Monday, November 23, 2009

My frustration with couponing.

Inconsistent coupon policies.

Today while shopping, I had .55 coupons for Mento's gum. The gum was priced .99 so my Q's would have made my gum free. SCORE! BUT, I noticed the coupons didn't double. I know they had barcodes that started with a 5, which means they would automatically double when scanned, however they also had the words, DO NOT DOUBLE across the top. In the past, I have used coupons that said 'do not double,' but they still doubled them with no problem since the barcode did not prevent the computer from doubling. I also know that others have bought this very same gum this week and got it for free.

My guess is that the store decided not to double THIS Q. Which would be fine if they had it in their policy that they do not double coupons that cause overage...or that they will only double up to free...but that's not the case.

I stopped at customer service and asked why this didn't double today and she said they NEVER double coupons that say DO NOT DOUBLE. I guess what burned me up was that she gave an answer that I KNOW is not true! IF that is TRULY their policy, then the cashiers need to be a LOT more diligent to stop Q's from doubling when they shouldn't. I have been shopping many times in their store and my Q's always double.

So, here's my question(s): Who's pocket does the double come out of? Does the manufacturer reimburse the store 2x? Or do the stores 'eat' the 2nd amount as a loss leader, or way to drive business to their stores? If the STORES double as an incentive to bring in customers, then why does the manufacturer CARE if they double a Q or not? In essence, why print a coupon with a barcode that will double and then print DO NOT DOUBLE on the same coupon?! It's a mixed message!! Both to the savvy couponer and the stores who waffle from day to day on how to process those Q's.

I hope I didn't ruin it for the rest of you locals when I told her that their cashiers DO double Q's that are marked DO NOT DOUBLE and if that is their policy, they need to be more consistent. If not, they need to let couponers reap the benefits of being savvy shoppers. /end rant/

Other shoppers who hoard.

Listen. I know you love savings. I do too. Since you are shopping alone, I don't know if you are shopping for a family of 6 (like I am) or an empty nest. I do know sometimes the temptation is to overbuy and 'donate' to a local charity. The 'high' off the saving can be pretty compelling!!

I just ask that you be judicious in your choices. When you push your buggy past mine with 30 shave gels in it because they are free when you stack Q's the right way, you are not being philanthropic, you are being greedy. Pure and simple.

While matching the sales to the coupons, finding that our local area doesn't have the Q's for the products.

I'll be honest, I wouldn't know a 'good price' on a lot of items at the grocery store if they hit me between the eyes. My shopping strategy for many years has been to make a run in, throw whatever suited my fancy into the cart, and get out. When we ran out of money before we ran out of month, I knew something needed to change. I started subscribing to menu planning services so that my menu and my list would be planned at once, but that doesn't always work. the list is helpful , but I was still overspending since I was purchasing groceries at a premium price.

I learned about couponing, but was slow to warm to it. Eventually though, the saving won me over. However, I still don't have a price book. I rely on sites that do the matching for me. My frustration is that often, there will be a great sale that matches with a fantastic coupon and I will go to my stash to find that out local paper doesn't have that Q! I know many people would say that I could just order from coupon clippers or ebay, but here's the rub...that would require me to be organized and disciplined enough to check the blogs at the beginning of the sales cycle to have enough time to order and receive the coupons in the mail. I just don't have that much structure or discipline. Honestly, it drains me to do this at all. It is only when I get the receipt and the end of the day that I feel like it's really worth the effort.

So, I just end up missing those sales items, or paying more for them that the lucky gals who live in the right area.

Couponers, weigh in...I'd love to hear if you have any answers to those question or if you've had similar experiences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Case Against Late Night TV

So I was up wayyy tooo late the other night, taking advantage of the last few weeks of summer and the ability to sleep in without it being too much of a disruption to the flow of the next day.  It was late, way past when any good programming is on and well into the infommercial zone.  I believe infomercials pick this time of night because they know that anyone up and watching are probably folks who, at this time of night, are lacking good judgement.  And those commercials are compelling.  Filmed like a talk show, filled with testimonials, and the before and after picks...stunning.

So, there I was. In front of the TV, sucked into one of those programs.  It was like a trainwreck...I couldn't look away. When they got to the before and after pics, I was completely sold.  So much so, that I immediately planned a trip to the mall THE NEXT DAY to purchase said gadget at the AS SEEN ON TV store.  Who wants to wait for (or PAY) for shipping and handling when you can have instant gratification??

I bribed my kids with a promise of a visit to Happy Hour at Sonic and on the way decided to drive through a local neighborhood to have a look at a potential rental property. 

Here is where I ended up:

You know how they tell you that you can not tell the depth of a puddle from the surface, they are right.  Look at this unsuspecting puddle...

If I had my Nancy Drew detective wits about me, I would have seen that there are NO tire tracks coming out the other side of the puddle.  A clear indication that this unsuspecting body of water is like the Hotel California of roadside puddles. However, I did not have those facilities about me, I was more in a shop-a-holic tractor beam.  I was on a mission to get to the mall, with a few pitstops on the way.

It was a happy accident that my husband/hero had stayed in bed with a massive headache that day, thus he was home and although not feeling well, available to dig me out of the ditch.

After he assessed the situation, the process went like this: 

Lay out picnic blanket (that gratefully, I keep in the van), assign all children to gather rocks and gravel and pile it on the blanket.  Happily, with four children, many hands make light work.  =)

This was a very fun activity for our four year old who constantly asks to pick up rocks where ever we go.  There was great rejoicing on her part to find that she was allowed to pick up as many rocks as she wanted.  There was also some weeping and great sadness to find that she could not keep them, but that they were giving their life to get us out of the mud.

When the pile was large enough to make a difference but not heavy enough to strain any muscles, the blanket was picked up and the rocks were carefully poured into the abyss under the van with the prayer that they were going where they would be most useful (like under the tire!). 

There was a lot of "drive forward slowly, slowly..STOP!" and "Carefully, put it in reverse..go, go." "Turn your wheels the OTHER way!!" Lots of loving looks were exchanged between me and my hero.

Eventually (after about an hour of this tedious process), we were out of the ditch. It was minutes til happy hour ended, but now we were all in need of some refreshment (and perspective!) so I splurged and paid full price for slushes (and the very largest Strawberry Lime-Aid they could give me).  I also bought my hero a hot, delicious dinner from a well established burger joint before I headed on over to the mall.  Clearly, the drive into the ditch did not dissuade me or disconnect me from the shop-a-holic tractor beam.  (For your viewing pleasure: the 'just been muddin' look)

What was I after that was so compelling??!  If it works, I will post my own before and after pics. Stay tuned. 

***EDITED TO ADD~ This truly was written at the end of the summer, just before our lives went into a tailspin.  I am coming up for air now and hope to blog again more frequently.  The jury is still out on the above mentioned product.