I want to thank Andrea of Mommy Snacks for a thought-provoking email she sent after I posted about saving money with e-coupons last week. It’s given me quite a bit of food for thought, and I’d like to know what you think. Andrea said that she had spoken with a customer service representative of Shortcuts, Cellfire and P&G, who said that the companies do not “condone” stacking coupons but can’t prevent it.
“Stacking” means using more than one coupon on an item. For example, when I used a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the DiGiorno pizza at Pavilions last week, I “stacked” the coupons. It’s always been my understanding that such stacking is perfectly legitimate.
I think the stacking that the CSR was concerned about is the type that happened with the Cascade rinse agent in the deal I posted about last week, where I used a free item coupon and also got the benefit of a P&G eSaver e-coupon. I only bought the item because of the coupon, so the manufacturer achieved their goal of getting me to buy their product. I can understand the manufacturer’s perspective here, that they don’t really want people saving too much money because it cuts into their profits. But they can’t have it both ways, especially because, as far as I know, the only way to “deactivate” an e-coupon is to let it expire.
As a consumer, I think it’s too much to ask me to always be aware of what e-coupons are available, and to be sure to only use either a paper coupon or an e-coupon. As I said, I always load e-coupons when I get the chance, because otherwise I’ll forget about them (and I do, constantly). In this case, having loaded the 50-cents off Cascade e-coupon a couple of weeks ago, the manufacturer’s unofficial rule would have precluded me from using the much higher value paper coupon. From my consumer’s perspective, that seems grossly unfair. If they don’t want me to use the e-coupons, then they shouldn’t make them available.
I’m also skeptical of the manufacturers’ claim that they can’t program their computers to prevent stacking. To some degree, it might be true. But I’ve noticed that more and more, the registers seem to know which product a paper coupon applies to. Which would indicate that the computers can be programmed to not apply an e-coupon when a paper coupon has “attached” to an item. I realize that it doesn’t work with every item, but it seems to me that it’s something that will be “fixed” by the manufacturers and retailers within the next couple of years.
In the meantime, I’m not planning to change the way I shop, unless I stop using e-coupons altogether (which is certainly an option – I forget about them all the time anyway).
What do you think, and how do e-coupons factor into your shopping?
P.S. Head over to Mommy Snacks to enter a $100 back-to-school Visa gift card giveaway!