Sunday, August 28, 2011

Store Coupon Madness

I clip coupons, mostly grocery store coupons. I also clip eatery coupons, just a lot fewer of them. I've not registered with restaurants.com or groupon. I don't often think to search for coupons online. I myself find that most of the coupons that I see and put any energy into arrive in my Sunday paper. And I dump probably 99%. Call me a bit behind for how I hunt (or not) for savings.

Many years ago, I remember a grocery store at one time hut put up a round-table display with maybe a noble idea that customers would bring in coupons they snipped, and obtain coupons that other people would leave for sharing. I don't remember more than a few weeks had passed that I no longer saw the table. I speculate that maybe the table overflowed from excesses and took too much floor space.

About the early nineties, some local supermarkets started doubling and tripling coupons, up to some maximum value. The campaigns were pretty nice while they lasted. I think they stopped after a year or so. I'm guessing that stores really got squeezed on the margins because of some more diligent customers like me. I do remember that collecting and sorting for the multiple savings was time-consuming, but the payoff pretty good.

I'm less mad now over store coupons than in the past when it seems I embarked on reviewing, clipping, sorting, redeeming, and eventually tossing out numerous saved ones. Alas, so many would expire. Or the store didn't handle the product. Or I waffled over whether I really wanted to hunt down the products. I'm now better at reviewing for items I think I might buy and use coupons for. I've arrived at coupon characteristics that get my attention, for good and bad. The following lists are my coupon raves and peeves.

Coupon characteristics that make me cheer

  • General
    • Plenty of coupons for merchandise that I buy
    • Numeric value that amounts to 25 to 50% off or better
    • Buy one, get one free (maybe even buy two, get one free)
    • Applicable savings for single-serving rather than bulk such as packaged candy (evil food)
  • Visuals
    • Clearly legible expiration date, preferably one month or more, for a Sunday or end of a month
    • Thorough information, such as store area type, applicable varieties, packaging (weights, counts)—"any size or variety" favored
    • Graphics, such as color pictures for iconic visual processing (My local supermarket has in-house, yellow, portrait-oriented coupons that would be even more attractive with at least line images.)

Coupon characteristics that drive me mad:

  • General
    • Dinky value, like 25 or 40¢. Inflation has crept up so much over the years, even $1 savings is no longer necessarily compelling. Don't those nationally known companies marketing people pay attention to how out-of-date those humongous savings look?
    • Discount offers that look good, but the list price is so high that the savings are no savings (predominant condition in drug stores, it seems)
    • No such item in store
    • No such item for that manufacturer
    • No such packaging size for that manufacturer
  • Bundling
    • Requirement to buy more than one, such as so-much-off if you buy two
    • Requirement to buy more than one type of product. This condition makes the hunt like a treasure hunt. My supermarket frequently has deals for buying one or two items, and throwing in one to 6 items, many house-brand. Sometimes I bite, often not.
  • Expirations
    • Short expiration time window
    • Expiration date placed anywhere except at the top (I hate hunting for dates, especially when they are at the bottom of the coupon.)
    • Expirations that are NOT on Sundays or ends of the months (I'm a Sunday shopper most times, and it bugs me when I miss a coupon by one day because of my own oops.)
    • Time windows with a start date that occurs after the current calendar date
  • Visuals
    • Gradient or or other poor contrast between background and foreground
    • Tiny font (sixes, fives, nines, and eights when they all look similar)
    • Illegibility or graphics resolution for varieties of the product (occasionally, misalignment of color layers, particularly in accompanying ad)
    • Lack of information for store area location, particularly for meals that could be room temperature, refrigerated, or frozen Yes, I do microwavable meals! (If I need to hunt, I'm not likely to.)
    • Pet food coupons that accompany ads with pictures resembling people food
    • Oversized coupon, requiring folding
    • Undersized coupon, easily misplaced or misfiled
    • Questionable literalness for items, such as exact flavor, item size that falls outside the coupon listed range

Although my focus is on grocery store coupons, I have a few thoughts about eatery discounts. Likes: Good savings value, expiration, discounts places I go to or would go to. Dislikes, applicable to the ad than the offered discount itself: No address, phone number, maps, web address.

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