I’ve read dozens, if not hundreds, of articles and blog posts about saving money on groceries. Most writers offer variations on the same tips: Match coupons to sales, stock up on items you use frequently when they hit a certain price point, shop at certain stores, shop for certain items during particular months or times of year and so forth.
However, I can’t recall the last time I saw anyone mention rainchecks. Nearly all major grocery chains will issue a raincheck for an on-sale item they don’t have in stock. They even make it easy to get rainchecks. Most grocery stores will issue them right at the register during checkout.
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How Much Time Does It Take to Get a Raincheck?
Many people don’t want to take the time to get a raincheck or they don’t want to hold up the checkout line. I’ve found getting rainchecks super easy when I use online shopping, which also saves money in other ways.
The grocery store employees who shop online orders automatically check to see if the stock room contains more product when shelves are entry, and they often offer a substitution at the same price if a sale item is truly out of stock. You can try both of these things in the store, too.
If you can find a store employee while you’re shopping, politely ask whether there’s more of a certain item in the stock room, and if not, whether the store offers substitution. If the employee says there isn’t a substitution or doesn’t know, ask again when you hit the checkout line. If there’s no substitution available at the sale price, checkout clerks at most stores where I’ve shopped will ask if you’d like a raincheck.
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Strangely enough, I haven’t seen anywhere (yet) where they can make a computer printout of a raincheck, but that seems like a logical step at some point. It usually takes a minute or so for the cashier to write your raincheck, and you’re good to go.
I don’t feel too bad about taking up extra time since I try to shop when stores are not terribly busy. I also bag my own groceries if a bagger isn’t available, so I’m saving time in that way. I checked groceries one summer while I was in college, and my mom cashiered in a small town grocery store when she was in high school. Neither of us can just stand there and do nothing if groceries need bagged and nobody’s bagging them.
Plus, rainchecks are part of the job. When I checked groceries many years ago, cash registers couldn’t scan coupons, though my store did have a grocery scanner. Not all stores at that time could scan groceries with bar codes. Rainchecks had to come from the customer service desk, which thankfully doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, at least at any grocery store where I shop. That means stores are making it easier for you to take advantage of rainchecks.
Keep in mind that the grocery store business is super competitive, especially in cities large enough to support several different grocery chains. Large grocery store chains know they can’t compete with Walmart on price, so they need to excel in other areas. They often use customer service as a selling point, as I’ve regularly found at my local Harris Teeter stores.
When Is It Worthwhile to Get a Raincheck?
It makes sense to take the time for a raincheck when an item is an especially great deal that you don’t see very often. An example for me is the frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Harris Teeter, which they put on sale “buy 2, get 3 free” from time to time. They were out of stock last time, so I requested a raincheck.
This is an exceptional deal on something my family needs, and Harris Teeter seems to offer this deal roughly once every couple of months, or less frequently. Only you know what constitutes a great deal for your family, and watching a store’s ads for a few weeks will tell you how frequently a desired item goes on sale.
I don’t usually ask for rainchecks at drug stores since they tend to put the same stuff on sale over and over again. If a chain drug store (such as CVS or Walgreens) is out of something they have on sale, I’ll probably wait a few weeks to find it on sale again. In the meantime, I might see the same or a better deal on the item somewhere else.
You can also check the Walgreens.com website to see if they have the sale items you want (top weekly deals at Walgreens.com linked here). Walgreens.com offers free shipping on $35+ orders.
Research the Store’s Raincheck Policies
Stores have widely varying raincheck policies, so it’s a good idea to check a retailer’s website ahead of time to find out how they operate. They might exclude certain types of items or particular types of sales from rainchecks. Raincheck expiration dates are all over the map, too, depending on the store.
Most stores will put down a limit on how many you can purchase with the raincheck, but they often ask you how many you want, unless the sale has a quantity limit. Note that you don’t have to buy the maximum quantity written on the raincheck, unless it’s a requirement of the sale, such as a “buy 2, get 3 free” deal where you have to buy all 5 items.
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Here’s a very small list of some of the major chains which will issue rainchecks as of this writing. You’ll want to check with them before shopping, because stores’ coupons and advertising policies can abruptly change.
Does Walmart Issue Rainchecks?
I’ve seen conflicting information about whether Walmart issues rainchecks, but on the other hand, I’ve rarely seen their shelves empty of a grocery item I wanted. Plus, they’ll even give you money back on items that cost more than their competitors’ advertised prices using Walmart Savings Catcher.
It could be that whether a particular Walmart will give you a raincheck is up to the store’s manager. Even before they came out with their Savings Catcher program, I had pretty much given up on using Walmart’s Ad Match program because it was so hard to use.
Either store managers were free to interpret Walmart’s policies as they saw fit, or cashiers were poorly trained in the concept. Even if you find out from a store manager that Walmart will issue rainchecks, I wouldn’t count on it.
How About You?
Do you ask for rainchecks? Why or why not?
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