Wednesday, March 30, 2011

In consideration of coupons

So, there has been some consternation in the coupon community (yes, there is such a thing as a "coupon community" - if it works for Trekkies it can work for us!) about Kroger's recent policy change regarding stacking electronic coupons with those printed on paper.

Actually, the policy changed last year - something that, once again, other couponers alerted me to - but the registers in my local stores were still allowing me to stack.

Yesterday, news broke in the local media about a software update, downloaded by the registers last week, which prevented that from happening. Since many of my friends know my couponing prowess, I've been asked about the change.

I don't know why this hit the media yesterday - they reported that the update downloaded over a week ago, on March 21. I went shopping that morning, and I had two conflicting experiences with ecoupons.

First, I tried to buy some Olay cleanser, and the register rejected my paper coupon. When the cashier looked at the register tape, she noticed I'd already used an ecoupon. It wasn't a big deal - the values were the same, and it was $2 off so it wouldn't have doubled anyway. I'd completely forgotten about downloading that ecoupon to my Kroger card, and told the cashier so. She gave me back my paper coupon.

No harm, no foul.

Then, when I looked at my receipt, I realized that it HAD let me stack for some Kraft cheese - making that item free. I don't know if the difference was in where I downloaded the ecoupons. The software upgrade may only apply to those issued through the Kroger website, and not Cellfire.

Hard as it may be to believe, I don't have a problem with this policy change. It's Kroger's business how they run their registers. I understand that the ecoupons could also be considered manufacturer's coupons (as opposed to those issued by the store), but I don't know that their site ever makes that clear.

Here is the problem I do have with how this is rolling out:

On the way home from work yesterday, I was listening to the radio simulcast of on of our local TV station's broadcast. They were doing a story on this situation, and a spokesperson for Kroger said that the updates were made to stop "fraud" and "those who abused the system."

That got my dander up, folks.

I do NOT consider myself having committed fraud all those times when coupons stacked. Many stores (like Target and Walgreens) issue store coupons that they allow to stack with those issued by the manufacturer. As I said before, there is some confusion as to who issues those ecoupons. It is NOT my fault that they considered themselves having a "software glitch" that allowed this to happen for so many years, or that it took them so many years to fix it. I have known since last year that this change was going to eventually come to my local stores, and knew I would not make a big deal about it. My Grocery Game list never took into account stacking, so that never factored into my buying decisions - and, frankly, most of the time I forget what coupons I have loaded.

Since the digital coupons do NOT double, and paper coupons do, I would like to have the choice to use one or the other - but the register does not allow you to withdraw redemption of an ecoupon to apply a different one. It just means I will have to be more vigilant about keeping up with what is what.

And as for "abusing the system?" PUH-LEASE. A lot of people have asked me if I plan on watching a new show which TLC is advertising, following "extreme couponers." Honestly, I do not. From what I've seen in the previews, THESE are the people who abuse the system. One lady came away with dozens and dozens of free Butterfinger bars, just because she could. I consider that system abuse not just from a store's viewpoint, but from a consumer's place as well. It's just plain bad taste to hoard items - there, I used that word - just because you can.

How would that person feel if she went into the store, and there was something on sale she REALLY needed, but someone had already cleaned out the stocks? Even if I'm not limited by the number of coupons I have - which is usually no more than two, very rarely three for an item - I try to be considerate of others. I will make trips on different days or to different stores if I know I need multiples of an item.

I am not interested in getting $400 dollars worth of groceries for $4. I have a small family, and I don't have room for that much food. Yes, I do take advantage of some deals so I will have things to donate, but come on - that is just shameful.

I also fear that these "extreme couponers" and the attention they're gaining will cause stores to take more notice of all couponers, and cause more policy changes like we've seen this week. I have already heard through the grapevine that, in some regions, Kroger is ceasing doubling coupons. To be fair, these seem to be due to stores abusing the policy, and most of these were also allowed to triple coupons on certain days. But as more and more people jump on the couponing bandwagon, and those on the fringes gain more exposure, I don't see that trend stopping any time soon.

So, as you coupon, PLEASE do so responsibly. The couponing privilege you save may be your own.

No comments: