COUPONS–Ya Gotta Be Careful!

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While they have always been around, lately there seems to be a tidal wave of coupons and “promo codes” coming in the mail, e-mail, and the newspaper. It is a reflection of our economic times with retailers in Petaluma and throughout Sonoma County doing what they can to encourage people to get out there and shop.

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Marketwatch reported on this phenomenon in Retailers try new tricks amid global downturn…

“In response to rising job losses and the declining stock and housing markets, three quarters of consumers have significantly or somewhat changed their shopping behavior–trimming purchases, increasingly seeking deals and coupons, and trading down to cheaper store brands, according to the Retail Forward survey of 4,000 U.S. primary household shoppers.”

Link: MarketWatch–by Andrea Cheng March 24, 2009

Coupons do offer a chance to stretch your dollar. However, there are a few cautions:

1. Make sure that you get credit for the coupon at checkout.  Sometimes the local registers have not been programmed to process the coupon or the clerk may inadvertently enter it incorrectly.

  • In one store, we received credit for a $10  coupon but were also  overcharged $24.01 due to scanning errors. We caught the mistakes after we returned home.  The store was extremely courteous in making a refund.
  • In another store they failed to credit a $10 coupon–in the process of correcting the mistake, they refunded $10.78.

2. Safeway Gas Cards are a great deal if you live near a gas station where you can redeem the gas credits or are able to plan a stop during a regular trip. Otherwise, they may not be much of a bargain if you are driving 20 miles round trip just to get a few dollars of free gasoline.

3. Above all, don’t use coupons or discount offers as an excuse to go shopping. They only represent a savings if you were going to buy something in the first place.