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Extreme Couponing: A New Craze for Saving Money on Groceries

What is Extreme Couponing?

Extreme Couponing
Many words can reasonably be connected to the term “extreme.” Up until a few years ago, couponing” certainly was not one of them. But thanks to the general public’s enjoyment of reality television, people’s ceaseless search for a great deal, and greater concern for saving money, extreme couponing has become a thing.

The term extreme couponing arose from a television show with the same name from the USbased Teaching and Learning Channel (TLC). In the show, extreme couponers are shown as voracious consumers of flyers, newspapers, and all other sources of coupons. These individuals, sometimes with their families, visit grocery stores armed with myriad coupons for grocery items. They often are able to combine deals, essentially getting products for free or close to it.

The TLC episodes often show controversial moments where the couponers complain loudly at having to pay a few cents for dozens of products. The goal is free groceries, and to an outside observer it can look more like a game than an exercise in feeding one’s family. Couponers end up with hundreds of the same basic grocery item, like macaroni and cheese, and look for places to store all of their products. While some give any excess food to local food banks, others claim they will use the products they have purchased.

While it would seem that those engaged in extreme couponing would do so because of financial hardship, it is often the middle class customer who is able to devote the time necessary to take advantage of the benefits coupons bring. Often the extreme couponer is female, with a family, and has a flexible schedule due to part-time work or staying at home with kids.

The practice can seem harmless; however, extreme couponing does cause furrowed and raised eyebrows at stores. Grocery store clerks often must process hundreds of coupons for one transaction, looking for expired coupons and ensuring the coupon matches the product being scanned. Frustration for other customers can be an issue, as seen in a case in Tennessee in late 2016 when a woman using what could be described as an “extreme” amount of coupons got into a physical altercation with another shopper after holding up the line for 20 minutes with her transaction.

The extreme couponing craze was born from the recession at the end of 2008. With money tight, people had insecurities about their long-term financial health. One thing they could control was grocery items that seemed to have short-term sales promotions each week. And with the most recent downturn in 2014, saving money is something that is very much on the minds of consumers. A recent Dalhousie University study showed that more than 50% are shifting their shopping habits amid fluctuating food prices and economic uncertainty. While extreme couponing has not led to any kind of consumer revolution, it has revealed ways in which consumers can shift their behaviours in order to save money. The couponing craze created coupon-clipping services that send thousands of coupons to interested consumers. Technology has also aided the couponing craze, as smartphone applications like Flipp help consumers find coupons from flyers sent out by major retailers.

Another concern with any consumer activity like extreme couponing is the amount of time it takes to organize and redeem coupons. Clipping services are helpful, but to save hundreds or thousands of dollars there needs to be time available to manage such a system. There are cases of great success using coupons: one mother in the UK claimed in April 2017 that she had been able to quit her job and stay home with her kids thanks to her near $80,000 savings from coupon redemption.

However, in Canada, more restrictions on redeeming coupons make it much harder to become extreme. Restrictions like not being able to use more than one coupon per item, or restrictions on the day of the week in which coupons can be redeemed, have served to limit the amount of savings to be had at a Canadian retailer. Online coupons are popular in Canada, as more retailers are accepting coupons from various sources. Stores are also becoming more proactive by implementing price matching from other retailers before the consumer even walks through the door.

What this case is asking you to do is to think innovatively, if not extremely. You are tasked with choosing another type of sales promotion and determining whether there are ways in which to enhance this promotion to make it more popular with consumers. You can save yourself time by using your course materials. Be sure to get moving at a clip that will get things done.

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