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June 26, 2012

Why some HEB stores are refusing printable coupons

Have you noticed an increasing problem with HEB cashiers refusing printable coupons?

If you've had printable coupons denied at your local HEB, chances are it was a memorable experience -- after all, you went into the store looking for particular deals that you weren't able to buy at the price you planned for!

Well, according to a loyal HEB Bargain Hunter reader, it turns out that HEB cashiers are being trained to refuse perfectly valid printable coupons that don't meet certain guidelines.  

Here's what April reported after a phone conversation with HEB Customer Service today, following a poor customer service experience where she was denied using valid coupons:
"The outcome of the call was that while HEB still hasn't updated their registers to scan these barcodes, they are supposed to enter them manually IF they are from coupon inserts. 
But if it's an internet printed coupon, and it only has a GS1 barcode and not the upc barcode, it won't scan and the employees have been instructed to refuse them."
Here's a screen shot of what April is talking about:

This is an example of a coupon that has both a UPC barcode (the older coupon code that's on the left) as well as the GS1 databar code, which is the newer code found in the middle of the coupon.

All coupons are in the process of shifting over to the databar code, which gives manufacturers much more specific information about how a coupon is used, and is meant to help prevent coupon fraud.  You can read more about the new GS1 barcode here.

So basically, since HEB hasn't invested the cash in upgrading the registers to the new barcode system yet, they have decided that in the meantime the best policy is to deny honest customers, using legitimately printed coupons, their discounts.

Fun times, right?

In fact, the customer service rep told April that the reason these coupons will be denied is because "there are so many people copying internet coupons and they can't guarantee that they are going to get reimbursed from the manufacturer on an internet printed coupon."

That's especially ironic considering the GS1 barcode is supposed to be much MORE difficult to fraudulently copy, and therefore meant to cut down on coupon fraud!

April told the HEB Customer Service rep she talked to that she will take her printable coupons to Target or Walmart, where they will be accepted more readily, which is exactly what I would have done in her situation.

If this happens to you at your local HEB grocery store, or if this just plain gets under your skin, here are some additional steps you can take:
  • Follow up with HEB Customer Service either on their website or their Facebook page;
  • Call or email the manufacturer who released the coupon to let them know which store denied use.  Sometimes manufacturers can have more sway than consumers in these situations!
  • Share which stores you had this happen at via the HEB Bargain Hunter Facebook page, or share your comments below.  Minimally, we can put together a list of which HEB stores are focusing on the customer-service piece of this puzzle, so we can reward them with greater business.
It also never hurts to review my tips on how to handle a coupon-challenged cashier while you're at it.

Your turn:  Have you been having more problems couponing at HEB?  How have you handled any issues that cropped up at the register?  Share your stories in the comment section below.

Got a great HEB bargain to share?  Follow me on Twitter, check out my boards on Pinterest, or keep up with all the action on Facebook. 


  1. A couple of months ago, I tried using some printed coupons at the HEB on WW White Road. The cashier told me they don't take printed coupons. She called over a man who I am assuming was manager of the front of the store. He said that they don't take printed coupons. So, I did not get the items I had coupons for (cereal). When I came home, I sent HEB corporate a letter. A few days later the manager of the HEB on WW White Road called me and apologized stating that they DO take printed coupons. Seems strange to me if they didn't take printed coupons, yet they print out coupons at the checkout. :D

  2. I was recently told I couldn't use a Sally Hansen nail coupon b/c it had the newer barcode. The cashier was nice about it and showed me that the new barcode was appearing on their in store coupons, so it seems like their in the process of doing to switchover. I chose to not purchase the nail polish. It does bother me that their answer to a lack of updated systems is to refuse the coupon, indicating to me that they assume all coupon users are trying to use fraudulent coupons.
    I don't know if mentioning the store that refused them would be helpful to your readers since I'm not in San Antonio.
    This blog is the best one I've found for finding HEB deals. Thank you for sharing your deals with us!

  3. yeah I went to Heb one day to get a few things and of course use some coupons. a couple of the coupons I had to use had the walmart logo on it but could be used any where. when the lady started scanning the coupons and came across one of the walmart logo ones she wouldn't take it cause it said walmart on it. I tried to explain to her that it could be used any where and that and she still wouldn't take it. I didn't want to argue anymore cause i wasn't feeling good and just wanted to finish. anyway she continued to scan my coupons and while scanning them I noticed she scaned my other coupon that said walmart on it and didn't say a thing about it. after I was done paying my other half went to went to customer service while I went to the car and told the lady there what happened and she said she was sorry for what happened had that is was a coupon she could have scanned and she fixed it to where I got my savings.

  4. Well knock on wood...I use the Alamo Heights HEB and so far they've always taken my printed coupons along with all the others with no problems. Guess we'll see what happens when I go tomorrow with a new batch of them.

  5. At the HEB I work we cashiers are told if it scans you can take if not then its not valid. Although sometimes one or two of the managers may approve it depending if the customer service clerk says its valid.

  6. I used the printable fruit loop coupons with the buy fruit loops get pb& j deal on kitty hawk &I 1604. Cashier didn't want to take them, but not because they were printables. She daid I couldn't use them due to the buy X get X free deal. I politely explained I could since it was off the item I was paying for, she checked with manager who agreed I could. Also got the tylenol precise deal & a few other items. In all spent $23 and saved 47.90! Thanks Jennifer for posting the matchups. You're a lifesaver!

  7. I was at the HEB on WW White at the beginning of the month. I had a stack of coupons and it was late. The cashier was tired and I could tell. She said two of my coupons I printed from the same printer as the others that went through would not scan. Those coupons came off the HEB site. I asked for the manager and he said if they don't scan they don't accept them. I told him I printed them all together and those two came from the HEB website and he still wouldn't take them. He said maybe there was something wrong with the paper or printer I was using and I told him the 20 other coupons that scanned were all printed on the same printer at the same time, so it wasn't the paper or the printer. Those coupons even had the HEB logo as the watermark. He still wouldn't accept them. Very frustrating night.