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Publix may change its coupon policy

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 02:47 PM
TAMPA -

Attention Publix coupon fanatics. There could be big changes in your shopping world soon.

Publix officials confirm they're now considering a major shift in how the Lakeland-based grocery giant handles coupons, just as extreme couponing becomes a national trend.

Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten declined to offer many details on the change since the company has not yet decided on a final policy nor trained individual store managers.

Publix has had a relatively lenient coupon policy, instructing cashiers to honor coupons from a range of competitors.

So if a customer brings a 50-cent-off coupon from Walgreens, cashiers are supposed to honor it at Publix. Matched with Publix's buy-one-get-one free deal, and a manufacturer coupon, some shoppers can routinely save more than 50 percent on their total bill.

Even more ambitious couponers have become minor celebrities, appearing in TV shows like TLC's "Extreme Couponing," buying dozens of Sunday newspapers for the coupons and spending only a few dollars to acquire $1,000 or more in groceries.

The vacuum of official word from Publix on the policy shift has generated a frenzy in the coupon community, with coupon bloggers posting a range of possibilities from minor to near-apocalyptic for some shoppers.

The blog WeUseCoupons.com posted a report that the change would merely be cashiers honoring, then throwing out rival store coupons.

Ashley Nuzzo, editor of one of the most popular coupon sites, FrugalCouponLiving.com, has done her own probing and found her local Publix in Tallahassee will make a major shift.

"They are going to accept competitor coupons differently," she said. "They're going to stick to a five-mile radius for rival stores, and for competitor coupons, they'll only take them from a competitor with a meat, deli and bakery department."

That means no coupons from more traditional drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, and no coupons from dollar stores.

That shift matches reports from the CouponCounselor blog that found its local store manger will no longer accept Walgreens, Sav-a-lot, CVS, Family Dollar, Dollar Store, or Dollar Tree coupons. The site also says Publix would only accept coupons from Target and grocery stores within 5 miles.

"While I certainly will respect and follow the new 'rules,' that doesn't mean I have to be happy about them," that site posted. "I'm sure Publix has to expect that the couponers are going to be upset...who wouldn't be, they are taking something away from us."

In the meantime, Patten would only say "we are in the process of finalizing a companywide coupon policy" that would roll out likely next month. "As you might imagine, policies take time to craft and to develop communication for our stores, associates and customers."

Contact Richard Mullins at (813) 259-7919 or rmullins@tampatrib.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/DailyDeadline.

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