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Mar 25 2010
8 years ago
12:28 PM MDT

Be a Confident Shopper by Understanding Coupons…

Mar 25, 2010 @ 12:28 PM MDT
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Have you ever really took the time to look at your coupons and wondered what the heck all those different codes and numbers mean?! Well, my goal today is to break down the “secret” coupon codes, so that you are more confident and educated when using your coupons! Please note that I am in no way trying to provide information that allows you to use coupons inappropriately or for an unintended use!

A typical coupon barcode looks like the image below on the left that says “UCC Coupon Code”:

(Thanks to AccuGraphiX for this image)

UCC Prefix – This portion of the code will be either a 5 or a 9. It deals with doubling. If your store doesn’t double coupons, then this number has no purpose. If your store DOES double coupons, then any coupon coded with a 5 will double (up to your store’s doubling limit) and any coupon coded with a 9 will not double.

UCC Company Prefix – These numbers identify the manufacturer of the couponed item and MUST match positions two through six of the UCC Company Prefix on the product that is being purchased (this is the way that the register can validate you are purchasing the right product(s) for the coupon being used).

Family Code– Most manufacturers break their products into families and the family code allows the coupon to be coded for a specific product that the manufacturer sells (i.e. Crest may have a coupon that is only good for Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste so the family code on the coupon would validate this at checkout and would beep if you purchased a different variety of Crest toothpaste).

Value Code-This code tells the register what you need to purchase and how much to take off at checkout. The are over 100 value codes, so I will not be listing them all. Here are some examples:

00: Free product Coupon– will beep and require the cashier to manually input the amount to take off.
14: B1G1
50: $0.50 off
99: $0.99 off

*Keep in mind that coupons will occasionally scan successfully for items not listed on the coupon or even excluded by the terms written on the coupon. Just because the coupon scans does NOT mean that it is okay to use coupons for unintended items…this is actually coupon fraud and is illegal!


OK, so now that you understand coupon coding, do you really know how the process of coupon redemption works for stores?! What do stores do with those stacks of coupons that they collect from all of us savvy shoppers?

Coupon Redemption Process:

-Manufacturers design coupon promotions with their sales/marketing teams

-Coupons are distributed via newspaper inserts, direct mail campaigns, via the internet etc.

-A very “hip” shopper excitedly enters the store and proudly uses all of his/her coupons at checkout 😉

-The cashier scans the coupons and puts them into the cash drawer. Typically, at the end of the day the coupons in each cash drawer are added up as if they were cash, and that amount is added to the cash sum to be sure the overall total for the drawer is accurate.

-Once per week, all of the manufacturers’ coupons (and any coupons issued by the grocer) are sent in plastic bags or pouches to the store’s corporate headquarters.

-There is a very lucky person at headquarters in charge of processing the coupons. That person boxes all of the bags of coupons and ships them to a third-party clearinghouse.

-The clearinghouse is then responsible for doing the most important part of the coupon redemption process– separating the coupons by manufacturer or by scannable coupons versus damaged/torn coupons. Most of this process is done by hand. Sometimes coupons are put face up on a conveyor belt and move under a scanner that reads the UPC codes and tallies the amounts. However, damaged and torn coupons have to be tallied by hand. The clearinghouse then sends all the sorted coupons with an invoice to the manufacturer.

-The manufacturer will reimburse stores the face value of coupons or if the coupon calls for free merchandise, for the retail-selling price up to the stated maximum value printed on the coupon PLUS 8¢ for handling each coupon properly redeemed (this 8¢ value may vary slightly). Many times manufacturers, such as ConAgra Foods, will also reimburse retailers that are using a clearinghouse or billing agent at a rate equal to $5.50 per thousand of coupons redeemed.

-The manufacturer either reimburses the clearinghouse for the amount of the invoice, and the clearinghouse mails a check to the store for the amount of the coupons OR the manufacturer sends a check directly to the store and the store then pays the clearinghouse. (The clearinghouse is paid a certain amount per coupon by the store, plus shipping and handling).

(Thanks to HowStuffWorks for some of the info on explaining the coupon redemption process!)

You can view a visual diagram of the coupon life cycle here and/or check out an example of the coupon redemption policy for ConAgra Foods here.

Here are a few interesting fact on coupon use in 2009:

-With a sour economy, consumers used 27% more coupons in 2009.

-Brands issued 367 billion coupons, at an average face value of $1.44 (That’s a total of $528.5 Billion)!

– Out of those coupons above, a total of $3.5 billion worth of coupons were redeemed.That sounds like a lot, but compared to the $528.5 Billion that were available– that’s less than .7%!

(Facts credit: Coupon Info Now!)

OK, so now that I have thoroughly overwhelmed you with the coupon coding/coupon redemption process, I have a question for ya…would you be interested in seeing a visual depiction (i.e. video) of the life of a coupon starring me Collin, the coupon, starting at the “birth” of the coupon and ending at the “death” of the coupon? My wheels are turning about this topic and I may pursue it if enough readers are interested. What are your thoughts?

  • HIP List
  • Print

Have you ever had moments when you're either out of time or out of printer ink, or both, and you really want to keep track of a "Hip" deal or print a valuable coupon in the next day or two? Or what do you do when an outstanding, but pricey, deal is posted and you want to save it for discussion with your significant other? Well, now you're in luck! No more searching through pages of posts to find the coupon or the deal. Simply move the post to your Hip List and access it at your convenience.

How Does the Hip List Work?

It's easy! To use this feature, first head on over here and register and log into your account. Whenever you find a great deal that you want to come back to later at a later time, just click on the HIP List icon located on each post (see images below) and the information will be saved in your account. To remove a post from your HIP List, just click on the HIP List icon and it will be removed.

When logged into your account, you will see the HIP List icon at the bottom of every post if you are viewing in classic view.

If you prefer to view in river view, you will see the HIP List icon located on every post above the post title and to the right.

If you're wanting to print a certain deal, blog post, or the Weekly Store Matchups from your HIP list, click on the small blue printer icon in the upper right corner of the HIP list. This will allow you to customize the information that you want or don't want to include when printing from your HIP list so you're only printing the information that's most important to you! If there are deals (or portions of deals) that you are not interested in printing, just click on the red x button to remove them. To restore a section, click on the green arrow icon in the upper right hand corner.