Cool Ideas

What Can I Do When My Coupon Item Is Out Of Stock?

by Stephanie Nelson

It can be very frustrating for shoppers when the week's best bargains are out of stock. The Coupon Mom helps this reader with practical tips for making sure you maximize your savings. Begin by checking for the best deals each week at national drugstore chains and grocery retailers.

A shopper asks "Although the Coupon Mom site lists great free deals every week at stores like CVS, they tend to have a limited inventory of featured items as their stores are smaller than supermarkets. I find it irritating to go to the trouble of organizing my shopping list, cutting out the coupons and driving to the store to find the item is sold out. What can shoppers do in these situations?"

Just because your store is out of a featured item does not mean you have to miss out on that savings. Take advantage of the power of "rain checks" and ask the cashier to give you a rain check for the out of stock item and hold on to any coupons you had planned to use with the sale priced item. The next time you come to the store you will be able to get the item, once it is back in stock, at its previous sale price even if its price has gone back up to the regular price. If the rain check has a long expiration date, you may have time to accumulate more coupons for the item before you buy it to save even more money.

Requesting a rain check can be more complicated at stores like CVS that have Extra Buck rewards for featured items that may end that week. I asked CVS headquarters what shoppers should do when short-term Extra Buck promotional items are out of stock and they had good news for us. Store managers should either substitute a similar product and reduce the price by the amount of the Extra Buck reward, or issue a rain check, reducing the price by the value of the Extra Buck reward. Therefore, by knowing the policy and asking about product substitutions or rain checks, shoppers can benefit from weekly promotions even if the store is currently out of stock.

Here is the specific policy statement from CVS/Pharmacy headquarters regarding what customers can request if an Extra Buck or sale item is out of stock:

"CVS/pharmacy has a substitution decision model that is followed by the store manager when there is sale item out of stock. In other words, the store manager can offer similar products if the sale product is unavailable and they will receive the Extra Buck reward. The goal is to provide the customer with the product they without sacrificing the service or value of the offer. If the substitution if not acceptable, the store may offer a rain check and the price is reduced by the Extra Buck reward amount. In some cases, such as in a seasonal or limited offer product, a rain check can not be issued."

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at