We all mess up and sometimes those slip-ups are pretty big. But when a retailer makes a mistake the blunder can mean incredible deals for shoppers. It's called a "glitch" and we're revealing insider tips from the coupon world for taking advantage of these shopping mistakes.
What is a Glitch?
To explain glitches, how to take advantage of them and proper glitch etiquette we enlisted the help of coupon pro September. She's a 22-year-old photography student and nail polish enthusiast who's been couponing since early 2011. And she's been known to capitalize on a fair share of glitches. "A glitch is when a store has a product on sale for such a low price that it wasn't intended for, but scans for the low price," she explains. For example, Garnier Fructis accidentally rang up 3 bottles for $1 at a drug store recently. Or perhaps a "buy three get a $5 gift card" deal unintentionally includes trial-sized products. Either way, you're scoring an incredible deal for free or almost free. "Sometimes a glitch is online and perhaps the coupon code works on something smaller, that wasn't intended," explains September. "For example my favorite nail polish company put out a coupon code for a free bottle of polish with any online purchase. The code wasn't meant to work on the $0.50 items, but it did so we were able to order the cheap item and get the polish for free."
Last month social media was in a tizzy over a Walmart glitch that listed treadmills for $33, kids play kitchens for $12 and $300 speakers for just $30. A technical error caused Walmart.com to offer absurd discounts on hundreds of items. Some customers were actually able to pick up their purchases in store before Walmart canceled the orders. September has scored some items through in-store glitches at retailers like CVS. When she purchased an inexpensive travel-sized bottle of Nivea lotion the register printed $8 in Extra Care Bucks, which is like cash that can be used on anything at CVS.
Finding Out About Glitches
September says Instagram is a great way to find out about glitches, as is Facebook. Join an online couponing group or follow your favorite couponers. If someone discovers a glitch they're usually very good about sharing it with the rest of the couponing community. "Since Instagram and Facebook are all about that instant connection, it really is the best place to find up-to-date coupon news," advises September.
Understanding Glitch Etiquette
If you're hoping to find out about these incredible deals through the couponing community you don't want to upset them. That's why it's important to follow a few key rules of etiquette.
Don't Tag the Store
For starters, September says do not hash tag the store. It can be tempting when you score a great deal, but don't do it or you'll end up on the bad side of some couponers. "Hashtagging the stores on social media just makes it much, much easier for the glitch to be caught," explains September.
And since there is a good chance the store is losing money when people take advantage of these unintended bargains, September's personal strategy is to not go overboard. "Since it's a glitch and not a real deal my personal etiquette is to not clear shelves," says September. "The stores does in fact lose money from most glitches and just because the company itself is doing great, that doesn't mean a particular store isn't losing money." Often greedy shoppers can spoil a deal for everyone, she says.
Don't Call the Store
Just like hashtagging is a bad idea, so is calling a store and asking about a glitch. While you may waste a trip to a store because a glitch is fixed before you arrive, it's still not a good idea to call the store and inquire about the glitch. That will only get it fixed faster.
Is This Ethical?
Some may be wondering if taking advantage of someone's mistake is an ethical shopping move. In September's mind there is nothing unethical about scoring a great deal off of an error as long as you don't go overboard. "If it were my company with a glitch and thousands of people took at advantage of it, I would be pretty upset," September admits. "I use the golden rule for just about everything in life, even couponing. So I try to think about that when I do go in for the glitch. I try not to clear a shelf and if my favorite cashier is there I will tell her about it at the checkout."
All that being said, stores usually don't let glitches stick around very long-- especially online glitches. September says some will only stick around for a few hours, but she's seen some glitches last days. And if you score a deal through an online glitch don't be surprised if your order is canceled. She says only 20-30% of online glitch deals actually ship. In the case of last month's Walmart glitch, orders were cancelled but shoppers did receive free $10 gift cards as an apology. "Don't be sad if you didn't score," says September. "It's a glitch after all, wasn't even intended to happen."