Coupon Column: Why not get rid of all coupons?


“Dear Jill,

I do not use coupons and would like to see you address two issues from millions of others like me who are very busy people.

1. If a company wants you to try a product, why not just discount the price in the areas of the country where they want people to try it rather than go through all the rigmarole and potential fraud involving coupons?

2. For those who don’t use coupons, it is extremely frustrating to be in line behind someone who is using them. It takes forever for the cashier to check them and ring them up, and invariably the user has one or more coupons for which she did not purchase the correct product or quantity, further delaying those waiting in line to check out. Beyond that, they often do not have their wallets, credit card or check book out and ready. They fumble around trying to find it while those of us behind grow increasingly frustrated with them and with the entire process.

I propose eliminating coupons and just discount the price if you want people to buy something. It would save a lot of time and aggravation for everyone.”

Terry T.

The reality is that it is much more cost-effective for brands and retailers to issue coupons versus simply lowering prices across the board. According to Inmar, in 2017, there were 307 billion coupons distributed, but only 2.2 billion of those coupons were redeemed.

Let’s use the same set of numbers as an example: If one brand decided to lower the price by $1 on a product across the board, and it sold 307 billion units of that product, the brand would endure a financial loss of $307 billion versus selling at the former, full price. However, if the brand issued the same value in coupons, they could expect to spend just $2.2 billion on the campaign.

Coupons incentivize a purchase by reducing the product’s price point for the shoppers that are willing to seek out such discounts. In turn, the brand only has to pay for the shoppers who actually chose to use the coupon. This is a fraction of what it would cost the brand to lower the price across the board. Why should the brand reduce the price for everyone? The brand is in the business of making money.  Shoppers who are not willing to use coupons have chosen to pay higher prices for their  products by not looking for additional discounts, and in turn, the brand has made more money on their purchases, too.

Brands also use coupons for different reasons: to encourage shoppers to try a new product that’s just hit the market, or to boost sales on a product that may be stagnating in sales. If prices were simply reduced across the board in lieu of issuing coupons, brands would not enjoy the kind of targeted, time-sensitive sales boosts that coupons provide.

For shoppers, coupons can lower the price by half or better, even making the item free – a perk that devoted couponers love.

As for the frustration of being behind a shopper with a lot of coupons: I myself try not to be “that person” that you’ve described. I have my coupons in hand, as well as my other method of payment. Anytime I have a large shopping trip planned, I also let the person behind me know that I’ll be using a lot of coupons in case they wish to choose another checkout lane.

While it’s true that it does take time for the cashier to scan each coupon, the store is being reimbursed for each coupon – they’re not losing money. It’s also time that “pays” me very well. I did a large stock-up shopping trip at the grocery store this week, and after all of my coupons were scanned, my total dropped by a whopping $74! I cannot imagine willingly giving up that much money simply for the sake of getting through the checkout lane more quickly.

Readers, do you prefer to spend time saving money or spend more money to save time? I’d love to hear from you.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal.


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