June 22, 2018

10 Tips for Dealing with Empty Shelves

Sep 29, 2011

10 tips for when you plan the perfect couponing trip only to get to the store and find the shelves empty!

No one likes to plan out the perfect couponing scenario only to get to the store and find the shelves empty! Unfortunately, with couponing on the rise (especially “extreme couponing“), shelves are bound to be emptied.

There are a few things you can do when you come across empty shelves:

1. Get a rain check.

A rain check is simply a slip of paper that you can ask for that will allow you to come back at a later date and get the sale price. Wait a week or two (but not too long, some rain checks expire) and come back when the item is back in stock and you can still get the great price!

2. Shop early.

Try to shop as early as you can. If the sale starts on Sunday, don’t wait until Friday to shop. Try to shop the same day the sale starts if you can.

3. Visit another store.

In my area, there seems to be a CVS on every corner. If one store is out of stock, drive down the street and shop at the other store.

4. Call ahead.

If your store is quite a distance away, it might be wise to call your store and ask if they have the product in stock before you drive out there. They may even be willing to hold one for you until you get there.

5. Price match.

Many stores, like Walmart and Target, will price match any advertised sale price. If your Walgreens is out of the $1 cereal, take your ad across the street to Walmart and show them the ad to get the same price there – they will likely have plenty in stock.

6. Talk to the manager.

Occasionally the store will have more product in the back that they have not put out on the shelves yet. They may be able to produce a few products that you needed. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

7. Wait for them to restock.

Find out which day of the week your store restocks the shelves and come back then!

8. Teach your friends coupon etiquette (and follow the rules yourself).

Be sure to teach your friends how to coupon the right way. They’re likely shopping at your store anyway! Remember to follow the rules yourself. If you don’t like empty shelves, then don’t be a “shelf-clearer”.

9. Don’t make assumptions.

If you see someone buying a large quantity of items, do not automatically assume they’re a shelf-clearer. They might have a large family that truly goes through 10 boxes of cereal in a week.

10. Skip the sale.

More sales will come around. Really! If you’re just starting out, it is really hard to pass up a great sale, but know that there are always more deals to come. It’s okay to sit one out.

I hope these tips will help you deal with finding empty shelves! Be sure to read my “Coupon Etiquette” series to find out the unspoken rules of couponing!


  1. “If you see someone buying a large quantity of items, do not automatically assume they’re a shelf-clearer.” Thank you for saying this!! I don’t have a large family, but my family of 4 (+1 on the way) eats a LOT of cereal. My husband alone eats 2 bowls almost every morning before he goes to work, so we buy a good amount of it when it’s at a good price, and I feel like I do get strange looks sometimes for buying 6-8 boxes of cereal. Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever cleared the shelves of cereal either. Publix stays pretty well-stocked.

  2. Most often I choose #10–skip the sale. Couponing is great, but it shouldn’t cause stress or obsessions. Besides, once you have four extra tubes of toothpaste at home, getting one more on sale doesn’t matter that much.

    • Totally agree..but I dont pay for toothpaste but not because of coupons..there are 3 of us in our family, we go to the dentist 2 -3 times a year..get tooth paste, floss and tooth brushes there..plus my daughter and I both have braces and we get toothpaste, floss and tooth brushes there..so I save money that way and we go to the orthodontist atleast 1 time every month to month and a half so we never run out. I do have a stock pile of toothpaste because I get the free ones each time we go and for each patient I get one so on an avg month I get 2-3 of each free. (unless you count the cost of our braces)

  3. These are very realistic expectations. Thank you for this article.

  4. i normally get raincheck most stores are good about that had words with “coupon-hater in albertsons checkout yesterday checking out with medium order but cashier was going slow getting my coupons to go through , guy was behind got poed pushed pass and rammed my legs with his buggy. i said hey you hit me you jerk! and he says i said excuse me and besides you are taking up my time with you ####! now i was in a regular checkout not an express or whatever and there other cashiers open and at least one self checkout ! it made my daughter hot!

  5. Quick question.. Possibly unrelated. Do you know if the stores that price match like Walmart will also do a coupon for that same item?

  6. Thanks for the tips – I always forget about the “rain check” option.

  7. Thanks for reminder of rain checks!

  8. Thanks for the great tips!

  9. Lynette Rice via Facebook says:

    Great tips!

  10. Jennie LeAnne via Facebook says:

    Love these tips! Thank you!!

  11. This definitely has happened to me a fair number of times – great tips!

  12. Ugh, I hate it when the deals are gone! 🙁

  13. That can be so frustrating to not find what you’re looking for!

  14. Thanks for the suggestions!

  15. Thanks for the tips

  16. Thank you for sharing! These are great tips!

  17. We always get rain checks

  18. Thank you!!! I hate getting to the store with my scenarios planned out to find shelves empty!

  19. This is sooo frustrating! Especially when it is a MEGA or a 10 for $10 deal!

  20. Great tips!

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