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Coupon binder

We’ve all experienced it – the coupon-hating cashier or manager who looks for every excuse not to accept your coupons, or rolls their eyes when you try to use any. On the corporate level, though, stores at least pretend to be coupon-friendly – even when they’re not. But when they get together to talk shop, you might be surprised at what retailers are really saying about couponers.

In the week since Kroger announced it was doing away with double coupons in its Mid-Atlantic region, in favor of “new lower prices” across the store (read: “Another One Bites the Double-Couponing Dust”), Kroger has been putting on a sunny public face, in response to intense couponer criticism. The decision was made as part of “an effort to provide our customers with the most value for their dollar,” Kroger explained benevolently.

Behind the PR posturing, though, are Kroger executives privately rejoicing at finally sticking it to those greedy couponers? No retailer would ever say so publicly.

Or would they?

The retail discussion forum RetailWire is populated by a friendly and engaging group of industry professionals who opine on the issues of the day. And many of them are not particularly keen on coupons (“Coupons are a gimmick, a way to force customers to waste time to get a supposed discount on a product,” one commenter once wrote. “Having to carry around tiny shreds of paper to purchase an item which has an artificially jacked-up price makes no sense,” the same commenter wrote during another discussion).

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But a recent discussion about Kroger’s new policy really brought out the venom. Many commenters’ message to couponers who are upset with Kroger’s decision? Good riddance. “Are these double-coupon proponents the cherry-picking shoppers that cost more than they bring in value? If so, then kudos to Kroger for recognizing it and putting an end to it,” wrote one retail analyst. “Firing unprofitable customers is always a good move, and you can go to the bank that the double-coupon screamers were, for the most part, costing Kroger money,” wrote another. “To the ardent double coupon crusaders I opine, is your life without double coupons so extremely flat that you have nothing else to grumble at?” offered a third.

Yikes, so that’s what they really think of us.

To be fair, not everyone shows such contempt for couponers. But it does draw back the curtain a bit, on what some retailers are privately saying. Many appear content to paint us all with the same brush, as avaricious mercenaries who swoop into stores like vultures, grab everything we can get for free, then move onto the next store to victimize. If all you ever do is walk out of a store with a cartful of products you paid nothing for, then yes, the store is not going to make a profit off you and you will not be considered a “valuable customer”.

But honestly, is your grocery budget exactly zero? The fact is, couponers spend money, too. There may be a small minority who manage to run all over town, hitting up every store for every deal. But most coupon proponents advocate settling on a preferred store or two, with the most coupon-friendly policies, and sticking with them. Yes, those stores may not make a profit if you combine double coupons and a sale to get a few boxes of cereal for free. But you likely still need milk. And bread, and meat and produce, and other things that you actually do need to buy with real money. Over the long haul, the store will end up getting plenty of your money, coupons or not.

Kroger’s comments insinuate that it won’t miss the couponers who are vowing to seek out a more coupon-friendly competitor. And, let’s face it, the chain is big and profitable enough that maybe it really won’t miss them. No grocery store, after all, is under any obligation to fund perks like double coupons out of its own pocket. Any retailer who shows contempt for couponers, either by words or deeds, doesn’t really owe us anything. But neither do we owe them our loyalty, or our dollars.

Manufacturers and retailers were the ones who invented the coupon game. All we did was learn how to play it. To paraphrase an earlier comment: To the ardent double coupon haters I opine, is your life in a world with couponers so extremely flat that you have nothing else to grumble at?

3 Comments

  1. Very interesting read. I love your last paragraph. I was thinking that same thing mad I read the original comment!

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