Q: I have been a couponer for many years. It's something my family needs to do to make ends meet. But ever since the TLC “Extreme Couponing” TV show came around, it seems a lot of things have changed.
Companies' coupon offers don't seem to be as good any more, and many stores seem to be against coupons. I blame that ridiculous show. But it's not like all of us are doing things to extremes. How do we tell companies to stop pulling back their coupon offers? Innocent people are suffering without the better coupon offers we used to see.
A: This isn't the only email I've received about the “Extreme Couponing” effect. Longtime coupon users have noticed that some manufacturers seem to have pulled back on coupon offerings and values. Manufacturers that previously offered $1 coupons now offer coupons good for $1 off on the purchase of two items.
Coupon restrictions are on the rise, too. One month after the first episode of “Extreme” aired, Procter & Gamble introduced the wording “Limit 4 like coupons per transaction” to its coupons.
While I primarily deal on the consumer side, I often talk to manufacturers and retailers. This fall, I spoke to a group of both at an annual marketing conference on extremism in couponing. I provided statistics and anecdotes supporting the argument that not all couponers are extreme.
According to the direct mail media company Valassis (publisher of RedPlum inserts and others), coupon extremists make up less than .3 percent of shoppers. In fact, coupon shoppers are a desirable demographic as they buy 20 percent more than noncoupon shoppers, and couponers make 22 percent more shopping trips annually than noncouponers, says one study. We represent a great deal of buying power. Couponers shouldn't be blamed for the extremism of the very few. Indeed, many of the people on “Extreme Couponing” are repeat reality shoppers who have been on multiple episodes, further supporting the idea that there aren't very many couponing at that level.
So I hope we will see the return of higher-value offers. I believe it's still a great time to be a couponer. Coupons aren't going away soon, and coupon redemption rates remain high. Coupons drive sales, and manufacturers continue to print plenty of them. By using coupons, combining them with the best sale prices, I still cut my grocery bill in half, and that's always been my goal!
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother, can be reached at her website, www.jillcataldo.com.