Taxed Ten Cents Too Much

, , , , | Right | June 19, 2017

Me: “Okay, your total is [total].”

Customer: “I have this five dollar off coupon.”

Me: “Oh, sorry, as it says on the coupon, the five dollars off are only for purchases of $25.00 or above, excluding tax.”

Customer: “But I have $25.00.”

Me: “Yes, but that’s including the tax. Your total before tax is $24.90 which is what the coupon counts. You can grab a candy or something to make it enough.”

(The lady stands there for ages angrily reading all the exclusions on the coupon.)

Me: “Uh… so did you want to grab a candy or…?”


Me: “It’s a law that coupons can’t be used on tax, not store policy, so they wouldn’t write it on the coupon—”


(She then throws the coupon and storms out, leaving her purchases. All right, lady. If they printed every single consumer and business law on a coupon, it would go out the door!)

1 Thumbs
  • Hahn Ackles

    Oh hey, comments are working for me again… I haven’t been able to see them all day.

    Also… This customer gets around, I swear they’ve come through my store. 😛

    • Leiko Burningbear

      Same “no comments” thing happened with me earlier today. It was weird.

  • Alison Steiner

    I love they always throw the item and storm out without their purchases like a baby. I’d have just grabbed a candy as a snack and got my 5 dollars off and left.

    • nejg_1988

      So would every other rational person. When I worked in retail we had a promotion spend X amount get $1 off a gallon of gas up to so many gallons. I had a guy who was less then $2 away from getting the coupon, refuse to spend just a bit more. Later his wife asked me why I didn’t try to convince him to get a soda or something, she was really ticked at him once she realized he was just being “cheap”. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for the discussion they had later.

      • Rob Tonka

        “Later his wife asked me why I didn’t try to convince him to get a soda or something”

        Whether you did or not, why does she act like its your responsibility to save him money?

        • nejg_1988

          Because we were kinda friends, I mean more then acquaintances, but because of age and rank gap didn’t hang out like normal friends, (extremely small military community in Europe) and to see if her husband really had that big of a dumb moment.

    • Alison Steiner

      funny part is this happened to my mom once but she didn’t throw a fit but she did think it unfair. We were in a Nike shoe store and I think we were close to a discount there (can’t remember amount) but we were a dime off before tax literally 10 cents and my mom had to buy a 1 dollar pair of socks for her discount. Was really silly but I guess the guy didn’t wanna get in trouble

  • jennifer barge

    All of our coupons say before tax or some type of sentence..

    • And people like this lady are probably the reason why…

    • Jackie Fauxe

      Yeah, it really should have said that. Given that it didn’t, the store probably should have found a way to make it work without her buying anything extra.

      I’m not condoning her behavior, but the store probably could have prevented it from escalating to that point.

      • Stacy

        That’s not how it works lol

      • Rob Tonka

        It DID say it.

        “Oh, sorry, as it says on the coupon, the five dollars off are only for purchases of $25.00 or above, excluding tax.”

        • Jackie Fauxe

          “It’s a law that coupons can’t be used on tax, not store policy, so they wouldn’t write it on the coupon” suggests otherwise.

          It seems like the OP thought it would be included on the coupon, but then stated it didn’t need to be on the coupon. The customer’s reading of the fine print suggests it isn’t listed.

          I guess it’s hard for us to know for sure which it was. Regardless, it should be listed on the coupon.

          • Torbjörn Axelsson

            I am curious how that works, especially when you come to extreme couponing where people get 99% off. Is the store _really_ paying tax on the full price?

            I know for a fact that the customer is not paying the sales tax for the list price of the items, but for the actual amount. (Even if my source is just some extreme couponing TV show.)

          • Difdi

            Not all states have sales tax at all. Many states that do have sales tax don’t tax food purchases. Being presented with a $150 tax bill to go with a $5 total for $1500 of groceries wouldn’t be very exciting on an extreme couponing show, so they either film them in places where there won’t be sales tax or pre-arrange with the store to not say what the tax was, only the subtotal.

          • Ghostest

            The tax is calculated after all discounts are applied so even if the full price is $100 if you are only collecting a $1 after discounts the customer gets taxed on the $1. The store doesn’t collect taxes based off of the sticker price but on the realized sale.

          • Torbjörn Axelsson

            Thanks, that at least makes sense. But I suppose that if prices are to be given excluding taxes this would also apply to coupons.

      • Difdi

        If the coupon were required to list every law the store complies with when offering a coupon, the coupon would be the size of a dictionary.

        That makes no sense at all.

        • Jackie Fauxe

          I imagine there are regulations as to what has to be listed.

          I currently have a $5 off my purchase of $15 at my local grocery store. Here’s what’s in the fine print: Must present coupon with your [store] card and purchases at checkout. With minimum purchases as noted (Minimum spend must be met after all coupons & savings have been subtracted from order and before sales tax has been added to order.) Offer excludes gift cards, money orders, Rug Doctor, Western Union, postage stamps, lottery tickets, gasoline, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, pharmacy items and any other purchases prohibited by law. Coupon redeemable at your neighborhood [store]. Coupon not redeemable at [website]. Limit one coupon per customer per order. Coupon can not be doubled or tripled, or combined with any other offer.

          It’s wordy, but it all fits in a space about the size of a postage stamp–no dictionary required.

          Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find out what exactly a “rug doctor” is.

          • Ghostest

            A Rug Doctor is a rental carpet shampooer.

          • Difdi

            Or alternately a gynecologist, for the dirty minded. =P

    • Stacy

      Some say it. Some don’t. More often than not, I see it listed as “limits and restrictions apply”

  • WonderRabbit

    The customer overreacted, but I kinda have to agree.
    Here, pricing works the exact opposite (everything includes tax, and it would be considered misleading to do anything ‘excluding tax’), so I can see how confusion could arise.

    • Robert Sinn

      Sure I agree that tax inclusive pricing is better but the American system doesn’t work that way.

      Considering there was also a law saying the coupon wouldn’t affect the tax it does make sense. (Though the law itself is weird and probably a pain from an accounting perspective. Shouldn’t matter as long as they get their percentage)

      • General Ledger

        From an accounting perspective, the coupon policy makes things easier. The pain is the tax laws themselves. The USA was built around governmental power concentrated at the local level. So there are 45 different state sales tax laws (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon do not charge state sales tax) and numerous county, city, and district sales tax laws that define what and how something is taxed. In some areas, a store coupon can reduce the taxable price, but not a manufacturer’s coupon. In other areas tax is based on the price charged before any discounts. Texas bases the tax on gross receipts and backs the tax in. New York has different tax rates on the same street and block. Store at 123 Fake Street has a different rate than the store at 122 Fake Street. Remote selling makes things even more complex as the regions argue over who gets to collect the tax.

    • Stacy

      Another country’s norms have nothing to do with this though.

    • Illogically

      The reason the US doesn’t include tax on the shelf price is because different states and counties levy different tax rates. So if you’re near the border of two counties, a store on one side can have a completely different tax rate than one ten minutes away. Having post-tax prices listed would make it way more difficult for businesses with more than one location to advertise to each area.

      • Martin

        Then it’s up to the store to display correct pricing. Advertised prices and displayed pricing are two completely different things. (when supported by an *)

        • Illogically

          I’m sure if they really wanted to, businesses could print ads that show the price before tax, and then the stores themselves could display the prices after tax. That’s just not how it’s currently implemented, and it would take a nation-wide orchestrated effort to change that. I was explaining the general ‘why’, in case WonderRabbit or other readers didn’t know.

          • Torbjörn Axelsson

            The reason that the business display prices after taxes is that they show a smaller number.

            Adding 4% or 7% or 1.234% or whatever is hard for the customer.

            Anyone in their right mind (except businesses) would like the true price to be displayed.

            Ok, there are other counties that are just as backwards, such as Japan.

          • Difdi

            People in small countries just don’t get how hard it would be to make changes like that in large countries.

            You can use Google to find maps that show various small countries superimposed on various US states. Once you’ve done that, contrast how hard it is to enact drastic change in your small country, then multiply that hundreds of times.

          • Potatopie

            You can fit more than half of Western Europe (France, Spain, Germany, etc) in the state of Alaska alone. There are 11 US states larger than the United Kingdom.

            Since sales tax is effectively calculated on a city by city basis, it would literally kill every retailer in the country trying to pay people for the sole purpose of calculating, updating, displaying, and advertising every store’s prices after all applicable taxes.

          • Ghostest

            It can get even smaller than that: Cities can add sales taxes which may vary with location within the city as well as within the county due to special taxing districts. That’s part of what makes sales tax returns fun.

      • Difdi

        Ten minutes? I live about half a block from the city line, and there are stores across the street from each other with different tax rates.

        If both had to have tax-included pricing, the one in the more expensive city would never generate any business with its ad flyers.

      • Hahn Ackles

        Yep. My store has a sister location a fifteen minute drive away, but different city laws make for a .75% difference in the tax rate. If we included taxes in the list price we’d have to run completely separate ads for the two stores, despite our prices being matched.

    • Cally

      This is someone who lives in the country stated, possibly from birth, but still refuses to understand how that system works.
      I visited the US for ONE week and I understood how it works, it isn’t brain surgery, it’s just paying attention.
      Also, saying it isn’t how it works in your country isn’t relevant to the post, at all. This isn’t about your country.

    • ieatworms

      you seem relatively intelligent. I have a tough time believing you would be unable to adapt and understand how the tax system works even in as short a time as a week. While the actual math can be difficult depending the idea that tax is roughly X% more isnt that hard to grasp. In this case I feel the customer is just being a pain the ass for the sake of it.

  • RyderOrRiot1

    All this over 10 cents?! Why am I not surprised?

  • Go for it, lady. the BBB has no power, so calling them is you just wasting your time.

    On the other hand, I’m sure there was a cheap lollipop or chocolate bar you could have bought…

    • ieatworms

      yup. The BBB is an advertising company. Thats all.

      • Ophelia

        That does make me wonder: What are the most trustworthy of such organizations that keep track of business integrity? I suppose Consumer Reports would be one?

        • ieatworms

          Depends. In my current career it’s google trusted store reviews. Otherwise there really aren’t any. Consumer reports is good for some but that doesn’t cover local companies. Angie’s list is next but they also turned into an advertisement company. Problem is you need to make some income somehow to pay for running the review company so inevitably they have to be biased somehow.

  • Deadpool
  • Wendigone

    Never seen a coupon for an ‘orders of x amount or more’ offer that didn’t specify that it means pre-tax. Customer was right that it should have specified and OP is kind of a jerk for acting like the store shouldn’t state such an important detail (at the end of this post). Sure, customer behaved poorly, but she did have a valid point.

    • Rob Tonka

      3rd line in the post.

      “Oh, sorry, as it says on the coupon, the five dollars off are only for purchases of $25.00 or above, excluding tax.”

      • Wendigone

        Which is contradicted by the ending, which I remembered better:


        Me: “It’s a law that coupons can’t be used on tax, not store policy, so they wouldn’t write it on the coupon—”

  • Abigail Hermione Irwin

    I’ve had to explain that occasionally to customers, but I’ve never had a reaction like that. They usually just say, “Okay, throw a bit of extra tea into one of those packages) or they pick up something relatively small and cheap to bring the total up to the required BEFORE TAX amount.

  • Tri Led

    Reminds me of the time when an old man wanted to play pool and we weren’t allowed after 10. He screamed “It isn’t written anywhere!” Over and over and over and over, God I wanted to punch that boomer so much.

  • Martin

    Don’t blame the customer, blame the ridiculous US taxing system. Displaying products prices before tax is the dumbest thing in the world.

    • Rebekah

      I know right?

    • WC

      Personally, I think gas prices that end in 9/10ths of the smallest currency amount are dumber. And we still do that, too.

    • NatesMama1128

      No, that’s no excuse for her behavior.

    • Dsru Bin

      Um…that actually works BETTER in this case than having the price tags include tax. Here, if I pick up a product of the shelf that is labeled $25.50, I know that my coupon will work on it. In a place where tax is already on the label, if I pick up a product labeled $25.50, I don’t know how much of that is tax, so I don’t know if my coupon will work.

      • Wim Lammens

        Unless you change the system to how (much of) the rest of the world does it: all prices displayed in stores are the prices including tax, and these are the only ones you have to take into consideration when using a coupon.

    • ieatworms

      Im not sure how or why you think that. The tax systems makes perfect sense. In the 40+ years I have been on this particular planet its always made sense.

    • Ophelia

      Well, it’s because we have no law requiring it, and any attempt to pass such a law would be lobbied into oblivion and then some.

  • Denton Young

    Customer needs to go purchase herself a brain that works.

  • Ian Rennie

    I’m kind of with her on one issue at least. If it means “excluding tax” it needs to say that on the coupon. That’s not an obvious and immediate assumption for people to make.

    • Tim Stevens

      This comment makes sense. The customer was correct in her point, however the execution was bad.

    • Pete Harris

      I live in Connecticut. The sales tax is uniform statewide. Coupons have never been applicable to sales tax amounts, regardless of the product involved. A coupon that requires a $25 purchase means $25 of product, and not the final sale. It’s always been this way. The only way the customers’ actions here are defensible are if she’s never done her own shopping r just moved here from a very different part of the country.

      • Ian Rennie

        It’s great that you understood it immediately. It shouldn’t be taken as read that everyone did, especially when the remedy (putting “excluding tax” on the coupon) is so simple.

  • Kathy Plester

    They may have a little bit of fine print that says ‘local laws apply’ or something along those lines. Most coupons I have ever had have this on them.

  • ieatworms

    I love when people threaten with the BBB. The BBB is a load of horseshit. Its an advertising company with absolutely zero governmental influence. You would be better off threatening to post a bad review on some garbage site like yelp. But even then you would look like a fool.

    • allahboleh

      The PTA would probably have been more effective

  • Peter

    One would think if almost every country does it differently, America would pick up that the whole “the price is not what you pay” scam is not the right way to do it. Who am I kidding, that reason didn’t cut it for imperial/metric. Or am/pm vs 2400. Or letter vs DIN. Why does American pride prevent Americans from adopting good solutions?

  • Chris Hubbard

    Bleh, the ones that get that picky are often setup explicitly to force you to buy more than the sale item if you want the benefit. I always hated those types of coupons. “Here is a great amazing, incredible deal! (in really tiny print) Of course, you have to spend x amount of money, not counting the great sale deal, in order to qualify”

  • justinagirle

    I’ve always known it was pre-tax and usually add things up in my head before getting to the register but if my calculations are off, I’m not opposed to grabbing some chocolate to push me over.

  • arglebargle

    The OP is right about printing all potential rules/regulations/laws/caveats on a coupon. Years back, I read a newspaper article about a lawsuit against a tire company because a customer had a car wreck due to mixing radial and non-radial tires on his car. He contended that the warning not to mix the two should have been on the tire itself. In court, the defense showed the list of all reasonable warnings about tire use that were equally as important as not mixing tire types. They pointed out that if all those warnings needed to be on the tire itself, there would be no room left for tread. The court found for the defendant.