Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Purchasing Habits

Coupon Clipper: I’d love to know your thoughts on the ethics of “shelf-clearing.”

When I first started couponing, I got so excited about finding products for free or nearly free that I would buy ridiculous quantities, far more than my needs. I promised myself that I would give the extras to those in need –and I did--but looking back, I suspect that pride had a lot to do with that impulse. I wanted the “high” that you talk about, that comes from getting a great deal and doing a good deed, but I think I wanted it for the wrong reasons. Part of me wanted to be seen carrying bags upon bags of products to food drives, wanting people to assume that I was a person who sacrificed to give so much. Meanwhile, I would leave the shelves bare, inconveniencing other shoppers and store employees.

I see this controversy on coupon blogs a lot now, particularly with the Christmas-is-coming crazy deals on toys. People are buying 5, 8, even 10 units of the toy in question. I’m sure that many, even most of them give the excess away, but when I think about the mom with a single coupon looking for an affordable birthday present for her child and finding only a bare shelf, it makes me wonder. I’d love your thoughts!

Me: Here are some of my personal thoughts for purchasing:

1. Purchasing several items when they are on sale (stockpiling) is wise for your family. I don't think of this as selfish shopping, but stockpiling for my family means that we are able to give generously when the need arises.

2. When a sale is advertised, it is the responsibility of the store to:
A) Order enough quantity for the demand of the local consumers.
B) Offer a rain check for shoppers to receive the same discount at a later date.
* If a store fails to do so, it isn't the consumers responsibility, and feel free to make the manager aware of your disappointment!

3. Clearance items have become clearance items for good reason. If someone wants to purchase several previously unpopular items now that the prices are low- have at it!

4. Items that are limited in quantity and that are without the availability of a rain check do, in my opinion, need to be purchased with thoughtfulness. Spectacular deals are sought after by several savvy consumers, be gracious and share!

The problem is that there is no Coupon Clipper Code of Conduct that all shoppers must abide by. (And just for the record, I have yet to master the 'know when to say when' art of coupon shopping!) I do think that it is important to know WHY we are purchasing products- especially in what quantity.

I will purchase certain products, like Electrosol dish detergent tabs in mass quantity three times a year, when the $2.50 coupon are available for spending. This heavy purchase keeps our dishes clean until the next big sale and our grocery budget intact.

I also keep a stash of gift type items for future giving, but not to the detriment of other bargain shoppers. I shared several months ago that I also had changed my perspective for my shopping. It is easy to get caught up in the 'high' of sweet bargaineering, but the responsibility of what to do with the items that we bring home is just as important as learning to save in the first place.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

13 comments:

Anonymous

Laura,
You have the right idea. Quite frankly, I've never given a second thought to hogging the bargains. So, thanks for making us all aware of the "couponer code of conduct" idea.
p.s. I went to college with your friend Lacey - we were roomates.
~Bridget

Laura Webber

Please give Lacey a hug from me, especially if you see her soon!

And Bridget, I'm happy to have you here!

Heidi

Ha! I just teased you today about clearing the games from Kroger! Thanks for sharing your thoughts...I totally agree. I have been holding myself back from "buying" all the free wipes at Target this week because I hate when I go and there aren't any left!

Anonymous

I agree with your comment about being responsible for the bargain items we bring home. I took advantage of the Bath and Body Works hand soap bargain from last week and now I have oodles of soap, enough to certainly last us for a long time! It was a super deal so I bought big, but I was feeling a bit worried that I had bought too much; not that I cleared their shelves (because that would be impossible to do!) but that I wanted to make sure I didn't overdo it simply for the sake of a bargain. It is stored nicely in our cabinet, so that's not the problem, I just don't want to be irresponsible and spend more $$ just because I'm getting some good deals. You mentioned in a post recently to choose 2-3 items a week to stock up on, and I think I'm finally getting the knack of that (knowing when to say when).

I needed a 9 volt battery today for my son's metronome and since I was passing a CVS, I thought I would hop in there for that one item. To make a long story short, I walked out of CVS with three Duracell 9-volt batteries that I spent 53 cents for OOP, but considering the ECB I rec'd, they paid me to bring them home! Yay! I loved it and couldn't wait to show my hubby. Anyway, I'm going to try to do this kind of thing from now on and curb my "got-to- buy-every-bargain-that's-available"
habit.

Thanks for giving us food for thought!

PAM

Laura Webber

Hmmm, its not even Thought Provoking Thursday!

Anonymous

That's true, it's not, but it gave me a lot to think about! :-)

PAM

Lydia

Thanks Laura! I love your honesty and willingness to address "touchy" subjects.

I think of the Golden Rule found in the Bible- Do unto others at you would have them do unto you. I too get frustrated when I see someone's cart pile high with a "free" item. I, myself, am not immune from doing it, but I am SLOWLY coming to the realization that it is not what is best. I coupon because I want to be a good steward of the money God has blessed us with. While I like to save money, is it worth it if I am cheating others out of a good deal by buying WAY more of an item than I really, truly need?

I admit, I was tempted to go hog-wild on the wipes at Target. But as I was contemplating it I realized that I often can get wipes free or nearly so, so why finish clearing the shelf and rob the joy from someone else? And take up space that we don't have for some free wipes!

Enough of my epistle...in short, I think we do need to be considerate of others even in our bargain hunting and I like what you said about being responsible for what we buy.

Anonymous

I'm responding to this post a bit late, but I've been thinking about your question since it was posted. I agree with Lydia that we need to follow the "Golden Rule", which would include couponing. I think this will be different for each individual as we all see situations differently. But, I think we can easily rationalize things too.

I think we need to follow the INTENT of the company offering coupons and not take advantage of the company. Obviously if we owned a company we could not afford to give away our products for nothing, or at continuously rock-bottom prices and expect to stay in business very long. I think as more and more people start massive couponing, the more restrictions we will see. We've already seen the Howell Kroger and Target start putting up these restrictions. Companies just can not afford to give away their product to everyone at rock-bottom prices for a year's supply. I used to work in a grocery store, and it was very upsetting to the manager when people would come and "cherry-pick" because the store lost money. Grocery stores do not have a very big profit margin. I guess the bottom line is are we just taking, or are we also willing to give back? How would we feel if we offered someone to take what they needed from our stockpile, and they took the whole thing? [On a side note, what about downtown and none-chain stores? Are we willing to spend more to help them stay in business and not have empty store-fronts in our downtowns? (Believe me, I am preaching to myself too.)] I also try not to pick up coupons I find lying around unless it it obvious it was left intentionaly under the said product. I've already dropped my coupons on a store floor, and was so glad I found them when I retraced my steps. We wouldn't keep a wallet lying around or a $20 bill (at least, I hope we wouldn't), so why should we just take coupons? Even a $1 bill might have been dropped by a 5-year old that may come back looking.

I know I'm going on and on - I guess my bottom-line is not to take advantage of companies generosity and intent of wanting people to try their product. The most important thing above saving money is the state of OUR heart and our integrity. If we are taking advantage of a situation, then we are wrong, no matter how much we rationalize it to make it seem okay. I really desire to "watch over my heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." I want those springs of life, more than I want to keep my money.

I hope I'm not coming across "holier than thou". I have been guilty at times at picking up found coupons & small amounts of money, making taking more products than I should, etc. These are just all things that I struggle with and things that have come to my mind as I coupon and look for ways to save money.

Anonymous

A question I have had about coupons, sales, and ethics is the one per customer, one per transaction type of scenarios. Are we abusing and taking advantage of the system when we come back later that day or week to get more, or do multiple transactions at the self-registers? I really don't have an answer. I guess we would need to ask the corporate headquarters of each store to get their input. There was a time I would only do one, and only one, transcation if that is what the store listed they wanted. One time when I went back to a store with a friend, I stated that I wished I could get another 2 jugs of milk that were on sale 2 per customer. She said I could because I'm a customer again. I think the answer is how the store sees it - not how we want it to be. Our integrity is the bottom line - how much we can save should not be the bottom line. This Saturday, there is a sale on Meijer gift cards: $5 off any purchase of $50 or more Meijer gift cards. It is stated-Limit one Meijer Gift Card Savings Coupon per transaction. Does this mean they really want us to limit ourselves to one - or is it okay with them if we go back and back to do it over and over and over again. I know how I want it to be - but what does the store expect? If they don't mind multiples, why would they state - Limit One in the first place? If we take advantage, will we keep seeing these type of offers?

Christy

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.

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