When Jessica Crowe read an August 26, 2013, Tampa Tribune article that described how one mother was saving money on her grocery bill she just shook her head in dismay. “This is exactly what I've been talking about,” said Crowe. “This poor woman is literally wasting money trying to save money and I blame most of it on the advertisers.”
The Tampa Tribune article described how Sandra Lloyd, an unemployed mother with four children, was using manufacturer's coupons to “cut her $100 a week grocery bill by 75 percent” or more using both physical coupons that she clipped from the newspaper and digital coupons that she downloaded from a computer.
Each week Lloyd buys four copies of the Tampa Tribune so she'll get 4 copies of all the coupon inserts. Then, Lloyd also travels to her local libraries “where she can access multiple computers because online coupons often limit the number of coupons per each computer's unique IP address.”
Crowe, owner of TheHappyCouponer.com, an online coupon clipping service, says Lloyd is spending far too much time and money trying to save money.
“She (Lloyd) may be saving $75 each week but how much is she spending to do it? If her Sunday paper costs $2, then she's already spending $8 for her coupons - that's $50 a month - and most shoppers don't use every single coupon in every insert so right there she's wasting tons of money.”
“Next, how does she travel to her local libraries? She's either spending money on bus fare or gasoline, and let's not even talk about how much time she has to spend waiting for computers and traveling all around town. Not to mention how much she pays to print each coupon at the library.”
“For all the time and money this woman is spending she could easily get 500-700 coupons a week from a coupon clipping service, get exactly the coupons she wants, and probably save even more money at the grocery store.”
Crowe says the real culprit is the manufacturers. With more people turning to the Internet for their news, newspaper subscriptions are dropping and it's costing manufacturers more and more to include their printed coupons in the inserts.
According to Crowe, most major grocery chains are pushing to get their customers to use digital coupons because they're getting pressure from the manufacturers. “If the customer uses a digital coupon the manufacturer reimburses the store at a higher rate,” says Crowe.
“But here's the problem,” says Crowe. “The manufacturers are forgetting that people on fixed or low incomes often don't have access to high-speed Internet. Before they can download a coupon their computer shuts down, so there's no way they could print off all the coupons they could use that week. And many of them don't even have computers which means they'd have to go to the library, like Sandra Lloyd, and that costs money.”
Crowe says the two-coupon-limit with printable coupons is another major hindrance. “Consumers are forced to travel from library to library to print all the coupons they need which costs a lot of time and money. When you have two or three kids, two coupons for 50 cents off a box of Cheerios are hardly worth printing. You might as well just buy the store brand and save yourself the aggravation and ink.”
Crowe understands that advertisers are in the coupon business to make money. “Originally, coupons were used as advertisements to encourage people to try new products. If they don't want people stocking up on all-time favorites like Cheerios and Campbell's soup then they shouldn't be offering coupons, they should save their advertising dollars for new products.”
“But, no matter what coupons they're offering,” says Crowe, “they need to remember that most people who use coupons aren't doing it because they want to, it's because they need to stretch their grocery budget, and they need to find a way to make coupons easily accessible for those people who don't have computers or high-speed Internet.”
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