WASHINGTON — Email continues to pour in on both sides of the debate regarding coupon shoppers who take multiple in-store coupons. Some readers are critical of what they deem selfish behavior when shoppers take “too many.” Others disagree with a practice that I advocate: taking coupons from tear pads or coupon dispensers in quantities equivalent to what you plan to buy. What’s a shopper to do?
“I read the article where you tried to justify taking six to 10 store coupons from in-store displays. I couldn’t disagree with you more! That is definitely taking advantage of the store and abusing other shoppers. It’s the same as going to a wedding where there’s an open bar and getting six drinks during one hour. It’s basically someone making a pig out of themselves.”
“I do not agree with the advice to take as many coupons as you will use from the store dispensers. Manufacturers put coupons there to entice as many new customers as possible. If the holder contains 50 coupons and five people take 10 each, only five people have the discount advantage instead of 50. Couponing is wonderful, but the greedy and inconsiderate really make it difficult for the responsible. The full dispensers that don’t get used also send a message to the manufacturer that there is little to no interest in that product.”
In the years I’ve spent couponing, I’ve seen coupons for popular items fly out of coupon dispensers, and I’ve seen less enticing coupons languish on shelf displays. Yet I still stand by my statement that it’s OK to take the number of coupons that you will actually use and need. I’m not advocating emptying the entire display, but it’s important to remember the reason coupons are there: to sell more products.
Note that the coupons you find in the store typically are not limited to one per shopper or one per transaction. It’s not in the best interest of the stores or the manufacturers to limit the number of in-store coupons that shoppers can take or use. Point-of-purchase coupons are an effective promotional tool to encourage sales.
There’s another factor to consider. Shoppers may not realize how often manufacturers replenish in-store coupon displays. A coupon dispenser that’s empty one day can be full the next. Of course, for shoppers there’s always a little luck involved regarding the state of coupon displays during their shopping trips. But my point remains: coupons are placed in the store to be used.
Take a look at this email from one manufacturer. It contains a great tip on what to do if you find coupon displays empty when you go shopping.
“I just read your article concerning shoppers who take too many coupons from tear pads or dispensers. I worked for a major corporation that offers tear pad coupons and coupons used in the automatic dispensers. The tear pads are displayed on shelves and bulletin boards. Both types of coupons give the consumer an opportunity to enjoy savings and the manufacturer to sell more of the product through the store.
“Replacing empty tear pads was part of what I did as a vendor servicing our stores, along with keeping the shelves stocked. Stores sometimes kept extra tear pads at the service desk in case the coupons ran out before we returned. All the customer had to do was inquire.
“Manufacturers don’t care about the number of coupons a customer uses. As long as you plan to purchase the items supported by coupon savings, the manufacturer appreciates the use, increased sales and exposure to the products. The coupon is for savings as well as for capturing the attention of the consumer for future purchases. As you said in your article, first come, first served. Just don’t forget to ask at the customer service desk if the dispensers are empty. They may have more.”
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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 your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.