Coupon Queen: When coupon restrictions go too farAs couponing has grown in popularity, some shoppers have sought to push the limits and maximize their savings by using coupons in improper ways.
By: By Jill Cataldo, INFORUM
As couponing has grown in popularity, some shoppers have sought to push the limits and maximize their savings by using coupons in improper ways.
Manufacturers and retailers are aware of coupon misuse and many have responded by adding more restrictions to coupons. Shortly after TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” hit the airwaves, with episodes depicting coupon shoppers gleefully clearing shelves at stores around the country, several manufacturers added a “Limit 4 like coupons per transaction” stipulation to their coupons. Other manufacturers made their coupons even more restrictive, noting that the coupon is “Limit one per person per day.”
While I love to stock up during a good sale, I also respect a manufacturer’s wishes. If I’m limited to using four coupons per transaction or one coupon per person per day, I comply. Certainly, there are times I’d like to buy more, but I also never lose sight of the fact that coupons are a privilege, not a right. Manufacturers can choose to issue them, and they can also choose to pull them completely.
Is it possible for coupon restrictions to go too far? I believe so. Not long ago, a well-known brand of juice went on sale at several stores in my area. There were coupons in the newspaper inserts that made the juice a bargain. But shortly after the sale was advertised, I began receiving reports from my blog readers that stores were rejecting the juice coupons at the register. Why?
Buried in the fine print of this coupon was a restriction I’d never seen before: “Cannot be used during any in-store promotional offer or discount.” The coupon could not be used during a sale!
I was stunned when I read this. Should other manufacturers decide to follow suit, this restriction would radically change couponing as we know it. Combining a coupon with a sale price is key to saving on your grocery bill. I watch for the lowest prices and then use a coupon when the price dips, reducing my out-of-pocket costs as much as possible.
Companies print coupons to encourage customers to buy a product. Yet in this case, the manufacturer was effectively restricting the days on which the juice could be purchased. What if every store in town had the juice on sale during the same week? There would effectively be no way to use this coupon at any store.
Other shoppers and I asked about the new coupon wording on the company’s Facebook page. The company responded that because it pays stores directly to put the juice on sale during specific weeks, it did not want its coupons used for additional discounts during those sales. The message to shoppers: choose the sale or choose the coupon, but don’t choose both.
While the manufacturer’s argument seems legitimate, coupons are also used to encourage shoppers to buy. Did the company consider the ramification of thousands of shoppers picking up its product, deciding to buy it, then being told at checkout that they couldn’t use the juice coupon to buy it?
Coupon shoppers care about the money they spend. Creating a coupon that can be used only when an item is at full price will eliminate its use by nearly everyone who is watching his or her grocery budget – the very audience coupons target. People willing to pay full price are typically not coupon shoppers. So, the manufacturer spent a lot of money on an ad campaign, printing coupons that could not be used during any sales.
In an effort to keep people from buying “too much” juice with coupons, the company effectively excluded many from buying the juice at all. After consumers continued to complain on Facebook, the manufacturer released this statement: “After examining this issue, we have changed the wording on future coupons so they will no longer prohibit usage in combination with retailer promotions.”
The moral? Shoppers’ voices are still being heard. However, this is likely not the last time we’ll see new restrictive wording on coupons.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.