The obnoxiousness that is "extreme couponing"
Right, right...I get it. Economy gets rough, money is tighter than ever, you do what you have to, to make ends meet. I completely understand that, and I can relate. That being said, the obnoxious "fad" that is "extreme couponing", has gone above and beyond making ones money go farther, and has easily slipped into an obnoxiously selfish hobby. For many extreme couponers, it's more of an addiction. Something they will be the first to admit. Call me a traditionalist, but what ever happened to good 'ol alcohol addiction?
As usual, TLC comes to the rescue with another horrible "reality" show
You've probably seen, or at least heard of the the show on TLC network called "Extreme Couponers". A reality show that follows the most extreme of couponers, people who use coupons to take 95-98% off their grocery bills. Most started out of necessity, but as they become more and more proficient at it, it turns into an obsession, a completely all-encompassing addiction. And as we all know, TLC is the very best at using everyday people to shock and abhor as many viewers as possible, so it was only natural that they would create a show depicting the epitome of "gimme, gimme, gimme....free, free, free".
"Well who are you to judge?" you ask. When your addiction negatively effects others, like myself....then it's my business.
But, you don't have a cat.....
These people revel in their extreme couponing that has basically become a full-time job. I've seen so many of these extreme couponers with a Cheshire smile from ear to ear, showing off their stockpile of cat treats....but they have no cat. They have tons of baby food...but have no baby. So I'm a little confused. Why take them? If you don't have a cat, and you aren't eating the cat treats yourself, then why on earth stockpile them? I think that for a lot of these people, they in some way feel out of control in some aspect of their lives, and stockpiling foods, paper products, toiletries, makes them feel in control. That's what psychiatrists and Prozac is for.
The problem however, is that your extreme addiction to getting things for free, or as close to free as possible, affects others around you. Let's put aside the fact that all of these extreme couponers tell you upfront that they spend anywhere from 40 to 70 hours a week couponing and getting ready for their grocery shopping trip. You want to push your family aside so you can pursue your couponing addiction...fine with me. However, what I find incredibly irritating and selfish that these people come go into your local grocery store, and because they have 90 coupons for a product, they completely wipe out the store of that item. Leaving not one left for any other customer.
I just watched a woman buy 64 bottles of mustard that were on sale, even though no one in her household likes or uses mustard, simply because she had ton of coupons for them, and got them for like 4 cents each. Not one left on the shelf for any other customer. Now every single person who comes into that store that need to buy mustard, will have to go to another store, to get something that should usually be in stock at all times. I see these people ask the store managers to bring out every last one of the item they have the coupons for, which basically screws all the other customers over. There's a difference between doing what you can to put food on the table on a tight budget, and these hoarding-obsessed extreme couponers that stockpile things they will either never eat/use, or will take years or even decades to go through. That's not making ends meet, that's being selfish and piggish.
Another woman bought 340 cups of yogurt (yes, 340), because with the sale and her coupons (that get doubled), she got them for free. So you have to take every one from the shelves AND all the rest they had in the back of the store? Her and her family are really going to eat 340 cups of yogurt (and they weren't the small cups, they were the regular-sized cups), that are going to go bad within a small window of time, probably within 2 weeks?! I highly doubt that. Actually, I'm sure of it. And then to top it off, they get rain checks from the store for any remaining amount of coupons they have for what they've already emptied the shelves of, in order to get the sale price once the store is restocked.
You watch these people completely wipe out the shelves of items, and they then turn to the camera, or the poor stooge they dragged along with them, and giggle and say "Hehe, we completely wiped out the shelves...giggle, giggle". I'm not sure if they think it's funny or cute, but it's not. Not even remotely.
Another woman on her hoarding trip, and she's got 98 coupons for pain reliever that is on sale, making each bottle free. So what does she do? Why she picks up the entire display bin of the pain relievers and dumps every last one into one of her many carts. Too bad, so sad for the poor schmuck who's got a headache and thinks he can pick up a bottle of pain reliever at that store. The woman's family either has livers of steel, or most of those bottles will sit on their stockpile shelves until long after the expiration dates are reached. Meanwhile there's town that's now become the headache capital of the world, filled with people who can get no relief for their migraines. Lovely. But it's worth it apparently, for the woman who has a bathtub full of bottles of Tylenol.
And where do all these coupons come from?
Well from dumpsters and pilfering of course! The reality for these extreme couponers is that there's only one set of coupons in your Sunday paper. So they have to get creative to get the tens-of thousands of coupons they need for their addiction. Now if you want to spend your days hopping in dumpsters to find an extra coupon for 50 cents off that can of Leisure peas then by all means be my guest. Many of the extreme couponers "dumpster dive" for coupons. But that still doesn't do it. I mean, who goes to the store and only buys 60 boxes for Fruity Pebbles?! Gotta have more! So what some of them do, is basically steal them. Some go in wee hours of the morning to other neighborhoods and take the newspapers, or just the coupon inserts from houses they think are empty, are being foreclosed upon, or from houses they think are empty due to people being on vacation. Some even steal stacks of newspapers outside their local newspaper printing facilities. That's not weird. That's not weird at all. Some people ask the community they live in to donate any coupon inserts they don't need. Waste not, want not. The other main way they procure their coupons, is printing them in their home. Thousands of them. However, most coupon websites only allow the same coupon to be printed once, twice, sometimes up to three times per computer. So naturally, like any good addict would do, you find ways around it. Many extreme couponers have bought four, five, six or more computers to print out more coupons. Last time I checked computers cost a bit more than a box of Rice-a-Roni. Then there's the paper. And as everyone who's ever owned a printer knows, ink is unbelievably expensive. So for all the money they are saving doing this extreme couponing, they are spending an awful lot in printer ink. The 45 cents off coupon they are printing off, probably costs nearly as much in computer ink. Genius.
I really need it, even though I don't need it
These people have their houses filled to the brim with their hoards. Stuffed under beds, filling the spare shower, taking up entire rooms, some have built additions onto their homes for their hoarding, and some have bought large utility sheds and barns to house their hoards. Imparting to their children that stuff, as much of it as you can get, is really what's important and provides real comfort. It's no longer about saving money. It's about collecting as much stuff as you can for free, even if it's stuff you will never use or need. And it also teaches their children to be selfish, and not worry about the fact that other people may want to be able to buy an item that you just took every last one of. These extreme couponers seem to forget that they aren't the only one feeling the pinch, and that many people are on just as tight, if not tighter budgets, and need to be able to utilize the sales and coupons. But when you've emptied the shelves, no one else can benefit from the coupon they have for that item, and/or the sale the store is having on that item. But that doesn't matter, they got their 180 cans of Alpo (even though they don't have a dog). There's no menstruating women in the house, but it's imperative that they get every last box of Tampax....because they are free.
The other issue with the extreme couponing, is that many stores will only allow for a certain number of coupons to be used per item during a transaction. So for instance, you can buy 35 packages of cream cheese, but they will only allow you to use 6 coupons on those 35 packages. Or, they will only double a certain number of coupons. So of course, they have to have to get around this, and basically cheat the system. Well there's no rules to dictate how many transactions you can have. So generally, they have to separate their groceries when checking out, into five, six, sometimes seven or more separate transactions. That way, they can use all 35 coupons, on all 35 packages of cream cheese, making the cream cheese cost them a few cents each, many times free. Another important lessen we want to teach our children....scamming the system. Never mind the obnoxiously long time it takes them to check out. They also have to be extremely careful to be sure every item rings up at the price they planned on it costing, and every coupon to take off the exact amount they are planning on it taking off. Otherwise, their entire trip can be blown to bits. So checking out is now a marathon of vexatiousness for the poor cashier.
Typically, they pay only 1-5 percent of the cost of the grocery bill through their extreme couponing. It's not uncommon for them to buy $1,000 worth of groceries, and only have to pay $7-$40. Sounds like something everyone would love to do, right? But the very best of the best are the extreme couponers who do this....and then use food stamps to pay the small bill. The amount of food stamps that someone gets each month is a set amount. So even though the person is getting a grand worth of groceries for ten bucks, they still get the same amount of money put on their card each month, meaning they can buy tens of thousands in groceries each month, for $450......worth of food stamps. So they are using our tax dollars to build their enormous hoard. And there's more of those people than you'd think.
However, most extreme couponers are using their own money, and many are on a tight budget, which I can appreciate. But their couponing is not simply a way to stay on a budget, it's an addiction. And hey, to each his own when it comes to addictions. Some drink, some smoke, some shop, and some obsessively coupon and hoard. Hell, I'm a 31 year-old woman who still carries around her blankie everywhere she goes. (Technically, my blankie is called Knubbly, and I've had it since I was a small child). However, my Knubbly addiction doesn't affect other people. I'm not selfishly hoarding groceries and sundry items that I'll never eat or use all of, when others would like to purchase the items and need to benefit from the sales too. I've seen it personally many, many times. I live in a small town, so we don't have a plethora of grocery stores to choose from. And when I've gone to the grocery store to shop and the item I need that's on sale, is completely wiped out only 24 hours after the sale started and they stocked the shelves. We aren't talking eggs, milk, or meat here. We're talking Fruit Roll-Ups and black olives. Things that aren't generally considered staples, and aren't the type of item that is easily sold out. You know when an extreme couponer just came through, and wiped out the shelves. So now I can either drive 20 minutes away to the next store, or my cats won't get to eat until the store restocks. Meanwhile, there's 350 boxes of Friskies rotting in some persons storage shed, but they own no cats. But they got them all free after stealing and printing off 350 coupons...and that's all that matters, right?!
"Couponing" isn't even a real word. It's become one in the past decade or so, like many other non-words, to satisfy the newest craze. I say, use coupons to help put food on the table and stay within your budget, definitely. But stockpiling thousands of items just because you got them all free, or close to free, that's just extreme obnoxiousness.