Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Walgreens--I just can't walk away

ETA: As of May 2009, the Easy Saver catalog and rebate program have been discontinued. I will keep the details about it in this post in case it ever comes back (there are rumors of a return in fall 2009), but if you are just learning the Walgreens system, you can ignore the Easy Saver sections below.

I will be honest here and admit that deep down, I hate Walgreens. The cashiers and managers are often very unfriendly to couponers, and I usually feel like a criminal in Walgreens. There are exceptions, of course, and an assistant manager the other day congratulated me on my awesome deals! I have said many times that I am DONE with Walgreens, but try as I may, I can't stop shopping there--I can't pass up a good deal, even if I have to put up with lousy employees to get it.

You do not need a loyalty card to shop at Walgreens, but you should definitely pick up the current month's Easy Saver Catalog, which is available next to the sale flyers in the store (you can also access the catalog on the Walgreens website). I usually grab a bunch of them because they contain Walgreens coupons that I can cut out and use at CVS--take THAT Walgreens! These coupons will often be referenced in the sale circular as "instant coupons," but they are not deducted automatically at the register--you must provide the coupon for the cashier to scan. I often cut the coupon out to give to the cashier just so I don't forget, but the cashier can actually scan the unclipped coupon directly from your booklet so that you can keep it for next time. The register will subtract the correct amount no matter how many of an item you purchase. For example, this month there is an Easy Saver (ES) coupon for $.99 off 3 packs of Eclipse or Orbit gum. When the coupon is scanned, the register will deduct $.33 per pack of gum, whether you buy 1, 3, or 8 packs (or any number). Please note that if you use this same coupon at CVS, you have to buy the packs of gum in multiples of three and you need a separate coupon for every three packs you buy. This is because the registers at CVS are not programmed to accept this coupon and the cashier will have to enter it manually.

The Easy Saver Catalog also contains information about the Walgreens rebate program. Each month there are about 30-40 different rebate offers, including several "Free After Rebate" (FAR) items. There are other offers such as "Get $3 when you buy Triaminic," and "Get $2 when you buy 2 Revlon Colorsilk Hair Color." For rebate items, you pay for the items in the store (using coupons if you have any), and then submit your receipt information online. You can enter as many receipts as you want, and the online program will keep track of your rebates. At the end of the month, you can request a check for all of your rebates. You can also opt to get your rebate in the form of a Walgreens gift card and receive a 10% bonus. This is what I do, because I can then use the gift card to pay for future purchases, and each month my rebate money is loaded onto my gift card. If you have coupons for a FAR item, your rebate will be for the item price before coupons, so you can often make profit. You can make profit on other offers as well--last month there was a special offer to get a $5 Walgreens gift card (separate from monthly rebates) when you buy Clairol Perfect 10 Hair Color. I found one shade on clearance for $5.69 and I used a $1 off coupon, so the $5 gift card gave me $.31 profit (profit that I have to spend at Walgreens, which works out fine for me). I don't dye my hair, but that's hardly the point. Most of the rebates have a limit of 1, but if the limit is higher, it will say so in the ES booklet.

I love the rebate program, but the good rebates seem to have dwindled. I think this is due to the hideous Register Rewards program, which is the source of my hatred toward Walgreens. I assume that the Register Rewards (RR) program was created to compete with the CVS Extra Bucks program, but it is far inferior. The premise is the same--pay for something upfront and get RRs to use on your next purchase. But there are all these stupid restrictions, and I swear the cashiers are not trained at all about this program, because every cashier just makes up her own reasons why you can't use your RR or why your RR did not print. As long as you are willing to deal with the crap, you can get some pretty good deals, which is why I just can't help myself.

Here are some rules for RR deals; as an example, I'll use "Buy 1 Crest toothpaste 4 oz. for $3, get a $3RR back":

You can only do each deal once per transaction--You cannot buy 3 Crest toothpastes and get a $9RR. (This differs from CVS, where if there was a limit of 5, you could buy all five in one transaction if you wanted.)

There are no set limits for RR deals--Since there is no loyalty card to keep track of your purchases, you can do this Crest deal as many times as you want throughout the week, as long as you only buy one per transaction.

You cannot "roll" RRs into the same RR deal--If you use a $3 Crest RR to buy another Crest toothpaste, you will NOT receive another $3RR. (At CVS, you can roll any EBs into any deal, including the same one that produced the EBs.)

You must spend the entire RR amount in one transaction--You cannot get change back, and the RR will not even scan if the transaction total is less than the RR amount.

Here are some lame excuses your cashier may give you regarding RRs, using the same Crest example:

Your RR did not print because you paid with a RR--This is not true; you CAN roll a RR into a different RR deal (Crest into Huggies, for example). As stated above, you CANNOT roll Crest into Crest.

Your RR did not print because you used a manufacturer coupon--This is not true; you CAN use a manufacturer coupon on the Crest, and your RR should still print.

Your RR did not print because you bought items for more than one deal--This is not true; you CAN do as many RR deals in one transaction as you want, as long as they are all different deals. For example, if there are also RR deals on Huggies, Pantene, and Vaseline, you can buy everything in one transaction and get four different RRs.

You can't pay with a RR because you used a manufacturer coupon--This one is possibly true; RRs are considered manufacturer coupons, even though they are only redeemable at Walgreens, and you can only use one manufacturer coupon per item purchased. So if you buy the Crest and use a manufacturer coupon, you probably CANNOT pay the difference with a RR. If you have a coupon for every item you are buying, you need a "filler" item in order to use a RR to pay. I have been using packs of Orbit as fillers, because I found some flavors clearanced to $.65 each, and the previously mentioned ES coupon (store coupon) makes it $.32 per pack. I also often use RRs to pay for FAR items that don't have corresponding manufacturer coupons. I have had cashiers push RR through even when I don't have enough items, but according to the program rules, they did not have to do this. I still count it as a "lame excuse" because I think you should be able to roll RRs regardless of the number of items. Oh well.

The RRs print from a separate machine from the receipt tape, so if one doesn't print and the cashier can't figure out why, ask her to check the machine. It may be out of paper or spooled incorrectly. Also check to make sure you purchased the correct item. Show the cashier the ad and ask to see a manager if necessary, but don't let them tell you that you can't have the RR for any of the reasons above.

Okay, I can't think about Walgreens anymore or I might just puke.

No comments:

Post a Comment