Walmart Cracks Down On Coupons: No More Overage Or Overrides

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It was a good ride while it lasted! Walmart may not have digital coupons, or store coupons, or double coupons, but it’s long been considered one of the coupon-friendliest retailers, in that it had fewer limits and restrictions than most.

But no longer. New policy changes have brought Walmart’s coupon policy in alignment with other retailers, in eliminating overage, imposing like-coupon limits, and declining to override the register if it rejects a coupon.

Walmart hasn’t touched its coupon policy in nearly six years, so it went largely unnoticed last month when the policy posted online introduced several changes. People started noticing after an image of what appeared to be an internal memo began circulating in online couponing groups, notifying store staffers that register software would be updated this week to automatically enforce the new policies.

Among the most notable changes is the elimination of overage. Walmart was among a dwindling number of retailers that would honor the full value of a coupon, no matter the actual price of the product. So if your coupon was worth more than the product you used it on, you’d get cash back or get the difference applied to your transaction.

Not anymore. The new policy states that “Walmart does not give cash back nor will any overages apply to the remaining items in the transaction if the value of a coupon is greater than the purchase value of the item.”

There’s also a new “limit of 4 identical coupons per household, per day.” The internal memo warns that “a hard stop will occur at the register” if more than four identical coupons are scanned.

And perhaps the most controversial and consequential change – no more overrides. The register now determines whether a coupon is valid, and its determination is final. The old coupon policy stated that “in select circumstances a register prompt will occur during coupon transactions that require a CSM or Management to validate the manufacturer coupon(s).” That provision has been removed from the new policy. The internal memo elaborates on that point, stating that “if the paper manufacturer coupon does not scan it should not be accepted,” and warns cashiers that “the Vendor Coupon (override) key should not be used, as using this key may result in a financial impact to the store.”

Walmart did not respond to a request for comment about the changes, or the reasons they were implemented.

But the elimination of overage will be disappointing to couponers who eagerly sought out Walmart “moneymakers,” or deals where a high-value coupon could be used on a lower-priced product to get cash back. Legitimate moneymakers are harder to find these days, but illegitimate moneymakers have created some problems for Walmart over the years, as scammers would sometimes show up with high-value counterfeit or mismatched coupons in order to utilize their local Walmart as their own personal ATM. A decade ago, two Pennsylvania women were convicted of “glitching” at several Walmart stores by using “coupons for similar but higher-priced merchandise” to buy “a large amount of lower-priced merchandise” and getting thousands of dollars in overage in the process.

The like-coupon limit is similar to what most other retailers implemented years ago, to discourage coupon misuse and shelf-clearing. Gone are the Extreme Couponing days when you could show up at the store with a hundred of the same coupon to fill up your shopping cart with freebies.

But the “no override” provision is a newer rule that other retailers have implemented, to mixed success. Walmart’s old coupon policy already stated that “paper manufacturer coupons must scan at the register” and “must validate to Walmart’s master file” of known, legitimate coupons. But the new policy states that coupons that don’t scan will be “systematically” declined. Target implemented a similar policy last year, stating that “manufacturer coupons must scan at the register, which validates to a master file of valid coupons. Coupons not on the master file are not accepted.” This resulted in some customer complaints, as their perfectly legitimate coupons were sometimes rejected, because they happened not to be included in Target’s master file.

It’s not known yet just how accurate and complete Walmart’s master file is. But according to the retailer’s new policy, if your coupon doesn’t scan in the store, even if it’s perfectly legitimate, you’re out of luck.

Those are among the major changes in Walmart’s coupon policy, but there are a few minor tweaks as well. The old policy said “Walmart reserves the right to not accept UPC-A coupon barcodes,” the old-style codes that were phased out several years ago in favor of the newer, longer GS1 bar codes. The new policy removes “reserves the right to” and flatly declares that “Walmart does not accept UPC-A coupon barcodes.” So if you have a stash of ancient coupons with long or no expiration dates, don’t try to use them at Walmart anymore.

Another minor tweak states that Walmart accepts paper coupons “for in store purchases only,” so don’t try to redeem paper coupons on your pickup or delivery order.

Finally, one tweak that’s actually in the customer’s favor. The old policy said “returns of items purchased using Manufacturer Coupons may include the coupon value returned to the customer in their original form of tender.” The new policy replaces “may” with “will.” So if you buy an item with a coupon and later return it, there’s no longer any ambiguity about the fact that you’ll get the full value of the product back and won’t lose the value of the coupon you had used.

Fewer retailers allow that anymore – Target changed its return policy earlier this year to clarify that “your return credit will not include any promotional discount or coupon that applied to the original order,” in an effort to combat return fraud, where shoppers purposely buy items with coupons in order to cash in by returning those items for a full refund.

Walmart hasn’t addressed that loophole just yet. But when it comes to overage, overrides and the use of as many of the same coupons as you’d like, couponing at Walmart won’t be quite the same anymore – for fraudsters and legitimate couponers alike.

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