I Have Spent More Time Inside a JCPenney This Month Than I Have My Entire Lifetime

I’m writing this post because today, I spent a total of 5 hours after work running around town chasing various deals (many were Amex Offers – Best Buy, Staples, Babies R Us, etc), and while that may sound like a lot of time, much of it was wasted at JCPenney. I want to try to save you some time the next time you’re trying to maximize one of those $X off $X coupons (the most popular one being the $10 off $10 that I seem to get in the mail at least quarterly for no apparent reason).

The Deal

You see, last week, I read this quick deal on FrequentMiler’s blog where you could get a $25 off $25 coupon for purchasing $100 or more in gift cards online or in person. Well, lucky for me, I had procrastinated on doing the $10 off $50 JCP Amex Offer (actually, I probably wasn’t even going to do it at all, since JCP gift cards don’t resell very well above 80% of face value), so that made this deal worth checking out for me. I had just come off my free clothing shopping spree high thanks to the Victoria’s Secret deal and didn’t mind looking into getting some more near-free clothing or kitchen supplies.

So I headed into the JCPenney Home Goods store on December 23, which here is a completely separate building from JCPenney. It’s usually fairly empty, and that day was no exception, so I was glad I didn’t have to deal with the omg-I-forgot-to-buy-a-present craziness. It’s also a lot easier to park and be able to find my car again, which is a huge advantage over going to the mall and wandering around trying to find my car. Anyways, I took a look at the gift rack and saw a $150 gift card blister pack that contained a free $15 off $15 coupon inside. Hmm! My brain started churning. $150 is exactly 3 Amex Offers worth, plus I’d get a $15 off $15 AND a $25 off $25! DEAL!

What happened after I decided to go for the deal is hilarious in hindsight, but frustrating at the time:

  1. The cashier doesn’t know whether she could split tender. I gently encourage us to give it a try.
  2. That blister pack has a magnetic strip on it that you’re supposed to swipe into the system, and she literally tries swiping it 100+ times, and the machine keeps erroring out. Finally, she has the bright idea (that I had suggested after swipe #5…) to type in the gift card number on the back of the blister pack instead. Yay! That works!
  3. …system asks for the gift card PIN. Uh…well she’s not going to open the blister pack and scratch off the PIN sticker…we waste another 5 minutes as she tries to figure out what to do and tries random combinations like 0000 or 1111 and keeps getting errors.
  4. Finally she decides to just press OK instead of entering a PIN at all. Yay! That works! Time to pay!
  5. I insert my chip card. She goes, “OH NO it’s going to charge the entire amount! Cancel cancel cancel!”
  6. We go through the ENTIRE process again of entering the gift card number, leaving the PIN blank, etc.  I say, “Can you just edit the number on the screen after the credit card is read?” and she tries editing the $150 down to $50. Yay! It works!
  7. Repeat two more times.
  8. 30 minutes later…I finally have a $150 gift card and a $15 off $15 coupon.
  9. I walk out the door and get in the car. WAIT!!!! Wasn’t I supposed to get a $25 coupon too?! Urghghhhhh…
  10. Walk back in, my cashier is on a short break already or something (probably because of me). I explain to the guy at the other register that I didn’t get a $25 off $25 coupon. He types a few things into his register and gives me the $25 off $25 coupon from under the cash register. It totally looks like it was photocopied. Oh well.
  11. Yay. I now have a $150 gift card at a cost of $120, a $15 off $15 coupon, and a $25 off $25 coupon. Not missing anything, right?

Wait till you hear my friend Patty’s story of how she went to the same store the day after me and tried to do the same thing. I told her everything she needed to say to the cashier to avoid the same mistakes but the cashier wouldn’t listen to her (it was a different one) and literally repeated the same thing as what had happened to me. Even worse, they actually opened her blister pack! smh…

Here’s what the blister pack looked like, sorry for the dark image since I took it inside the car. The magnetic stripe is on the back of the cardboard.$150 blister pack


I listed the $150 gift card on Raise, and set a reminder on my phone to use my coupons this week (the $15 off $15 expires 12/31). I’ve wandered around JCP many times before clutching a $10 off $10 coupon so I was prepared for how difficult it would be to find something just around the right price and minimize my out of pocket expense. I set JCP as the last stop of my MS route today.

As expected, I wandered around the store a billion times, clutching my bag of McDonald’s (that I used Apple Pay on :P) and trying to hold a bunch of clothes to try in the fitting room. Every time I shop in a department store, I am reminded of how much I hate shopping in person. Everything is strewn about, the clearance rack lacks any organization whatsoever (and some things aren’t even on clearance, but were left there by other shoppers), and price tags are often hard to find.

Here are my tips to save you time:

  • Look at the clearance racks, since the prices often end in .97 or .39 and you might be able to find something that just slightly exceeds your coupon. For example, last week I found leggings for $10.39 and used my $10 off $10 coupon, so I paid a grand total of $0.43 (CA tax, y’know…).
  • If you don’t see anything you like that’s on clearance, look at the sale prices. Oftentimes, you’ll find stuff like $12.99, $14.99, $24.99, etc. Usually something ending in .99. Today, I found a pair of sweatpants in my exact size (it’s difficult), for $24.99. I have a $25 off $25 coupon code and tax doesn’t count, so…
  • Head over to the cheap jewelry section. You’ll find a bunch of marked down earrings and bracelets that make great filler items, ranging from $0.97 to $1.97 to $2.97 and higher. I found earrings for $0.97, so I added them to the sweatpants and paid a grand total of $0.79! I’ll be giving the earrings away. 🙂


I wish I had known about that cheap jewelry section earlier, because it would’ve saved me a heckuva lot of time. For my $15 coupon, I found a pair of men’s slippers on clearance for $14.39 and I should have added a $0.97 filler, but during my wanderabouts I had found fleece-lined leggings for $7.99, so I decided to go way over the $15 coupon and get that instead (you got me, JCP!!!). Grand total on that bill was $8.08 for the slippers and the leggings. Still not bad!

Time spent was definitely not worth the savings. But I think I learned how to save time and be more efficient from this trip so that I would be willing to do this again. Since I very rarely shop for clothing (like once a year), this was also a good excuse to help me add some new things to my wardrobe, even if it’s only pajamas (for all my pajama MSing, you know). 🙂

Do you have any other repeatable hacks to maximize retail coupons like this to share?