Saving Centsably: Don’t be afraid to ask

July 9, 2014 

I’ve always heard the saying, “It never hurts to ask.” As a self-admitted peacemaker, I struggle to “ask” for much of anything. I do not want to assume or to overstep when asking for things.

I have, however, come to learn that usually the worst thing that can happen when I ask a question is to simply hear the answer “no.”

So while it may not be comfortable to ask for things when I am out couponing, I have learned -- and now teach my children -- “all they can say is ‘no.’ ”

Earlier this month, I encountered a situation at my local Publix store. I did not have to “ask” anything -- I could have simply assumed the answer would be “no.” But because I asked the question, I left the store with more than $20 in free products. Let me explain.

Recently, my family’s preferred brand of laundry detergent was on sale at a buy one get one free rate. Normally $5.99 per bottle, a bottle with 30 percent more detergent was now on sale for only $2.98.

I had five coupons for $2/2 products, so I planned to use those. I was planning to purchase 10 bottles.

With the coupons and sales plus the bonus size, I would get 13 bottles worth of detergent (which normally would cost more than $75) for about $20.

While flipping through the coupon box I noticed I had some coupons that would allow me to pick up a free box of the same company’s fabric softener sheets when I purchased two of their detergents.

Knowing that I had the detergents in the buggy already, I looked for the fabric softener sheets. Unfortunately, my store did not have any of this brand of fabric softener sheets on the shelf. I walked to customer service, where I asked if she could check to see if the store carried this brand.

After she consulted a manager, she said they did not carry the fabric softener sheets I needed. At that point, I had the decision to choose to ask another question or to simply walk away. I felt as if my mouth were speaking without my head knowing what I was saying.

This is what I asked, “In the past when I have had a free item coupon and your store did not carry that brand, a manager has allowed me to substitute the Publix brand. Could you please check to see if I could do that today?”

I smiled widely at the customer service employee, and she looked down at the coupons, which I had already given her when she was checking to see if they stocked the product.

She asked, “Are you just getting five free boxes?” I replied affirmatively, and she said, “Sure. No problem. Just tell your cashier that we said it was okay.”

Standing on the other side of the conversation, I know it was the right thing to do -- to ask about the free box of Publix fabric softeners -- but it was not an easy thing to do. I sure do have a problem asking sometimes.

I really have come to understand that if I do not ask, the answer will always be “no,” and that if I will simply step out on that limb and ask the question, I will probably be rewarded positively.

In the end, I left my Publix with 10 bottles of detergent that had 30 percent more for free -- and I had five free boxes of fabric softener sheets as well. I paid just more than $20 for $100 in laundry supplies. It was a good visit to the store -- made better by my willingness to ask a question.

Do you ever have trouble asking for clarification on a coupon policy or for a reason why your coupon scenario has been turned down?

I would love to hear how you asked the right questions to get your issue resolved.

Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer and coupon workshop instructor living in McDonough. Contact her at

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service