Most coupons that are issued in the Sunday paper will say "manufacturers coupon" on the top. Many will also say "do not double" or "do not triple." (In couponer slang, that's DND or DNT). This confuses a lot of people, but it is really not confusing.
Store policies vary, of course (see my previous Coupon Corner post for the rules for doubling at each store). But most manufacturer's coupons will double — as long as you are shopping at a store that doubles coupons and are within the store's limits for doubling (coupons worth up to 99 cents at Harris Teeter and Lowes; 50 cents at Kroger).
In 95 percent of the cases, they will double regardless of whether they say DND or DNT. The 5 percent of times that a coupon does not double is because of a little technicality with coupons. If you look at the bar codes on your coupons, the very first number on the very far left is either a tiny little 5 or a 9. Most of the coupons in the Sunday paper begin with a 5. The coupons that come from those little "blinkie" dispensers in grocery store aisles often begin with a 9. It is the ones that begin with a 9 that do not double in stores' register systems. As long as the bar code begins with a tiny little 5, it will double, regardless of what the coupon says. That's the majority of coupons, so in general, you shouldn't have to worry too much about it.
NOTE: In May 2010, Lowes Foods changed its official coupon policy to state that any coupons that state "do not double" will not be doubled. Cashiers actually inspect each coupon and manually enter those that state do not double. This of course overrides the whole 5 and 9 system. At the time of this update, Lowes is the only store in our market with this policy, so the 5 and 9 system works at other stores still.
So, why then, do manufacturers go through the trouble of putting DND or DNT on a coupon?
There is actually a reason.
If you read the fine print on most coupons, you'll note that the manufacturer promises to pay the store back the face value of the coupon, plus usually 8 cents for handling. But with many stores offering double or triple coupons all the time, the manufacturer wants to be clear that it will only pay the face value. When a store chooses to double or triple coupons anyway, the store is basically taking a loss on the doubled part of the coupon.
So, for example, if you have a 50-cent coupon and the store doubles it to $1, the manufacturer will pay the store back 50 cents for the coupon, plus that 8 cents for handling. But the other 42 cents comes out of the store's pocket. Many stores choose to go ahead and double coupons anyway because it's a way to compete with other stores in the super-competitive grocery industry. And that is really good for shoppers!
Updated: May 10, 2010