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An Inmar survey once found that 81% of shoppers wished digital coupons could just be deducted from their grocery purchases automatically, so they didn’t have to go through the hassle of browsing and clipping them.

In other news, a majority of people wish they could get a paycheck without having to get up and go to work, and wish they could win the lottery without the annoying requirement that they buy a ticket first.

Providing savings that are completely effortless and automatic isn’t the way that coupons – which are essentially advertisements and not giveaways – are supposed to work. But that’s exactly how they now work for shoppers at Schnucks.

The St. Louis-based grocery chain, with more than 100 stores in five Midwestern states, has unveiled a new and improved store app with some notable new features. There’s a “wellness guide” that offers nutritional information, an in-app shopping list maker – and a handy feature that automatically clips any applicable digital coupon when you add an item to your shopping list.

So if you make a list at home by typing an item into the app (such as, say, “Bounty paper towels”), or by clicking on a promoted product in the digital circular, or even by scanning a bar code of an item as you shop, any digital coupon that happens to be available for that product is automatically clipped, regardless of whether you even look at the digital coupon gallery. And when you type your phone number into a keypad or scan a bar code in the app as you check out, the coupons that were automatically clipped are automatically applied to your order – whether or not you’re even aware that you clipped or redeemed any coupons at all.

The closest comparison is, perhaps, Target’s app. If you use it to scan a product’s bar code as you shop, any applicable Cartwheel offer is automatically clipped for you. Except the app tells you it’s clipping the offer, or suggests other offers for similar products if none apply to that particular item.

So in Target’s case, the app clips an offer for you, in order to motivate you to take the item you’re holding and put it into your shopping cart. In Schnucks’ case, the app clips coupons for you without you even knowing, in order to give you free money – courtesy of the brands whose products you were planning to buy anyway.

Is that really such a bad thing? It is, if you want coupons to continue to exist in the future.

If you remember when digital coupons first started becoming commonplace, many stores used to have a “clip all” button on their digital coupon page. No need to browse through all of the offers, just clip them all without even looking at them, and enjoy whatever discounts happen to apply to your purchases!

But those “clip all” buttons went away under pressure from brands, who didn’t want to squander their promotional dollars giving away discounts to shoppers who didn’t actively select them. And the coupon industry started going after anyone who tried to bring the “clip all” button back.

The most notable case involved the short-lived app “Milk”, which promised to “take the pain out of grocery coupons” by essentially doing what the “clip all” button once did. “With the tap of a button,” app users were told, “hundreds of digital coupons will be loaded to your grocery rewards card”.

At least until Coupons.com sued, arguing that Milk disrupted the “coupon economic system”. For coupons to work, the company explained, a shopper must be required to “review and select the coupons before making his purchase decision.” If instead, a shopper automatically benefited from “any coupon that happened to be available for the brand he happens to have already selected, without having previously reviewed the product-specific coupon… it would no longer make economic sense to offer coupons, if coupons did not encourage consumers to try new brands, alter their brand purchases, or accelerate their purchases.”

That was a slightly different situation, but the logic of the argument still applies – if Schnucks is going to give away discounts to everyone, subsidizing shoppers who aren’t even doing so much as viewing or clipping any coupons, will it make financial sense for companies to offer any coupons at all anymore?

It’s ironic, perhaps, that Inmar – which conducted that survey in which shoppers wanted all coupons applied automatically – runs the digital coupon program for Schnucks. A Schnucks spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry about whether Inmar or its brand clients were okay with the new feature on the app.

So if you want savings without any effort, be sure to shop at Schnucks and use its new app to make your grocery list, while you can. Once the brands that offer Schnucks’ digital coupons get a wind of the app’s new features – those automatic savings may not last for long.

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