photo credit: krossbow
I’ve been clipping coupons for more than a decade, and writing about the topic for nearly four years. During that time, I’ve seen many changes occur in the way coupons are distributed, redeemed, and honored:
- You used to see coupons with no expiration date, now you never see that.
- Newspapers were chock full of coupons, now there are less in the papers and more online and in magazines.
- Companies are shifting the costs of printing coupons to consumers with a huge increase in printable coupons.
- Coupons have gotten more complicated as companies try to prevent coupon fraud. Stores are scrutinizing coupons more closely so that they don’t lose money.
- Unlimited printing of coupons is a thing of the past. You can usually print two of any online coupon, but sometimes it’s just one.
- Stores are limiting the use of coupons. There may be restrictions on how many coupons you can use in a transaction or special rules regarding how you stack coupons.
- Many stores are no longer doubling coupons.
- Cell phone coupons and electronic grocery saver cards are increasing in use.
- Facebook is becoming a major player in the distribution of coupons.
Television shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing are also having a big impact on couponing. Many people inspired by the unrealistic savings of extreme couponers are flocking to the stores to duplicate the savings. In turn, companies work harder to protect their bottom lines and make it more challenging to save big with coupons.
Despite all of the changes, you can still save money using coupons. Here are some ways you can continue to save money with coupons in an ever-changing marketplace:
Have a positive attitude. Being rude to a store cashier or throwing the mother of all hissy fits on Twitter or Facebook isn’t going to change whether or not your coupon is accepted. Be friendly and patient. Causing trouble will only lead companies to eliminate coupons to avoid a marketing hassle.
Ask questions and learn the policies. If a coupon is rejected, politely ask for a reason. Ask if you can get a copy of the store’s coupon policy. Head to coupon forums like Hot Coupon World and A Full Cup for the latest discussions on changes to coupons and coupon policies.
Report fraudulent activity. If you know someone is using coupons incorrectly, report it to a store manager. Learn how to spot fraudulent coupons and report them. If you discover that someone is stealing all of the coupon inserts out of the newspapers in your neighborhood, report it to the authorities. When rules and laws are broken, we all pay more in the store.
Be willing to adapt. With more people than ever using coupons and sometimes going to extremes, you may find yourself holding your coupons and staring at empty store shelves. Ask the manager if they will be getting in more stock before the sale is over. You can also ask for a rain check on the sales price. It may become more difficult to get coupons for some items, and if that’s the case, consider going with generic products instead.
Your turn: What changes have you seen in couponing and how are you dealing with them?