EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 14, 2013

Coupon entitlement: Take 2

By Jill Cataldo
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — My recent column about consumers feeling entitled to coupon discounts has generated many reactions from readers. Here’s a sampling.

Dear Jill,

I read with dismay your recent columns about others who think they have some legal right to discounts and coupons. It reflects the sad state of our once-prosperous country that people have gotten so accustomed to “free” stuff from the government that they now think they can demand the same from private companies.

We need to educate people about what capitalism means and how a free market economy is supposed to work. Thanks for all your great work. I enjoy reading your column each week and using your ideas to save a few bucks.

Howard L.

I agree. Coupons are an incentive that retailers and manufacturers use to convince us to purchase items. They make a price more attractive or coerce us into buying something new — or, buying multiples of something we’ve bought before. But they’re a privilege, not a right.

If a product is selling extremely well, a coupon may not even be needed. I’m reminded of the story of Carmex lip balm. Invented in 1937, it was never advertised in any way, shape or form until 2006. The product sold well with no coupons or ads at all, so why issue them? But in 2006, Carmex expanded its product line, offering flavored lip balms and new products — and now we do see Carmex coupons on occasion. It’s worth keeping this story in mind if you ever wonder why you often don’t see coupons for some products. Some products don’t need them to sell well.

Dear Jill,

Your article on coupon entitlement brought to mind two things.

First, a friend told me that she regularly goes to a large chain grocery and does great with coupons. She went on to explain that just the other day there was a high-dollar coupon for guacamole and she presented it to the cashier. When the cashier could not find the item, she asked the friend if she had bought it.

The friend told the cashier no, but she had bought all the ingredients to make it, and she convinced the cashier to override the register and took the coupon.She says that she does this all the time.

No wonder so many shoppers are questioned regularly!

Second, I was browsing a store ad online after I read your column. I saw a statement in there I previously had paid no attention to. The ad talked about what shoppers needed to do to “earn coupons” to shop there. This somehow struck me as offensive. I feel a store and company should earn my business.

Lea C.

To clarify what we already know, buying an avocado and some seasonings is not the same as buying a brand-name package of guacamole dip. It is not the manufacturers’ intention to reimburse random purchases of avocados and spices — it intends to reimburse when its product is purchased. It’s a shame that the cashier is kowtowing to the ruse too.

Your comment on “earning coupons” is interesting, too. It may not have been the best choice of wording on the store’s part, as I too believe stores should earn their customers’ business — through product selection, customer service, clean and pleasant stores and promotions. A store I shop offers a promotion where you can earn fuel discounts — five cents per gallon for each store purchase of $50. I don’t view this as anything offensive. In fact, I like the promotion very much as it helps me save on gasoline too. But the promotion is structured as a reward, not as something I must do to shop there.

Smart Living Tip: Keep in mind that coupons aren’t entitlements. Misusing coupons just to get a better deal hurts us all. It hurts stores that may not receive reimbursement for coupons they accepted on items that weren’t purchased. Manufacturers react to higher mis-redemptions by adding additional restrictions to coupons. Remember to treat coupons as a privilege and a bonus, not something we have a right to receive.