MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

April 2, 2013

Coupon a privilege, not necessarily an entitlement

— Do you feel entitled to receive coupon discounts? I’ve always considered coupons a privilege – a bonus that allows us to save money on products we already plan to buy or an incentive to try a new product at a lower price. But an increasing number of emails I receive indicate that some shoppers feel coupons are their right, and they are upset when they don’t get the discounts they want. Here are some recent emails:

Dear Jill: I’m getting really fed up with the coupons lately. I used to count on $1 coupons for items like juices and now I am lucky to get a coupon for 75 cents off three bottles. I wrote one company to complain, and they said they had changed some of their offers recently. Well, guess what? I can change what I buy, too. Now if I see a coupon for multiple products, I won’t buy their brand! I buy a different brand or a cheaper store brand. Hopefully the company gets the hint! — Ellen W.

Dear Jill: Your readers’ letters are a perfect metaphor with what’s wrong with our society today. Coupons are seen by many as entitlements that are owed to them by manufacturers and stores, rather than occasions of saving a few cents as an inducement to buy a particular product. Regrettably, that sort of thinking is not limited to coupons but to most everything else in our society as well. — Heinz R.

There definitely has been a shift in shopper attitudes over the past year. Inmar, one of the largest coupon marketing companies in the nation, recently released their annual report on 2012 coupon trends. The report notes that coupon shoppers’ sentiments have changed “from effort to entitlement.” Instead of viewing coupons as a bonus – a benefit enjoyed by those who shop strategically – many shoppers now feel that they deserve discounts. Inmar states that shoppers used to identify with a strategy of putting in effort to get deals on brands that they buy, but notes that an incredible 65 percent of shoppers now “don’t think they should have to work for deals.” Of the shoppers they surveyed, 37 percent of the shoppers went further, stating that they wished all coupons were digital so they wouldn’t have to do much work (if any) to use the offers.

I do agree that the attitude of entitlement in our culture has become increasingly pervasive. Shoppers willing to do the work of watching sales, monitoring cycles and matching coupons to the lowest prices should be rewarded with lower prices at the checkout. I’ve always said that couponing is a bit of work, but it’s work that pays very well. If a shopper is not willing to invest a little time in their “work” (the time spent planning a shopping trip) why should they reap the same reward as the person who did take the time to cut coupons and match them to the sales?

To put it another way, imagine that two people are planning a trip, and they each need to book a flight online. The first traveler chooses convenience and books the first flight in front of him at the top of the schedule grid. The second traveler takes a few minutes to compare airlines, flight times and alternate airports. He books his flight and pays $75 less than the first traveler. Is the first traveler “entitled” to pay the same price as the guy who did his homework and researched the best price? No.

Smart Living Tip: You can spend money to save time or you can spend time to save money. I will always invest time in preparing for a purchase, whether it’s an airline flight or a box of cereal, because I’m rewarded with cost savings. Someone who’d rather grab the first box of cereal they see on the shelf is rewarded with time saved, but they’ve also paid a higher financial price.

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 jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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