Here we go again…people who use coupons criticized.
A Dear Abby article in the papers today shines a critical light on couponers once again. In brief, the letter, from a grocery store associate, says that coupons are a necessary evil, and coupons left on shelves for others shoppers to use pose a hazard because they clog up drains in dairy shelves, potentially cause shoppers to fall, and are generally a nuisance all the way around. And of course the writer points out the abuse, fraud, and the amount of work coupons pose for store workers.
I am just stunned. How can a basic act like couponing, which our grandmothers used to do, get everyone so riled up? Do couponers constantly complain about how grocery stores treat us? Should I discuss how many people I know who tell me that they absolutely hate shopping at any grocery store because the workers are rude, the produce is awful, the marketing is ridiculous (ie: the famous “Manager’s Special”), and the prices are outrageous? Is there any wonder WHY so many people now have to coupon to be able to fill a fridge and pantry?
Listen, I’m the first one to say that the TLC show, Extreme Couponing, has ruined it for many of us. The show portrays crazy couponers, not run-of-the-mill couponers like myself. So now, it seems like there are two camps: us (couponers) and them (grocery stores and people who hate couponers). This rift is ridiculous because we are all in this together: trying to save money on our grocery bills so we can feed our families.
It’s not your imagination. There are less consumer packaged goods coupons, shorter expiration dates, and at times, less face value on coupons distributed today. In addition, blinkies are rare and so are tearpads, and stores seem to be changing policies. All when consumer demand for coupons is at its highest.
Last week a friend of mine said that the new coupon inserts had few coupons and they were all expiring in about four weeks. A few, we found, had a six week expiration date. What we really noticed was the lack of coupons in the inserts, as well as a sneaky trend of making consumers access a QR code (quick response codes) with a smart phone to go on a coupon manhunt that’s anything but a quick response.
According to an article today in Supermarket News, a study by NCH Marketing Services (leading coupon processing and redemption company) indicates we are not crazy. The article says the grocery segment distributed 13.1% fewer coupons in 2011 than it did in 2010, however health and beauty care coupon distribution held steady. Despite the drop in overall coupons distribution, the article says that customer redemption has increased. The article did not say why there was an increase in redemption, but we think, at least in anecdotal terms, that higher prices, smaller packaging, the Extreme Couponing craze, and oh, yes, the economy, has something to do with the increasing interest in couponing.
Hopefully coupon distribution will rise again mid-2012, but as of now, we seem to be seeing fewer and fewer coupons in inserts since January.