TLC’s Extreme Couponing may have ruined couponing for the rest of us: Consumerist reports this week stores such as Target and RiteAid are cracking down on the abuse they’re taking from these seemingly average people who go to ultimate lengths to save ridiculous amounts on groceries (think $2,000 worth of stuff for $100). They Dumpster dive for newspaper flyers, keep binders full of manufacturers offers and rearrange their homes to accommodate massive stockpiles of mayonnaise. And they piss a lot of people off, not just the frustrated cashiers. So what’s an enterprising couponeer to do? Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch sent us these helpful Dos and Don’ts on how, when and where to do it properly to get the most of your savings, without getting kicked out of the store.
DO play by the rules. Couponing isn’t too complicated and common sense should get you by in most cases. Rules vary store to store, so if you’re planning to use a large amount of coupons, it helps to brush up on coupon policies before you shop. This includes making sure you’re buying the item the coupon is intended for and checking to see if they’ll accept expired coupons or not.
DON’T clear the shelf. In the eyes of casual shoppers, clearing entire shelves of popular sale items crosses the line between couponing and hoarding. If you really want to stock up on certain products, try making multiple trips or call ahead and ask a manager if they’ll set aside an order for you.
DO be organized before you check out. It’s a nightmare for cashiers and people waiting in line when you hand over a haphazard pile of miscellaneous coupons. It’ll be much appreciated if you clip them before hand and make sure they’re all facing the same direction. Also, remember to remove coupons for products you didn’t end up buying. If you are using mobile coupons, have them ready on your smartphone for the cashier to scan.
DON’T shop during the busiest times. The stress level of those waiting in line during peak times is high enough. Using dozens of coupons takes time and will only irritate other shoppers. Instead, go shopping when business is slow. It takes the pressure off to complete the transaction as quickly as possible for both you and the cashier.
DO be polite to the cashier and fellow customers. Sure, you might have some knowledge other customers and even clerks don’t, but it’s no excuse to treat others like they’re beneath you. If a cashier isn’t familiar with coupon policies, stay calm and ask to speak with a supervisor. They’re much more helpful if you don’t lose your cool. When your cart is overflowing, give those behind you a heads up that you’ll be using coupons. If someone is waiting with just a loaf of bread and gallon of milk, let them cut ahead.
DON’T steal coupons! A growing trend turning the tide against couponers is theft. Newspapers and newspaper subscribers are increasingly finding coupon inserts stolen. This is a big no-no and can get you into some serious trouble. Many people will willingly part with their unused inserts if you ask nicely.
Andrea Woroch has appeared as a consumer savings expert on The Today Show, ABC News NOW, NBC Nightly News, FOX, MSNBC and many more.