Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let Me Explain...

In my most recent post regarding coupon ethics one commenter asked:

Anonymous said... "I've personally never done a transaction where I feel like I'm doing anything outside the limits of what's allowed in regards to coupon spending.I realize you wouldn't want to be specific about where in the blogosphere we couponers may be lead astray... but just wondering if you could hint to such "shady tricks" so I can avoid inadvertently doing one?"

First of all, let me state for the record that I hate being the Ethics Police. I hate having to break the bad news that coupons have been mis-spent... it is uncomfortable, it makes me out to look perfect (I assure you that unfortunately, I am not) but it comes with the territory that I have chosen to walk.

Please know that I too have mis-spent coupons. There is an unbelievable amount of information regarding coupons and how best to spend them, and I continue to grow my healthy respect for avoiding wrongful transactions.

Most coupon spenders at one time or another will make mistakes, but what the message that I am attempting to get across is to:

1. Educate Yourself in Coupon Ethics.
It is easy to get into the mentality of clip and spend, clip and spend, clip and spend. I know, I've been there- actually, your Grandma has even been there, but the skills that I teach in spending coupons are far more advanced than your Grandma's way of clipping.

Today's advanced coupon spenders are clipping and spending hundreds of coupons per month to maximize their saving, and along with the spending of mass quantities of coupons comes the responsibility of knowing how each store will allow you to spend your wad of coupons in their store.

It is your responsibility to know the coupon policy (ethics guideline) for each store that you shop. If you are unsure if you can spend a particular coupon on a particular product than ask a store manager or call the 800 number for corporate guest services. Shopping ethically doesn't mean being willing to "beg for forgiveness," it means asking in advance of the purchase.

It is also important to read the limits and exclusions on each coupon being spent.

2. Refrain from Becoming a Repeat Offender of Mis-Spendings.
Once you have learned that photocopying/scanning online printable coupons is considered coupon fraud than stop photocopying/scanning online printable coupons. Period.

If you know that something is wrong, just don't do it. I think that this is a grey area for many, and it is really hard to commit to sticking to, often because it is easy to convince ourselves that it is just 'one little purchase, ' or 'who will really know?'

The truth is, if you can convince yourself (or you allow a shady coupon spending friend to convince you) once, it is likely to happen again, and possibly again... and it may take over into a pattern of mis-spendings, until your perspective of right vs. wrong is so far off base that scoring great deals becomes more important than spending coupons ethically.

3. Beware of Reasoning with Yourself.
It is very easy to get tangled in a web of justifying our actions. Spending the wrong coupon, an expired coupon, a coupon that specifically excludes an item just to be able to give away/donate a product does not make it right.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is still robbing Peter.

There is no magical set of buckets that holds our good spending habits/bad spending habits- we can't shop with the mindset that as long as our good habits bucket is more full than our bad habits bucket... then we're good. Good is always good, and bad is always bad. That's it!

4. Beware of Following the Crowd.
Reading blogs and 'copy-catting' what other have purchased is a great way to get your feet wet in learning to spend coupons. The problem is that not all voices in the blogosphere are modeling honesty in coupon ethics. Some bloggers share extensive coupon match-ups (matching store sales items with the coupons available in the newspaper and online) and do accidentally make mistakes, but other bloggers push the envelope in seeking how far they can overstep the ethical boundaries by working the system.

This may be true of your own shopping buddies as well. Make sure you take the time to read your coupons and to spend them appropriately. Lacking in knowledge because you were following another's lead does not make mis-spending justifiable.

I'm going to refrain from listing the many, many ways that coupons can be mis-spent... I'd hate to put ideas in anyone's mind. I will, however, share an example of how I have been guilty of mis-spending coupons.

I have always strived to be well educated in all things coupon related, but learning the ropes in my early months of coupon spending was tough to do alone. I have made a few mistakes along the way... once I found myself guilty of purchasing a product (40 count package of baby wipes) with a coupon that was specifically intended for a larger sized package (64+ count package of baby wipes). I read about the deal online and I quickly grabbed my coupons and dashed out the door without reading more than $.50 off Huggies wipes.

My cashier never batted an eyelash at my purchase... Yes, it was her job to protect the best interest of the store, but it is ultimately my job to ensure that I was spending my coupons specifically on the products that the coupon was intended for.

After a reader of my blog commented that her coupons were for the 64+ count wipes, and where did I get my other coupons from because she wanted some, I realized that I had become a mis-spender because I failed to read my coupons before I spent them.

I called Kimberly-Clark (the maker of Huggies wipes) to apologize and ask what I could do to make my purchase right with them. The customer service rep. forgave me of my mis-spending, but it was my responsibility to apply the lesson that I learned.

I need to guard myself against just running out to do the little last minute deals. I can easily fall prey to mimicking others without verifying for myself. With this in mind, I have added a 'step aside' moment into my pre-check out routine every single time I shop!!!

Before I roll my cart into line, I step aside and review my coupons to make certain that the items that are in my cart are included in the wording on my coupons. Spending coupons is amazing on so many levels... I'd hate to be part of the reason of why coupons (and their spenders) are so scrutinized.

In closing, I want to invite you to ask any questions that you need answers to (sharpenyourscissors (at) gmail (.) com). I really value each of you allowing me to step inside your spending habits, and allowing me to be real with you. I also invite you, at any point, to make me aware of any errors that you see in my own personal spending.

5 comments:

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I Laura,
Great post, we all need to be reminded that coupons are a gift to us and our familys and to not mis treat that gift. Even though it can some times be temting.
Thanks Courtney

Theresa

I always feel a little funny about using the printable Target coupons for free items. For example, using the $1 General Mills cereal coupon to score, theoretically, as many .97 cereal cups as you can print the coupons for. Has anybody ever called Target customer service and asked them if this is an appropriate use of these coupons?

Anonymous

Laura -

Could you tell us if buying coupons online is legal? I know that technically they say that you are 'paying' for their time to cut and mail the coupons...

Thanks!

Laura Webber

I'll answer these great questions in another post!

Anonymous

I am not going to be original this time, so all I am going to say that your blog rocks, sad that I don't have suck a writing skills