Judging by my inbox, there are far more coupon complaints than cheers from shoppers these days. I always aim to promote couponing best practices. But it's clear that the ill-advised actions of a few shoppers have an outsized impact on us all.
Q: In your column, a shopper was unhappy because she wasn't able to cheat the store on sales tax and wants to have a law on it. I use coupons in what I hope is an ethical way. I don't stockpile products for years to come. At the holidays, I do use the free turkey with minimum purchase coupon from my local market to buy a turkey for our food pantry. At times, I purchase items to donate using coupons. Recently, my store had a closeout on taco shells and the boxes had a huge cents-off coupon attached. It ended up about 20 cents per box. I bought 10 boxes for a pantry donation, but did not clear the shelf. I don't see this as abuse of the system.
I think for some people, the word “free” takes over their brains.
Q: While I am not a couponer, I understand the logic in couponing to save money. I feel I should remind you and your readers that you and the companies who issue coupons have the same goal: more money in the pocket. You said shoppers can sway how manufac-turers respond, and they can. But you might consider 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.
No one likes being taken advantage of, and I think 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, the company has the right to withhold coupons. So both parties lose.
A: Both readers touch on the “golden goose” aspect of couponing. Couponers know we have a wonderful system going for us. 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 desired results. One manufacturer considers an interesting number when planning promotions: How many of its current coupons are people reselling online? If too many people are selling the company's coupons (prohibited by the coupon's terms) then the company offers a lower dollar value coupon in its next promotion cycle: Another reason to play by the rules.