Shoppers face an array of coupons in electronic form: print-at-home coupons, e-coupons that can be loaded to a store's loyalty card and coupon apps for smartphones and tablets. Technology can make it easy to access discounts. But some shoppers feel the rise of digital couponing is leaving them behind.
Q: I use coupons. I get the Sunday paper, clip away and check sales. Now I find myself 55 and disabled, and discounts are sent to shoppers via cell phones. So my daughter got me a cell phone. I gave my cell number out so I could receive discounts but my phone does not print or even show the discount code. It's not a smartphone. My daughter got me a laptop, but I do not have a printer. I have to go to the library to print. Is there a better way?
Q: I think switching to digital coupons is a conspiracy to take coupons away from people who need them most! We are online but we don't have a printer. No data plans, no cellphones, can't afford it. We have a pay-as-you-go phone. Companies switching to high-tech coupons are leaving people like us hanging. We need discounts but can't afford tech toys to get them.
A: The world's going digital, and couponing's going with it. An April 2012 Pew Research Center study says 90 percent of Americans making $50,000-$74,999 are online. For Americans earning more than $75,000 annually, that number jumps to 97 percent. Just 62 percent of Americans making less than $30,000 a year are online. With so many people online, retailers and manufacturers are meeting people where they're at. Print-at-home coupons have been around more than a decade. Load-to-card e-coupons have risen in popularity in the past four years. And smartphones have added a new element to couponing.
I understand that the push for digital coupons is leaving a segment of the population underserved. I don't believe companies intentionally exclude anyone. They're seizing an opportunity to deliver discounts via the media most people are using.
Suggestions: If your store offers e-coupons that can be loaded to your shoppers' card, go to the store's website to see if you can load e-coupons via the web. It's likely you don't need a smartphone to load digital coupons to a loyalty card.
Printable coupons are easy to take advantage of if you have a printer. If buying a new printer is out of reach, how about a used printer? Check the thrift or resale stores. Buying refilled ink cartridges will help save money.
Print coupons on the back side of scrap paper, fliers or mailers.