Let me start this post by acknowledging that it’s been awhile since I’ve felt up to writing. My brain seems to have been rewired the past year due to a series of events that felt like literal slams to the head, and it’s become more difficult for me to write something longer than 140 characters. But in the past few days, I’ve had some silly First World problems that fell into a pattern that was so inane, the only place it made sense to gripe about this nonsense was this blog.
It all had to do with brick-and-mortar stores and coupons. For those of you who don’t know me, I need to tell you that I absolutely LOVE coupons. I’ve been known to drive many miles out of my way if I’ve got a coupon for an amazing deal. No one should take that pleasure away from me, since I ask for so little in life. When I get a shirt that was originally $50 for $5 between sales and coupons, it almost makes up for the fact that all I can eat these days without getting sick, is food that tastes like cardboard.
First, I went to my favorite chain drugstore yesterday with two $5 coupons in hand. The makeup area had little yellow signs everywhere that if you spent $20 on certain brands, you would get a $10 coupon as a reward. Who could pass that up when my brand was included? They’re practically giving the makeup away at that point! So as I started picking up some blush and concealer to bring to the register, one of the salespeople was nearby and informed me that the special did not start until 4:00 PM that afternoon. It was only 1 o’clock. I said I had never heard of such a thing at a drugstore. She said she had put the signs up early so they’d be ready, and pointed to a teensy weensy dot in the upper right-hand corner of the sign that she assured me said the special started at 4:00. I had to take her word for it since that caveat just looked like a dead gnat when I peered at it without my reading glasses. I sighed and put everything back. However, I did return today and did buy what I needed to stock up on, got to use my $5 coupons, and got the $10 coupon in return. But, seriously, it was kind of ridiculous.
I then decided to get some exercise in by walking around the mall. It’s just been too hot to walk outside this summer unless you want to melt into a puddle of skin and bones. The problem is, I feel the need to reward myself with some retail therapy after, which isn’t a great thing for my budget. I suppose it’s better than rewarding myself with a hot fudge sundae. My favorite department store had a coupon for $10 off $50 which included not only regular and sale priced-merchandise, but also clearance, which is practically unheard of. But if you were buying less than $50 of merchandise, they were offering 25% off, which was actually a better deal. So I found a few things I liked, waited on a very slow-moving line for about 10 minutes, and presented my merchandise. The salesgirl agreed with me that the 25% discount was the way to go. She rang up my merchandise and scanned the coupon. A concerned look came over her face and she informed me she’d have to try the $10 coupon after all since for some reason the other coupon wasn’t working. Then she tried that coupon and it didn’t work either. She asked where I had gotten the merchandise and I pointed. “Oh,” she said, with a disappointed look on her face. “Those are doorbusters and you can’t use a coupon for doorbusters.” “What?” I practically shrieked, very grumpy after standing on that line for so long. “But this coupon says it’s for all merchandise.” But of course, it wasn’t. The one exclusion was doorbusters. I told her to forget it, except for the clearance shirt I got for $6.
Today, while running errands, I stopped at a smaller clothing store where I had a coupon for 50% off your highest-priced item if you spent a certain amount. They were also having a sale of 40% off everything in the store, but you couldn’t combine the two. I found two things I really liked, went to the register to pay, smilingly handed my coupon to the saleswoman and, guess what? The coupon wouldn’t work. Why not? Because in tiny little print it said it was only for their outlet stores, and was only good through tomorrow. Well, the nearest outlet store is 45 minutes away, so that wasn’t my first option – not this weekend. I ended up settling for 40% off plus another small discount for being a frequent customer, or some such thing.
What’s the takeaway? Many brick-and-mortar stores aren’t doing so great these days, especially with the ease of ordering things online. My suggestion? Don’t make it so hard for customers who really want to shop in your store to get their discounts. Don’t make coupons that are so limiting or confusing that the coupons will only work for 1% of the merchandise. Because you’re gambling that we’ll buy your stuff anyway. But many of us will put the items back, storm dramatically out of the store, and have some not-so-great feelings about returning another time. Of course, there are still those of us who will return another day – as long as you’ll take our coupons.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved