bayer were on sale for $1.99, with no mention of the rebate in the ad. I double-checked the rebate directory, and there were no size/type restrictions on the offer. So I purchased three packages and used three $1 coupons, making my OOP $2.97, and I received a $10 gift card in the mail. The icing on the cake was that I found "100% more" bonus packs, so I got three 72 ct. boxes of Bayer and $7.03 profit. The profit in this case had to be spent at Rite Aid, but that was not a problem--I just rolled it into more rebate offers.

The problem with Rite Aid is that the offers are generally limited to one per customer and there is nothing else to get me in the store besides the SCR program. The rebates are not as good as they used to be, and it has actually been a couple weeks since I even stepped foot in a Rite Aid; there haven't been many good freebies lately, and the stock is low on the few good ones. Rite Aid stopped accepting internet coupons, which brings them down a notch in my book. I read online that some stores are going to start accepting them again, but there will be restrictions on usage. I have also read that Rite Aid is in trouble financially and may be closing some or all locations. I cannot verify the truth of that rumor, but if I was to lose Rite Aid, I'd probably just shrug it off (as opposed to losing CVS, which would render me catatonic, rocking in a corner). There are enough offers to keep me paying attention, but just barely.

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