Grocery Geek Presents: Requesting and Redeeming Rain Checks

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A stack of bagged flour on a counter.

I love me a good sale. I love to open the grocery sale flyers to see what bargains are available each week. I love to snag a good deal to stretch our dollars just a little farther.

I don’t love getting to the store and finding the shelf empty.

This can happen for a number of reasons: late or missed shipments, a run on the sale, or a store purposely leaving the shelves empty in order to draw customers. I don’t know how often that last circumstance occurs, but it is possible.

However, most stores offer rain checks if they are out of the advertised special when you come to call. Unless the advertisement says “while supplies last” or “no rainchecks,” you are guaranteed to be able to acquire the said item for the sale price. Provided that you get thee to the store and have the money to pay with.

Near Easter time one of my local stores had flour on sale for $1.29 a bag. This is a stock up price these days since flour has tripled in cost over the last two years. Last year I bought 20 bags at one time. Cooking from scratch saves me a ton of money, but also necessitates a ton of flour as well. Since the shelf was empty, I went to customer service and requested a rain check.

What’s a Rain Check?

A close up of a pink Vons raincheck.

A rain check is a small piece of paper, a voucher, if you will, that states the store, the item, the price and any limitations on the sale. Sometimes rainchecks have expiration dates; sometimes the clerk will limit how many you can buy when you come back. Since different clerks fill out rain checks, one person might put a limit on your purchase while the next guy will not. Unless there’s a clear policy, your mileage may vary.

For example, a friend got a raincheck for chicken breast recently, and they limited his purchase to 10 pounds. When I went to the same store and they were out of chicken, they let me choose the limit. I said 20 pounds. My friend was indignant. Well, sorta.

Redeeming Rain Checks

Keep the rain check like you would cash or a coupon. If you don’t have it when you go to redeem it, you will not get the sale price. I stash mine in my coupon box until needed.

 When you do return to the store to purchase your item, check with customer service as to the proper procedure for redeeming it. Stores vary. Generally, though, you will get your items and take them to the checkstand. Present the rain check to the cashier and he or she should adjust the price. If it is meat, you may have to take your purchase to the meat counter to have the price adjusted.

If your rain check has a limit on it, you will need to buy all that you want to buy (within that limit) at this time. In my experience, meat counter guys tend to let you keep the raincheck. Checkers do not. You will have to surrender the rain check and kiss extra sale items goodbye.

When I went to buy my 20 bags of flour, they didn’t have 20 bags on the shelf. I inquired at customer service and the representative said the cashier would give me back the rain check to get more on another day. The cashier, however, disagreed. She said rain checks needed to be surrendered. In any event, once I made it clear that I would have bought all 20 if they had had them, they issued me a new rain check. I bought 8 bags of flour for $1.29 and can go back and buy the other 12 on another day.

Yes, rain checks take a little work. But, the “sale” price the day I redeemed my rain check was $3.50 per 5-pound bag of flour. I saved $17.68 by using a raincheck.

What’s been your experience with rainchecks? Is it worth it?

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  1. I’ve always got and used rain checks in the past. But here’s a new issue I had never heard before- my local Shaw’s had Gatorade on sale but didn’t have the flavor I usually get. When I asked for a rain check, the woman at the service counter told me that they can’t write a rain check for an item that’s not on the weekly flyer! This must’ve a different sale that wasn’t advertised in the flyer. I found the sale in their app for her but that apparently didn’t matter to her. Why on earth would that be the case? No idea. And she couldn’t give me a reason either! Other than that’s the store policy. I’ve never heard that one before, have you? I never got my Gatorade on sale. So sad

  2. To add to the comments about rainchecks at CVS- if I had planned to use a coupon on the sale item they are out of, my store will make a note of it on the raincheck, and they will still honor the coupon even if its expired by the time they restock the item! not sure if that’s a national policy or if it varies by location, but its worth checking out!

  3. I love getting rain checks. Sometimes I am actually HOPING that the store will be out of an item, because this allows me more time to collect coupons to get an even better deal. My Publix is very kind in giving rain checks to me, but then they know me and know that I am an honest couponer/customer (not to mention that I have 5 children and they make bunches of money off of us!) If they are out of an item that is supposed to be on sale, I circle the item so that I remember to stop by customer service on my way out to get my rain check. If I don’t have it written down in front of me, I am sure to forget. They usually have the item back on the shelf within a week or so. My CVS on the other hand takes FOREVER to restock, and usually by then my coupon has expired. I still get a rain check, though, and hope for the best.

  4. I’ve never even thought of asking about rain checks in grocery stores. I recently needed a mattress for one of my kids, and found an awesome sale at the PXtra on post. They were sold out, so I got a rain check. I was so glad I did, because even though the price was the same, I got a $100 gift card for the PX/PXtra! Now there’s something that’s well worth a wait. I’ll try to remember to give it a go at the grocery store next time. Thanks!

  5. Great post! Thanks!

    My problem is that I tend to forget to get the raincheck! I’ve learned so many (new) great things since starting my frugal living blog (The Friendly Frugalista), but it takes a while for me to make new ideas a habit. It took me weeks to figure out an organization system (for coupons, rebates, flyers, etc.) that works for me. But, what counts is that it DOES work for me. :o) I have a flexible binder filled with folders that I use to organize store specific items, so that’s where I’d put my rainchecks (if I had any). I have a binder for my coupons too, but I’d forget the rainchecks if I mixed them in with coupons. LOL!

  6. i love rainchecks… like was already mentioined, especially for cvs. i always have done rainchecks at the grocery store, but recently started at cvs too. when i redeem them (at least here), they have to manually print out the ecb, and they can only do that on the dollar. so if the ecb should be for $2.49, it rounds up to $3, which makes a good deal even better!

  7. I love being able to get rain checks. As you said, the items I want on sale are often gone by the time I get there so getting a rain check allows me to get it when I want (and hopefully have some coupons in hand by that time, if I didn’t already).

    My best rain check purchase recently was 48oz Crisco vegetable and canola oil for only $1.50 per bottle – I saved $3.04 per bottle! What great savings!

    Rain checks are a GOOD thing in my opinion!

  8. CVS will give rainchecks not only for the item’s price, but the extra care bucks that come with it. Their rainchecks have no expiration date, either. This sometimes works out well later when I am trying to purchase a certain amount to use a coupon such as $5 off a $20 purchase and the product from the raincheck is back in stock.

  9. I am a user of coupons but have never gotten a rain check. The next time the sale item is not there, I think I will get a rain check. I have a coupon file I carry in my purse why not have some rain checks too.

  10. I love rainchecks too. Especially when it’s such a good deal like your flour. It was totally worth the small amount of extra time to save $17 +. That $17 can go for a much better purpose!

  11. During one of Safeway’s cereal sales, I helped a friend remember to get a raincheck- which also helped her have time to order coupons for the items as well! Prices in HI are higher, so every bit helps.

  12. I love getting rainchecks. I usually have to get them for chicken or baking goods. Our store has double coupon day on the last day of the weekly flyer, so usually they are out of a really good sale when I’m there. It actually can work out really well because I like to stock up when I can.

    Funny story: I always take my 2 1/2-year-old daughter with me when I grocery shop. A few weeks ago I mumbled, “oh, we’re going to have to get a raincheck.” She replied, “I don’t want to get wet.” Took me a little bit to figure out what she met –so cute!

  13. Rain checks have worked for me very well. I tend to shop twice a week, on Wednesdays after work, generally because that’s the first day of the sale and its the day publix does its penny item. Generally, I’m too worn out after work to do a big shopping, so I basically just hit the deals on Wednesday. Then I go either early Saturday or Sunday morning to get the basics… milk, produce, etc. If they don’t have the item when I go back on the weekend, I get a raincheck because I know I won’t make it back again before the sale ends ESPECIALLY if the item is something we use all the time or the sale price combined with a coupon makes it free or almost free!!!! (and yes, I pick up stuff that we don’t use when its free or almost free because my daughter’s school has food drives several times a year, and I think its a good example to send her with an overflowing bag) I also donate free cat food to the local animal shelter — we don’t have cats, I’m allergic!)
    So yes, I think rain checks are definitely worth the little bit of extra hassel! Especially if your store has GREAT customer service — which mine does! 🙂

  14. Truth? I always forget about them. I plan my trips really well since I always have the three little ones with me and I think when there’s a wrinkle once I get there, I just forget to bother stopping by customer service. My dad is actually good about rain checks. He’s always getting them for the good deals… but, of course, he’s retired and does not shop with 3 who are 5 and under. 😉 This is definitely an area in which I could grow!