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Opinion: Column: Coup de Gras
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Opinion: Column: Coup de Gras

Now that I'm unburdened from the website weight I've been carrying for the past few weeks, I will, for the second week in a row, not write about cancer.

This week's topic will be manufacturer's coupons and the trick certain supermarkets are playing on us unsuspecting consumers.

Like many of you, or maybe not that many, I use coupons to save money. In fact, I have become rather adept at doing so. I'm not willing or talented enough to go on television – and tell my tales; I'm not that good. As an example, I'm not able/that inclined to download and print the digital coupons some brands/sites offer.

All I know to do is clip/use the paper coupons inserted in the Sunday newspapers and "clip" the digital coupons offered on certain supermarket and drugstore websites.

In my "couponing" I am aware and mindful of the doubling and occasionally even tripling coupon opportunities. Moreover, I am similarly aware of the less frequent doubling/tripling of coupons with values of one dollar or more.

Most of the time, I am using coupons whose face value is less than one dollar whose amount is then doubled (a 75 cent coupon is worth $1.50). In addition, I'm always looking to use my "couponing" skills with items that are already on sale for super savings.

Unfortunately, the opportunity doesn't present itself as often/on as many items as I like to purchase. Although, until recently, there had been a savings opportunity when the identical-to-the-paper digital coupon appeared on the supermarket's website. On those occasions, one could use both the paper and digital coupons on the same item, to double dip, so to speak (and a super-duper savings if that item were already on sale); a loophole which has since been closed.

Another loophole, of sorts, one that saves the supermarket's money – at the consumer's expense, literally and figuratively, involves their digital coupons. Not only can you no longer 'double dip,' but if you "clip" the digital coupons, the ones under one dollar, the face amount doesn't double as it would for a similarly valued paper coupon.

Who does that help? The convenience of digital coupons. I'm not buying it anymore.

In summary, two ways here I see the supermarkets making money where previously they hadn't.

First, they're encouraging consumers to use digital coupons, like it's money for nothing. Really it's money for something, just not the consumer's something. Granted, there seem to be more digital coupons than paper coupons, but the more digital coupons you use, especially instead of paper coupons for the same item, the more money you lose (by not benefiting from the doubling opportunity afforded by paper coupons).

Second, for whatever coincidental/conspiratorial reason, there are fewer coupon inserts in the Sunday papers. There's less to cut on Sundays, and accordingly, less to show for it on Mondays, when I plan my week's "consumering." The result is that due to this lack of paper coupons, consumers are being forced to go digital, and by doing so, are losing our ability to double down.

Rather than supply the demand in paper, the supermarkets are demanding the supply by forcing our hands to go mouse-clicking.

You may view this coupon pursuit as a bit of a fools errand, but I view it more as a challenge, and as a way to overthrow the conspirators, while there's still time.