By Jill Cataldo
Recently, I shared an email from a reader who believes there is a conspiracy going on with electronic coupons. My reader feels that companies offering coupons online and via phone apps are deliberately excluding discounts from the people who need them the most. I offered some budget-friendly tips for ways to access coupons online, including visiting a public library and using a free computer terminal to load e-coupons to a store’s loyalty card or print coupons.
The column generated lots of feedback. Many readers chimed in to support the idea of using free Internet access at the library. Others offered criticism. Here’s a sampling:
Dear Jill: If people can’t afford Internet and don’t have a computer they probably also don’t have time or gas to go to the library all the time. These big companies need to figure out how to get these people their e-coupons!” – Lauren S.
Dear Jill: I do not understand how you can state that companies are not intentionally leaving behind a certain segment of the population using this delivery method. Upper income levels have equipment to access and print coupons. And this segment of the population has the least need for coupon savings. Companies ought to be providing coupon access in all formats to accommodate all levels of society. What has happened for your concern for the population that needs to stretch their budgets by using coupons? “ – Pattsi P.
I continue to be devoted helping people stretch their budgets. Long before I began writing this column, coupons were instrumental in helping us afford to live on one income. My husband worked outside the home and I was home with our children. Like many parents, a big part of my at-home role was managing our finances. The amount of money I saved each year with coupons was wonderful, but it was also necessary to our bottom line.
That said, everyone needs to think about why companies offer coupons in the first place. Manufacturers do not create coupon campaigns for the sole purpose of helping people save money.
They create coupons to encourage shoppers to buy a specific product or shop at a specific retailer. It’s through knowledge, strategic shopping and using coupons at the best possible times that we reduce our weekly grocery bills.
While companies are embracing new technologies to deliver coupons, they still use the traditional methods, too. Coupons are still found in the newspaper, in direct mail and in stores. But it’s impossible to insist that companies not offer discounts via new media when so many people are utilizing it. The Internet age has permanently changed the way people communicate and receive information.
Think about this. Before the 1950s, the primary means of broadcasting was radio.
When advertisers wished to reach the public, they bought ad time on the radio. But by 1959, 88 percent of U.S. homes had a television, and marketers rapidly embraced the new medium. It would be futile to insist that companies only continue advertising on the radio when television was also available.
As I shared in a previous column, 90 percent of Americans who make more than $50,000 per year are online. But 62 percent of Americans who make less than $30,000 per year are also online. Companies simply are not going to ignore the Internet as a medium to deliver coupon offers. But that doesn’t mean they’re eliminating paper coupons!
Companies that previously advertised on the radio began advertising on television, but that doesn’t mean they stopped advertising on the radio. And, while e-coupon offers continue to grow, traditional paper coupons still dominate. A 2012 Kantar Media study notes that 74 percent of coupons issued came out the old-fashioned way: newspaper inserts.
If you’re not online, it’s true that you may be missing out on electronic coupon offers. But the good news? Nearly 75 percent of coupons are issued in the newspaper. The majority of coupons available to shoppers aren’t going away anytime soon.
Jill Cataldo 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.