Dealing With Coupon Huffers

If you use coupons with any regularity, I’m sure you’ve had run-ins with the people I call “coupon huffers.” These are the people who get behind you in the checkout lane and then huff, tap their feet, and practically climb over you in their impatience to check out. Your transaction is taking too long, they think, as the cashier scans your coupons and manually enters the ones that don’t scan. Heaven forbid the cashier has to call over a manager for an override. That sends a huffer ballistic. Huffers may mutter things under their breath like, “Come on, you’re not saving anything,” or, “This is just ridiculous.” If you’re like me and you have a lot of coupons, it only makes things worse.

I used to get intensely uncomfortable when a huffer got behind me. I’d think that maybe I was somehow really inconveniencing them. I’d get nervous and flustered and think that maybe I should stop using coupons to be more fair to those in line. Many years later and I realize that was a stupid way to feel. Coupons are put out there for us to use. Stores accept coupons. Therefore, I’m within my rights to use them. Other people have the same opportunity. That they choose to huff instead of clip isn’t something I can do anything about. However, if huffers bother you, I’ve got a few strategies for dealing with them, politely.

Offer them a coupon

Sometimes I’ll glance into a huffers’ basket and see that they have an item for which I have a coupon that I’m not going to use. I’ll say something like, “I see you’re buying General Mills cereal. I have a coupon for $1.00 off if you’d like to have it.” Most of the time they’re so flabbergasted by the gesture that they forget to huff. Most people are actually grateful and take the offering. Some decline, but almost always with a smile that says, “Gee, I was being ridiculous, wasn’t I?” It’s a way of diffusing their frustration with kindness.

Let them go ahead

If the cashier hasn’t started ringing me up yet and a potential huffer with just a few things gets in line behind me, I’ll ask if they want to go ahead. I’ll wave my stack of coupons to show them that if they decline, they’d better be prepared to wait. Most accept and say thank you. If they decline, well, I warned them.

Direct them to a self check or open lane

Sometimes when a huffer is showing signs of being really impatient or rude, I’ll casually mention that there is a self-checkout stand open, if they’d like to use it, instead. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in huffing, they honestly don’t realize that other lanes are open. If I point out an open lane and they continue to huff, they’re got no one to blame for the wait but themselves.

Mention your savings

If I have a huffer behind me, particularly one muttering about how ridiculous this is or how little I’m saving, I’ll make sure to turn and smile sweetly and say, “Wow, I just saved $93 on that order. That’s great.” At some stores, the cashier will announce this for you. I enjoy watching the huffers’ jaws drop. Most huffers truly do not understand the savings to be had; they think they’re being held up for twenty-five cents. I’ve had more than one huffer reform after learning my savings. Some even apologize and congratulate me.


You are certainly within your rights to use coupons, so no apology is ever necessary. However, sometimes a huffer can be diffused with a quick, “I’m sorry this is taking so long. The computer must be slow today,” or some other bit of polite nonsense. The huffer may still be mad but at least they may quiet down, or they may smile and say, “It’s okay.”

Thank the huffer

If I’ve got someone behind me who is huffing a little bit but clearly building to a full on huff, I’ll turn and say something like, “Thank you for your patience. It shouldn’t be much longer.” It usually gets them to calm down a bit and prevents an all out huffing fit.

Don’t get confrontational

I once saw a woman actually turn on a huffer and cuss him out. Granted he was being ruder than most and making obnoxious comments at full volume, but it’s not worth starting a war over. In this day and age, you never know when someone will snap and shoot you. No coupon savings are worth that. Just ignore it, let it roll off, and move on.

Ask for a manager

If someone is getting really confrontational with you, wave over a manager or store security. Let them handle the huffer.

I don’t think that most coupon huffers are bad people. Maybe they’re in a hurry or having a bad day. Maybe they just don’t understand how much money can be saved and why it’s worth it to us to use coupons. Whatever the reason, most huffers can be discouraged with a bit of kindness or a polite acknowledgement of their situation. Those that can’t are best left alone or turned over to management. You aren’t obligated to placate a huffer, but it can make the checkout experience a lot less stressful for you if you can get them to calm down.

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21 Responses to Dealing With Coupon Huffers

  1. SaveBuyLive says:

    Just have your coupons ready when you get in line. Most people don’t even notice so long as the transactions are moving.

    But I’m going to be blunt here. If you are spending 10 minutes holding up the line while digging through your purse, wallet and/or bra trying to find a 10 cents off coupon then YOU are the problem, not the person behind you huffing.

  2. Journey says:

    Great post. I will try this next time.

  3. Joshua says:

    Great article! Makes me want to go cut some coupons right now!

  4. anonymous says:

    I don’t use coupons nor do I particularly begrudge those who do. But sometimes it’s just silly.

    Yesterday I was at Rite-Aid. Not in a real rush, but also not particularly infatuated with standing in line.

    The folks in front of me had a bunch of stuff and coupons. The cashier rang up the stuff, and then started ringing up coupons. There was a problem in that one coupon was $X off a $25 order, but their order came to $23 or so.

    So the customers asked to see the receipt to figure out which item cost less than they had calculated. THe cashier printed and cut a receipt for them, and they started looking it over.

    It turned out that their fingernail polish was on sale, so they hadn’t reached the $25. A discussion ensued on whether they should buy more fingernail polish to reach the $25 limit. Eventually they decided to, and the gal ran back to the fingernail polish aisle. As she did she smiled apologetically to me, and said she’d just take a second.

    Eventually she got back with the new item, and she and her boyfriend started counting out change. I’m sure it took only 20 seconds, but it felt like an hour.

    I didn’t ‘huff’, but I was going slowly insane. If you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend the movie “Falling Down” with Michael Douglas. In the opening scene Michael Douglas is on his commute to work, and the small things make him go crazy. SOmeone on a cell phone. A fat woman applying lipstick. Someone playing loud rap music. A fly buzzing. That’s how I felt watching this comedy of errors.

    So I’ll continue not to huff, and I’m sure you’re an expert coupon user. But unfortunately not every coupon clipper clips with such facility. And getting stuck behind one of those is truly an aggravating experience.

  5. Lori says:

    Just curious, but why wouldn’t you use the self-checkout yourself? Perhaps the machines don’t do coupons? I use those machines every chance I get, and they scan the coupons marvelously without using up a lane.

  6. Jo says:

    Great post! I must say that I have been very fortunate, never had a huffer, but if and when I do, I will remember your pointers.

  7. Tightwad says:

    It’s just like when I’m driving….
    I am older and I like to drive within the speed limit. TALK ABOUT HUFFERS!!
    As long as there are other lanes and options, I couldn’t give a rat’s rear end!
    (and yes, I stay in the “slow lane.”)
    Same with coupons or Admatching at Wally-World. There are several other checkouts

  8. I’m a coupon clipper, and I know it does take longer at check-out. INEVITABLY in my stack of coupons there will be ONE that the scanner doesn’t recognize, or some annoying reason why the manager needs to be called over, which is embarrassing.

    With that in mind ~ I don’t do my grocery shopping at 5 pm. There is NOTHING worse than 50 people lining up behind you while the cashier labors over your coupons.

    the funny thing is, tho I DELIBERATELY try to shop when the store is empty (6 am or 9 pm) that’s when huffers seem to be the MOST inconvenienced by me. I always say, “Sorry this is taking so long, I deliberately shop early (or late) so I won’t hold anyone else up.”

    But I DO go in organized, coupons paper-clipped together, knowing *exactly* what I’m buying and spending, and never dig around in my bra for a .10 off coupon (LOL!!!). That’s the best I can do.

  9. getforfree says:

    as long as the coupons save me money, I don’t care who says what, and what do they think.

  10. Stella says:

    Great post! I love all your tips but would echo those who mention disorganized coupon clippers. I was shopping the other day and was behind a woman who stood in a daze as the cashier rung up her item. Then, several seconds after being told her total, she opened her purse and started digging around for her credit card. It didn’t take THAT long, but why oh why didn’t she have it out and ready rather than hold up the rest of the line?

  11. nic says:

    HUFF HUFF HUFF, as long as I have coupons, I will use them. Go to another line, or wait; but like it has been stated in the comments, Q’s are given out for people to use.

  12. Cindy M says:

    I could be wrong but it seems to me most serious coupon clippers/refunders like yourself are very organized folks who have their act together before they even get in line. I was behind one yesterday at Kroger’s, and the cashier and I both enjoyed watching how much money this gal was saving. The cashier was able to move right along and she was out of there in a flash. I don’t see that too often but I’m always impressed, and I think others are also, male or female. I personally let the huffers or people with very few items go ahead of me all the time. I rarely fool with coupons as I’m not a name brand type and usually do my shopping at Aldi anyway. With a family, I guess I’d do the coupon thing. My goal is to find the cheapest healthy items I need, and I’m trying to stick to the outer aisles in the store these days.

  13. gaelicwench says:

    For me, it isn’t the coupon “Divas” who are annoying as much as those who insist on each and every item that gets scanned is done so correctly. If not, they’ll order the cashier to stop and go back, and if it isn’t the right amount, have the manager do an override, re-enter the coupon, make sure to see the manager’s birth certificate as proof that he’s a real manager….well, not that far, but you get the idea.

    I am not a Huffer until it turns into something so trivial as to the customer needing to get argumentative over an expired coupon, insisting it be including “just this one time.”

  14. Gail says:

    Why is it annoying that someone is checking that everything rang up correctly? I’ve seen enough big errors to want to be sure things are correct on my receipt especially when you have cashiers that don’t even know what’s what in produce so they ring up somethings at the most expensive price. I especially watch the prices go by at stores where if they goof you get a freebie.

    That being said, I don’t do much with coupons now, but in the days that I did, I stayed organized, etc. and I didn’t care if people behind me got huffy. That is their problem. I don’t for the life of me understand why everyone is constantly in a big hurry all the time. Just like I can’t understand why some people have cell phones glued to their ears.

    Take time to smell the roses. Watching someone during this lousy economy, cash in some coupons and save a few bucks at the store, people should be rooting for them and taking lessons instead of getting annoyed! My favorite thing to see is someone using a food stamp card using coupons also (and not have a cart full of treats instead of real food).

  15. minny says:

    We don’t have much of a coupon culture here in the UK. What we do have are Supermarkets’ own ranges called ‘value’, ‘essential’ or ‘basic’. The quality varies, but I try most and I use very many of them. The are about a third of the cost of branded goods.

    When I first started using them – about four years ago – I got many different kinds of looks and comments from the people behind me in the queue. They ranged from sneering to pitying. Oh, how things have changed! It is a rare trolley that has no value item in it. I have saved many thousands of pounds over the past four years, and I have never noticed much of a difference in my cooking and cleaning.

    Let them ‘huff’ away – it is the coupon user who is stashing the cash. Just look at Erin’s site in Jane4girls blog!!!!

  16. cavale says:

    “In this day and age, you never know when someone will snap and shoot you.”

    come on, seriously?

  17. C. Sykes says:

    Okay, I just don’t get coupons. I just don’t.

    I will sometimes flip through the Sunday paper looking at the things, but it seems to me that they’re all for expensive name-brand products and the money you save isn’t worth the time needed to clip ’em, organize ’em, and dig them out at the checkout (I don’t huff, I grind my teeth)By then, you’ve spent so much time saving (when you deduct the difference between namebrands and generics) a few cents here and there–maybe–that it’s not even worth it.

    I’ll grant that some coupons–two for one, or freebies–may save you enough to make all that effort worth your while, but I think these are few and far between, no?

    Now–convince me that coupons really save me money.

    Be fair, though….don’t rave about the 39 cent coupon savings on Heinz 57 Sauce unless you also tell everyone how much you save buying the store brand version. (I can’t tell any difference in taste and I love the stuff. The difference in price? As much as three bucks per bottle. Just one of many, many examples.

    Now–ducking and covering–I’m ready for the flamings to start.

  18. Olivia says:

    I believe Ellie Kay warns those behind her before she whips out her organized stash of coupons about the possible delay. That might help defray any possible hostility.

    When we had free access to the Sunday paper I used them. Sometimes did very well with double coupons on sale items or those in the damaged bins. Like paying 29 cents per bottle of Suave shampoo (and getting 4 at a clip). Or halving the grocery bill for the week. But a shift occured and coupons for heavily processed foods are now the norm in our area. Very few really great buys.

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  20. Linda Smith says:

    Coupons really don’t save you any money. In fact, they have been proven to get you to spend more money on a product. They lure you in. Go to the store with your list of items that you can actually use. Very rarely will a coupon help. It’s just the way of the manufacturer trying to get your money.
    A smart shopper knows how to save.

  21. Coupons says:

    I don’t see that too often but I’m always impressed, and I think others are also, male or female. I personally let the huffers or people with very few items go ahead of me all the time.

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