It's still happening — at retail locations everywhere. Consumers are arriving at checkout with a basket overflowing with a select assortment of carefully chosen items and fistful of coupons for each one. These excessive (extreme?) couponers are clearing shelves, taking home more product than they could use in a lifetime and taxing a system meant to incent purchase, not reward greed.
Often, the products become inventory for a flea market booth, a parking lot "kiosk" or an online sales portal. Those items that aren't resold gather dust in an already-overflowing pantry or a box-stuffed basement -- never to be used other than as "shopping trophies."
Some might try to spin this activity as simply "too much of a good thing," but there's nothing good about it. Yes, it does drive (in an aberrant way) product sales, but at what cost to customer and trade relations, as well as the potential loss of loyalty and purchases from those frustrated shoppers who find themselves looking at empty shelves.
After all, who are the real targets for promotions? "Compulsive consumers" fixated on getting a super bargain -- including free items or money back? Or, hard-won loyalty shoppers who will push bigger baskets into the lane because they have been effectively incented — and appropriately rewarded — for shopping in stores where they feel welcome and purchasing the brands they prefer?
The good news is that excessive couponers are in the minority and there are steps that can be taken to continue to prohibit their activities.. However, it won't happen right away and it will require consistent coordination and collaboration between brands and retailers. For brands, it means establishing redemption limits and including those — in clear, concise language — in the legal copy on paper coupons. At the same time, retailers have to establish complementary coupon acceptance policies, make them public and train in-store personnel to assist shoppers in complying with the guidelines.
The coordination of such efforts will not be the easiest to implement, but it can be done. And, it will improve the situation for everyone — brands, retailers and shoppers. Ultimately, who will be most effective in addressing this issue?
I encourage you to read this month's article about steps that can be taken to help address excessive couponing and I welcome your thoughts. Please join the discussion by leaving a comment below.