Coupon parties rise, but we prefer free education about their use

Articles
April 29, 2009

Coupon parties rise, but we prefer free education about their use

Consumers are at their wit’s end trying to make their household budgets work, and coupons have earned a place on their lists of savings strategies. Experienced coupon clippers have grown to include free online sites such as coupons.com, couponcabin.com, couponmom.com, savings.com, retailmenot.com, smartsource.com, and more. The most advanced coupon users today transmit electronic coupons to their supermarket frequent shopper programs for automatic discounts on their next transactions, as long as their food stores have this capability. Still, 98% of the time across America, coupon redemption is a paper affair. Quick paths to guaranteed savings appeal to coupon newcomers, who may be new to economic struggles and haven’t figured out how to maximize available savings. They want to be taught, and are sometimes willing to pay for the education. Established couponers who want to improve their skills are other potential students. Enter opportunists. A website called BeCentsAble.net offers several membership tiers, from free up to $80, with different levels of privileges and information access. A Newsday report describes the company’s in-person coupon parties, at which attendees pay $25 to learn how to organize and apply coupons to maximize savings.

Consumers are at their wit’s end trying to make their household budgets work, and coupons have earned a place on their lists of savings strategies.

Experienced coupon clippers have grown to include free online sites such as coupons.com, couponcabin.com, couponmom.com, savings.com, retailmenot.com, smartsource.com, and more.

The most advanced coupon users today transmit electronic coupons to their supermarket frequent shopper programs for automatic discounts on their next transactions, as long as their food stores have this capability. Still, 98% of the time across America, coupon redemption is a paper affair.

Quick paths to guaranteed savings appeal to coupon newcomers, who may be new to economic struggles and haven’t figured out how to maximize available savings. They want to be taught, and are sometimes willing to pay for the education. Established couponers who want to improve their skills are other potential students.

Enter opportunists. A website called BeCentsAble.net offers several membership tiers, from free up to $80, with different levels of privileges and information access.  A Newsday report describes the company’s in-person coupon parties, at which attendees pay $25 to learn how to organize and apply coupons to maximize savings.

Timing for the two moms to start the business--which reportedly is up to 240 educators in 41 states—couldn’t be better.  Nielsen data from December 2008 show that 86% of households used coupons and drove 89% of all-outlet dollar sales. Heavy coupon users make 85 grocery trips and 28 drug store trips annually, vs. 44 grocery and 9 drug store trips for non-users, Nielsen added.  And in 2008, for the first time in recent memory, coupon usage held steady rather than declined.

While we love entrepreneurs at SupermarketGuru.com, and we’re all for couponing, we sense an inherent wrong in this picture. Here it is: We all know people who are struggling in this recession, who need all the help they could find, and would do fairly well with coupon-use advice they should be able to get for free at local supermarket workshops, or at a friendly coffee klatch. We disagree with the premise that people should have to pay, especially at a time when every dollar counts, and plenty of companies benefit (CPG and retailers) from more coupon use. These are the experts who should step up with appropriate programs.