I have to admit something to you, my dear readers. Awhile back, I swear I vowed that I was not going to blog about couponing because I work for an incredible company (one that if you are local is most likely your favorite grocery retailer) and I felt that sharing deals at other stories went against policy. While I remain loyal to my company for groceries, Rx’s, gas, and the like, sometimes I cannot pass up a good deal at the little pharmacy retailers. 90% of what we get at these chains goes as a donation, so in my heart of hearts, I don’t feel like I am doing a bad thing. I just didn’t want to write about it. I don’t mind having Mr. Burgher come online and tell you about his perspective, but tonight, I am going to tell you how I’ve been rubbed the wrong way by that darn show.
The other night, we were watching the show. An extreme couponer had a big haul to add to her already overflowing stockpile and it got Mr. Burgher pretty upset. He wrote a Facebook note:
watching the latest “Extreme Couponing” on DVR is making me sick. SO UNREALISTIC, stores rarely have EVERYTHING you want, the employees aren’t always that helpful….also, any “problems” that arise during the shop is always cleared up…if the register freezes in real life, the manager will now work that hard to fix it. they seem like they are making changes to make it more realistic, like showing that they have to preorder some things. now stores are changing their coupon policies because of the show and people using fake/illegal coupons which makes me ill since I bust my ass to collect all the coupons we get. Some people also use multiple store loyalty cards which is not exactly legal either. This makes it difficult for people like us who not only coupon for ourselves, but largely coupon for others.
Last week we donated 100 bottles of Similac to an organization that, among other things, gives resources and guidance to pregnant women who are trying to make a tough decision. Right now we are getting stuff together to send for disaster relief in Joplin and also a local food bank. Don’t just let crap sit on your shelves just to show it off for a tv show, give it to people who need it.
Yup, that’s right, the fact that we donated 100 bottles of formula to an organization called My Choice which had run out of formula to give to their clients is being overshadowed by our anger. Mothers who chose to keep their babies are given as much help and support as the organization can give, from providing an open ear to giving formula or diapers to those who can’t do it alone (and really, no mother can really do it alone). Last week, they had given their last bottle, then my dad pulls up with 100 bottles for them. We got the nicest thank you card ever, and I feel like we truly made a difference.
It gets better. Since I know a bit about the in’s and out’s of legality around coupons (working for a grocer and all), I have always made sure I know, carry, and abide by the store coupon policies. I do not like to clear a shelf unless I have a coupon that requires 2 items and there are only two items left. I have only got a handful of rain checks when other “Coupon Queens” clear the shelves just after the stores open or cashiers have hid items (I have overheard and witnessed this at a store and I really don’t even try to go back to that one). Rarely do I print coupons because that’s how some of those “extremists” do their thing–and often, the coupons out there can be fraudulent. I will print store specific coupons from their sites, but I always follow policy.
And knowing those policies, I was a bit taken back when Rite Aid issued a new coupon policy this week. After thinking about it, it’s a great policy because it limits people from clearing the shelves (putting a 4 item limit on all deals); however, the fact that there had to be an adjustment says that darn show had something to do with it. Well, following watching that show, I was bound and determined that we were going to give as much as we could to the people of Joplin and other cities ravaged by tornadoes this spring. I couldn’t sleep because I was so yanked up about it. I set out yesterday to coupon my heart out, getting supplies for free or cheap, telling myself that I’d deal with the new policy and do what I could for those in deed. I didn’t encounter any problems, but then today struck.
We went to the first store on our trip and only got 3 of the 8 things we had set out to buy. We knew getting up late this would happen, but usually you do better. At the second store, everything was out, so I settled on using my expiring store coupons to buy some water. The cashier who knows us as regulars, said she was expecting us earlier in the day because there were great deals, but that a lady came in early and cleared everything out of the store. It made me sad, because EVERYTHING we set out to buy today (minus the water–I drink wayyyy too much and some diapers) was going to be donated to Joplin. There were even signs up that said, “Due to manufacturer issues, we are out of stock of the item featured in this week’s ad. As a substitute, you can buy x product.” The ‘x’ product didn’t have a coupon (fraud if you tried to substitute it) and because they offered a substitute, there were no rain checks being given. Frustrated, I went to Rite Aid last, because I thought with the new policy, things would be better. They weren’t, and I walked out unhappy. The manager (who always gives me trouble and never wants my business) said, “Oh, there goes that coupon lady” as I walked out. No one greeted me or asked if I needed help as I browsed the empty shelves. It was awful. Luckily, I was able to get my diapers at another location, but I took the last of the sizes I needed and felt so guilty.
And customers are getting cranky with us. One lady was buying 3 Altoids and asked if she could go ahead of me and my water and pop just because she saw coupons in my hand. She then proceeded to pick up 3 more and count her change to the exact penny very slowly as if to make a point. When the register didn’t ring up correctly and I had to go switch a product at the cashier’s request, customers behind me were shaking their heads and sighing. I told the cashier to go ahead and process them because they were so impatient–they just laughed more.
Are we doing anything wrong? NO. Should we feel guilty? NO. Do we hoard? NO. But why is it so painful and stressful? Is our version of “extreme couponing” worth it while the fad wears off? In a way, I hope the show or the new policies and limited quantities help people see that what we do, while rewarding, isn’t cut out for everyone. We are in tough times in this country and everyone has a right to save some pennies, but there are too many people out there doing it the wrong way.
I can’t let today get me down. It’s time to pick myself back up, take the week to refresh, and go back to my merry shopping ways. It can be done, and I have a stack of receipts full of savings, a full pantry, a giving heart, and a healthy family to be thankful for.
By the way, don’t get me wrong–we love to share our tips and tricks with anyone who wants to hear! We just ask that you play fairly in the stores and follow policies so as not to ruin it for the rest of us. If you’d like to know more about how we coupon, feel free to comment!