Last week, I received a pair of interesting emails. As a consumer who finds myself constantly straddling the line between a consumer’s coupon issues and navigating the industry’s practices, I found both of these emails interesting, and I imagine you will too.
Q: I have read your column for a while and I have to ask, whose side are you on?
People need to save all the money they can right now but whenever a question of ethics comes up, or maybe, a “could we do this” and use this coupon in a way that makes it a better deal, you always take the side of the stores and the brands.
What about us? If you are really devoted to helping save money you could share some information about ways we could save even more. Instead you are more of a right-way-to-use-coupons guru.
A: It’s true that there are plenty of ways to misuse coupons, but you won’t learn any of them from me. I am committed to ethical, correct coupon usage for many reasons.
First, I believe that coupons are a privilege, not a right. Retailers and manufacturers don’t need to issue coupons at all. And, while I am committed to helping people learn the best and most effective strategies to cut their grocery and household expenses with coupons, I’m not going to steer my readers into shady coupon usage for the sake of “saving” a little more money here or there.
I’m very pro-industry, because we as coupon enthusiasts simply don’t exist without the industry. If suddenly, every brand stopped deciding to issue coupons, where would we be?
I’m always grateful for the money I can save each week with coupons, but I never lose sight of the fact that the main players in the game can change it at will.
Now, here’s a letter from another reader who seems to share the opposite view of the first reader’s email:
Q: I commend you for your cogent, accurate and balanced explanations of how advertising, couponing and other cooperative merchandising programs actually work. You have a unique ability to represent all aspects of this complex process in terms that even those who have never experienced it firsthand can comprehend.
Your explanation in today’s paper, about the purpose and timing of coupon releases and expiration dates vs. other campaigns such as TPR’s, was absolutely spot-on. I can assure you, most manufacturers are generous to a fault in assisting retailers with product merchandising and sell-through. However, an overlap in campaigns can be financially devastating, and in some extreme cases, can even cause a product’s failure.
Last but in no way least, I admire the way you never shy away from questions of ethics. You evenly and fairly address the obligations of the manufacturer, the retailer AND the consumer. Keep up the good work; you are indeed a breath of fresh air!
I suppose the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time is true, though I try. And, as we’ve seen manufacturers place more restrictions on coupons to combat less-than-ethical use, I would never want to encourage couponing activity that ultimately ends up hurting us all in the long run.
Smart Living Tip: Let’s talk “blinkies” for a moment! They’re coupons that you find in-store in a dispenser that’s usually attached to a shelf or refrigerated case. Some dispensers have blinking lights on them to attract attention. These coupons typically have somewhat longer expiration dates than what you might find in the newspaper or online. And, the week you see the coupons in the store might not be the best week to use them. If these coupons are for a product that you will buy in the future, take some and hold them, waiting for a low sale price.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.