Super Couponing Tips: Walking on shopping's wild side
DEAR JILL: I can barely stand to read the letters from rabid — excuse me, avid — couponers. In one of your recent columns, we heard from a shopper who was unhappy because she wasn't able to cheat the store on sales tax and she 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 you 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 say 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.
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. 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 believes 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 do people resell online?
If too many people sell 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.