Thoughts by Richard Bleil
An unusual thing happened. Let me preface this post by saying that I’m not exactly the brightest shopper. When I get coupon papers, they immediately go into the recycle bin. When I did try clipping coupons, they would go into a drawer and be promptly forgotten. I’m just not good at the game, but a few days ago (as of the writing of this post), I received a special coupon book for my birthday. In it were about a dozen coupons, and the weird thing is that every single one of them are on items I use regularly.
To this day, I wonder if it was printed based on my buying pattern, but it didn’t come to my house. I have a separate mailing address, and that mailbox happens to be right next to a relatively small and lower end (meaning less expensive) grocery store that I like quite a bit, the same grocery store that sent me the coupons. My diet cola supply was nearing depletion, so I had, as I often do, decided to stop anyway. Although I planned to buy only the diet cola, I thought it might be wise to extend my shopping experience for the day.
The nice thing is that the coupons stacked on in-store specials. Every single item I purchased that day, including my diet cola, also included a coupon discount. That was so strange for me. I almost never have coupons, and every single item? How cool was that? And it got me to thinking about coupons and in-store sales.
Which begs the question as to the purpose of in-store sales and coupons. We’ll assume, for the sake of this discussion, that we are not talking about a store that intentionally raises the price so certain items can be put “on sale” at regular full price, although that does demonstrate probably the main purpose of such sales. Sometimes stores will actually lose money on an item on sale for the sole purpose of increasing foot traffic. This is referred to as a “lost leader”. Recently I’ve read a story about a well-known and large chain store that sells, apparently, fried chicken and has not raised the price of their chicken in a very long time. The chain, the article said, actually loses money on their chicken, but the store was (at least then which was not long ago) standing firm behind the chicken. They know the chicken draws in a crowd, and as the chicken crowd is in the store, they (or at least a large number of them) are browsing and buying other items. Their “sale” is netting them money on other items.
This is a win-win situation. Get people into the store, they save money on the sale items, and the store sells more items. This is capitalism, true capitalism, at its very best. Of course, the good intention fails during times like Black Friday sales when they legitimately put something on sale for an incredible price, but only have a few items for sale. This is dangerous as it can lead to stampeding and people can, and have been, seriously injured in these cases.
A few days ago (as of the writing of this post), I bought five raffle tickets. At my gun range, where I stopped in just to fire off a few rounds, they were raffling off half a dozen guns. Among the guns was a “big ticket” automatic rifle, the tickets for which were $10. The way it worked was you bought as many tickets as you want for the gun you hope to win, so it was a little different than many raffles where you buy tickets, and they draw for one prize at a time.
Me? I didn’t care about the rifle. Yes, I’m a man and it did stir that guttural “oh, cool” instinct, but among the guns was a tiny little .22 caliber revolver. Currently I don’t own a revolver, and I’ve never owned a .22. These tickets were $5 each, and it’s not going to draw a lot of interest (although there were already tickets in that jar). So, what the heck, I bought some tickets for the .22. My gun club does sell guns as well as being a range (as well, of course, as other items like safety gear and ammo). My guess is that these guns, for one reason or another, have simply not sold and they want to move them out. This is also a win-win, because the store will get some money, and some people will win prizes for less than their purchase price. Of course, odds are my money is simply gone, but I also don’t mind supporting the club, so I don’t mind. This happens in grocery stores as well. Not too long ago I got a batch of diet cola that just tasted wrong (it tasted much like bubble gum). This store frequently has a sale on my diet cola, and in this case, they were selling old and near-expired (or just expired) product. You might want to check expiration dates on such sale items.
There’s a third and compelling reason for sales and coupons. When a bargain is offered, people are more likely to step out of their comfort zone and try new items. Manufacturer coupons probably fall into this category. They’ll offer coupons on their own products hoping to get people trying their product over the one they typically purchase. I think many restaurants do this as well. It’s still a win-win, since, after all, if you like that new product, you might switch which is what the manufacturer is hoping for.
And remember, you’re allowed to ask. Restaurants have daily specials, and I have, on occasion, asked why it’s a special. Is it an ingredient they don’t usually have? Are they trying to sell food before it expires? Is it to get people to try a dish that doesn’t sell well? Any of these reasons, by the way, is fine with me, but I just want to know. So, shop well, shop smart, and take advantage of those coupons!