Judging by my inbox, there are far more coupon complaints than coupon cheer from shoppers these days. I always aim to promote couponing best practices in my column, my blog and my couponing classes. It’s clear, though, that the ill-advised actions of a few shoppers have an outsized impact on the rest of us. Listen in as a few readers share their stories from the front lines of couponing.
Dear Jill: I can barely stand to read the letters from rabid – excuse me, avid – couponers. In one of your recent columns, a shopper was unhappy because she wasn’t able to cheat the store on sales tax and wants to have a law about it.
Another, Laura, griped that being charged less than the advertised price for cookie mixes was absurd. That’s a new low. Customers usually complain about being overcharged, not undercharged.
I use coupons in what I hope is an ethical way. I don’t stockpile products for use in years to come. How many containers of deodorant can one family use, anyway? During the holidays I do use the free turkey with minimum purchase coupon from my local market to purchase a turkey for our food pantry. At times, I also purchase a few other items to donate using coupons. Recently, my store had a closeout on a major brand of taco shells and the boxes had a huge cents-off coupon attached. It ended up about 20 cents per box. I bought ten boxes for a pantry donation, but did not clear the shelf. I don’t consider this an abuse of the system.
I can tell from your columns that you don’t condone misuse and work with manufacturers and stores when making your recommendations. However, I think some people only hear what they want to hear and the word free takes over their brains. – Suzanne P.
Dear Jill: I read your column and have a couple of thoughts I would like to share. While I am not a couponer, I understand the logic behind couponing to save money. However, I feel I should remind you and your readers that you and the companies who issue the coupons have the same goal: more money in the pocket. You expressed the idea that shoppers can sway how manufacturers respond, and they can. But you might consider the notion that while shoppers may win the battle, they may also lose the war.
If I were a marketing director and saw how consumer double-dipping on discounts is affecting my company’s profits, I would strongly counsel the company to reduce the number of times it issues coupons, maybe discouraging the company from issuing them at all. No one likes being taken advantage of, and to my way of thinking that is what some of your readers are trying to do. As you said, coupons are a privilege, not a right. And if couponers push too hard to take advantage of a company, the company has the right to not give in to the pressure by withholding the coupon. So both parties lose, but couponers lose more. – Barbara T.
Both Suzanne and Barbara touch on the “golden goose” aspect of couponing. Couponers know we have a wonderful system going for us. In order to preserve it, shoppers shouldn’t seek ways to beat or cheat the system. Let’s not slay the golden goose! A manufacturer or store can eliminate coupons from a marketing campaign if it feels coupons don’t deliver the desired results. One manufacturer I interviewed considers an interesting number when planning future coupon promotions: How many of its current coupons are people reselling online? If too many people are selling the company’s coupons (which is expressly prohibited by the coupon’s terms) then the company offers a lower dollar value coupon in its next promotion cycle. It’s yet another reason to play by the rules and use coupons as they’re intended.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.