I receive a lot of testy email from readers reporting on coupon usage and shopping habits of fellow shoppers. One topic that continues to burn up my inbox involves people perceived to take more than "their share" of coupons.
I really enjoy your column. I work in a grocery store and we are experiencing problems with coupons. When we feature displays with coupon pads, if we do not remove the tear pad of coupons some customers will take all of them. This means that no one else can use the coupons. It would not be such a big deal if those who took all the coupons actually used them, but they don't! What's worse, when we run an ad with a low price based on the use of an in-store manufacturer coupon, those coupons are usually all gone. Please keep passing the word on sharing and not just taking the coupons. We have had to pull all the pads off and hope that the customers will ask at the register for the coupon. - Jeanne W.
I am getting sickened by the comments from couponers on Facebook and some coupon blogs justifying coupon fraud and unethical couponing practices. I really enjoy reading your articles on ethical couponing and the tips you've given on how to coupon ethically.
I'd be interested to know what you think about people taking peelies [coupons attached to the front of a package] off products that they don't plan to purchase, or taking more blinkies [coupons distributed by blinking dispensers located near the product] than they can use. I recently came across a couponer who uses a Facebook page to sell coupons that cannot be found in the newspaper. She has hundreds of blinkies, tear pads and peelies, leading me to believe she takes all she can find to sell.
My gut tells me that when I see a peelie on a product, it is meant to go with that product, and when I see blinkies or tear pads, I should only take those few coupons that I will actually use. I'm curious to hear your opinion. - Lisa P.
Dear Jeanne and Lisa,
My stance on in-store coupons has always been this: take what you will use. The number is different for every shopper. If I see a $1 coupon for coffee creamer in the store, I will likely take four or five of them. My husband is the only coffee drinker in the house, so I don't need to stock up like crazy. Yet, since the expiration dates on refrigerated creamer are well into the future, I will typically buy four or five at a time. There's no reason for me to take more than that number of coupons from a store display.
I agree that coupons attached to the face of a product are intended for the person purchasing the product. Companies use peelie coupons to speed or encourage sales on a product that's new to the marketplace, to jump-start stalled sales on a particular product or to move product that is nearing its expiration date. When these instantly redeemable coupons are removed from products, they're don't fulfill any of those purposes. And if the coupons aren't removed with care, the packaging may be damaged when the adhesive is pulled off. Many shoppers will avoid buying a torn or damaged box, leaving the store to deal with the problem.
I definitely don't agree with the idea of a website selling tear pad coupons, blinkies or peelies, but I also don't agree with the idea of selling or buying coupons in general. It's a shame that some stores have resorted to keeping coupons at the registers or service counters instead of displaying them in the store. However, it's also a good reminder to ask your store if there are coupons available that might not be on display.
• 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.