Friday, November 20, 2009

Purchasing Habits Revisted

Personal Note: Please, please, please read this post with the gentleness (even humor) that I intended in writing this post. I make my best effort to read all of the comments posted below each entry and I really appreciate readers taking the time to share their thoughts! I've revisited an earlier topic due to comments regarding the post. I have shared more of my personal insight and even information that you may not have ever been aware of at the bottom of the post. I apologize for the length in advance- sometimes I just can't help myself... Love, Laura

Earlier this week I was asked to address how to purchase items gracefully. Gracefully, in my opinion is purchasing ethically, honestly and with the awareness that other shoppers are most likely seeking the same deals that you are.

My purpose in answering emailed questions here on my blog are to teach new strategies and to bring new (possibly even challenging) ideas to the fore front of your thinking. I believe that we can learn and grow together as a community- and building each other up with fresh perspectives and best practices are great tools for us to encourage one another with!

While catching up reading some of the comments left by readers today, I feel the need to address some of the ideas, concerns and misconceptions spoken through comments left on my Purchasing Habits post.

I must start by sharing that my intent in posing open ended questions, like "what are you thoughts on shelf clearing?" is simply because many of my readers may never have thought about other shoppers disappointment with empty shelves. Many coupon shoppers have the mentality that 'you win some/you lose some... and then you ask for a rain check!' While other shoppers may get irritated and feel like other coupon shoppers are out to gyp them from being able to spend their coupons. Each unique shopper has a unique set of family needs. I raised this question to make us aware of shoppers other than ourselves!!

Secondly, I think that it important to keep in mind that the entire family may not be represented when the shopping cart is being strolled down the aisles. Take, for instance, my friend and loyal shopping buddy Sandy. Sandy has six kids! SIX!

Let's compare Sandy's family of 8's needs to my own family of 3's needs:

Sandy should be purchasing about three times the amount of items that I purchase just to accommodate her family's needs.

Sandy's children are all older than my son, ensuring that they eat a heck of a lot more than my little scrawny-kins!

Sandy needs to purchase multiples of products just to make it through the week- even through the day... I shopped with Sandy over the summer and she was considering purchasing a certain kind of specialty ice cream treat for her kids. The box that she was looking at only had 5 treats in it, and Sandy needs to purchase boxes that have at least six treats to feed her kids ONCE! My son would have 6 desserts from a single box. See the difference!

(Hey Sandy, thanks for unknowingly allowing me to use you as an example!!!)

I feel that judging a cart by its contents has the potential to cause us to stumble with our own grace-filled purchasing attitude.

When posting about owning our own purchasing habits (stepping back to take a good look at ourselves) another intention of mine was to address the knowing when enough is enough. I think that this is a toughie- even for me. I believe that wisely saving money in the area of grocery spending only to blow the saved funds on other 'meaningless' stuff - even if its a great deal, needs to be addressed. It is easy to get so wrapped up in the saving that what is actually being spent has been lost sight of. Nickles and dimes quickly add up to dollars, and more stuff lying around is still just stuff!

I view my posing of questions as betterment for us all! We (myself included) may need to hear that we need to work on some of our shopping ideas/habits... not that we want to hear it, but it may be just what we need to hear!

One commenter described her need to re-evaluate her shopping as "possibly robbing someone else of the joy in finding a great deal!" Words like that kind of sting don't they? But it is a good kind of sting, a lasting mental image kind of reminder. I sure know how I feel when I approach a shelf filled with the items that I am looking for- and on the flip side, I know how it feels to leave empty handed.

I also received comments in regards to how coupons impact the Manufacturers, stores and their policies and wording printed in the sales flyer or on the coupon itself- please bear with me, but I'd love to take this opportunity to share more behind the scenes coupon information.

A Coupons Impact on the Manufacturer:
I'm sure that you are aware that the Manufacturer's goal in making coupons available to you and I, is to lure you into purchasing their product. Plain. Simple.

But did you know that the Manufacturer goes to great lengths (and expense) to make their coupons available to the public. First, the manufacturer needs to decide what items they would like to market with coupons, then the coupon needs to be designed, the Manufacturer then must pay to have the coupons printed (in either a newspaper, magazine, home mailer or in store grab-able) or they may decide to have their coupons made available through an online printing company like This step comes at a HUGE financial expense to the Manufacturer.

Then, the Manufacturer must PAY to have their items highlighted in the weekly sales flyers, online media, as well as radio and TV commercials. Stores MAKE money from selling their ad space!

The stores also MAKE money by hosting shelf space for the Manufacturer's to rent. The prime shelf locations are right at chest level, where not so savvy shoppers can easily purchase name brand items. Less expensive rentable shelf space is the very top and bottom shelves- which is where you normally find the store placing their own brand merchandise.

Since the Manufacturer is aware of what products they place out into the market, how much money they have spent for advertising, product location on store shelving, sale prices that they have agreed upon, and what coupons they have made available to the public- it is NO SHOCK to them at the deep discounts that shoppers are able to receive if they have wisely done their homework. (Read more here.)

Even though nearly every single American will claim to spend coupons (oil changes, ordering pizza's and grocery coupons are all lumped together as 'coupons'), the truth is that very few people actually spend coupons as intently as you and I do.

It may *feel* differently since you read about other like minded shoppers here at Sharpen Your Scissors and on other shopping blogs- and you may have hooked your circle of influence into your savvy savings at the grocery store, but the truth still remains... we are an oddity, a sliver of how the average American shops for their family.

Manufacturers are aware of us, but even banded together- we don't threaten their infrastructure! We probably feel like an (single) ingrown hair on their long freshly shaven leg... not their favorite follicle, but not overwhelming either!!!

We mustn't flatter ourselves so much that we think that our deeply discounted or even FREE purchases are making even a small dent in the cornerstone of manufacturism.

Stores and Store Coupon Policies:
As I eluded to above, stores make the money that they need to pay both their employees and their bills + turn a profit by selling their influence. Shoppers are deeply influenced by advertised sales and attractive merchandising.

Stores are in the business of MAKING money. In addition to selling product advertising, stores also receive $.08 per coupon that they accept from smart coupon-spending shoppers like you and I! That is $.08 + the face value of the coupon.

Stores, along with Manufacturer's also are vying for your spending attention.

Many grocery stores will offer to 'double' your coupons. This is the store's effort to get you to shop at their location. When you spend a coupon at a store that doubles- the Manufacturer pays the face value of the coupon (+$.08/coupon) and the store itself offers the second price discount as a thank you for shopping with them. It is the store's discretion on whether or not to implement a doubling policy, as well as it is another luring tactic to keep you and I from shopping with their direct competitor.

Super Kroger, a local Kroger that doubles coupons up to and including $1, has tweaked their coupon acceptance policy a bit recently, but I view that as their right keep their policies in the best interest of the store, and my right to decide if I want to take advantage of what their stores have to offer to me.

Target has also streamlined their coupon printing policy. I could become frustrated, but I've decided to roll with the punches, and be thankful that Target is keeping my kind of shopping in mind when they are updating their policies. I'm actually grateful that Target is moving forward in unifying their corporate policies (can I get an Amen?)

And lastly, I'd like to address Coupon Verbiage. Wording printed in sales flyer and on the coupons themselves can be quite confusing.

Is one per transaction the same as one per customer? To be honest, this may very from store chain to store chain or even from location to location... If you have uncertain feelings about how to handle your transactions and you are in a store, just ask a store manager. If you are wondering before you have headed out to the store, call the 800 number and ask in advance of your purchase.

I think that transaction insinuates that you may have more than one, after all is there are store that would turn you away from shopping again later in the week?

Normally, a purchase that includes a store reward (like earning money back on a purchase) will have the register print a single reward per transaction... so purchasing two or three like items in a single transaction will only allow for one reward. One per customer can vary from store to store (one per customer per day, or can you have your kids each check out with the specific product?) so feel free to ask a manager to define this term for you!

Bottom line, lets all choose to move forward gracefully, keeping in mind our ethics, honesty and the awareness of others.



Thank you Laura! Very thoughtful and note worthy blog today!
I am one that would have ALOT more in my cart as I daily feed ALOT of people:-)We have eight grandchildren, and with busy schedules for everyone, we do many many meals AND SNACKS:-) Love being a "hands on" Grandparent but our food expense was horrible until the Lord lead me to "couponing" Little did we know that it would not be long and we would be one of the "unemployed" families.
Let me, once again, tell you how God used you in our well as hundreds of others. May He bless you for your "servants heart"
I SO appreciate all your words of wisdom and do take them all to heart.
May we ALWAYS coupon to show His goodness thru good stewardship!
Thanks again are the best!!!
Elaine Carter


This was well written.

I have been to this rummage sale the last few years and the lady sells New products. For cheaper than retail. I thought I was getting a good deal until I started to "coupon" regularly. I also have seen her out at walgreens and big lots. Now I dont agree with stocking up on products so you can go sell them at your rummage sale and make a profit. I do think thats wrong. Get a real job!

p.s. These ppl have a Nice house so its not like they are hurting too bad.


Thanks for posting. I think so many people are on edge and really frustrated lately.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Yikes, where did this post spawn from? No offense taken. Coupon on!


I posted this originally on the previous post, but figured it was worth posting here too:

I am new to the whole couponing world. I have truly enjoyed reading your posts that I believe are brought to "realign" our thinking. I have been couponing for only 2 months and have experienced many "feelings" while doing so. I began stockpiling for a family of 5, but realize if I am "overrun" with product there are three charities I work in direct contact with that would LOVE to have my extras. I would like to add perspective as to are we "getting away" with something when a coupon says "DO NOT DOUBLE" but it doubles, or the fact that it says "ONE PER COSTUMER". My husband is a computer programmer and I am here to say, if the company intended the coupon not to double they could make it so the coupon would not double. In my opinion it is a computer programming issue which the computer programmer is fully capable of blocking! Likewise the "ONE PER CUSTOMER" I believe works just fine for CVS. No matter how many times you go in that store, if it says limit 1, your ECB will only print 1 time. I appreciate your thought provoking ideas and bottom line if someone feels convicted about something they may be doing has entered a "gray" area, then they probably should not continue to do it.

Laura Webber

This post spawned from the comments below the Purchasing Habits post from last Wednesday!

Thanks for all of the kind words!!!

Laura Webber

Hi Christy,
Thanks for your thoughts on the 'programming issues' for coupons. My husband is a computer programmer as well and I feel the same way!

Companies and stores are capable of updating their systems (and of doing a better job at training employees too) but they are CHOOSING not to.

Trails of Grace

I do appreciate the thoughts that were put into this post! Thanks a bunch. I would also like to comment on the one who was speaking of the family who lives in a nice house and buys things to sell at rummage sale.. let us be careful not to judge why someone does what they do.. if you are not living in their walls and do not know their circumstances.... judge not. Lets say... perhaps they had some medical issues.. and for whatever reason the wife was not able to find a "real" job.. but she has used her resourcefulness to buy things at a very low price and sell them for a bit of profit to help her family... be careful not to judge unless you have all the facts.

Becky C

Thanks Laura! I always learn so much from your posts, especially about the store and manufacturer's perspectives on coupons.
Did you ever ask at Super Kroger about the limit on coupons for "like items purchased" wording on the Kroger sale flyer? Just curious what they said.

Laura Webber

Oops! I forgot! I'll try to remember the next time I shop there!

Mom to Alexa, Elyse and *Audrey*

Thanks for the post Laura. I think it is great to keep all these things in mind, and also to take a deep breath and keep things in perspective! I can't believe how nasty some women are getting with each other on blogs (has anyone seen the "gum wars" on hip2save?!?!). Yikes! It takes way too much energy to get that mad at other coupon shoppers :)

Ohhh - use me as an example ANYTIME!! Especially when you say that I am your "friend and loyal shopping buddy" :)My husband refers to you as my guru :)I did tackle Super Kroger on my own this weekend :) $190 worth of groceries for $45!!!

Laura Webber

Suh-weet shopping Sandy!!!

And Sarah, I totally agree, being nasty gets us nowhere!!!


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