I have also posted an article about some DOs for ethical coupon use, and I noted there that the more you use coupons, the more you learn about them and understand them. As I said in the DOs article, it can take a little trial and error to make sure you’re using coupons properly, and making the most of the savings you can get from them. It’s also very easy to make mistakes along the way!
This is a list of coupon DON’Ts that I think can help you become a better and more ethical coupon user. Please feel free to post a comment if you have others to add!
Really, this list could be boiled down to one thing:
DON’T commit coupon fraud. Specifically, don’t try to use a coupon for anything other than the product intended, or for a size other than what is specified. Also, don’t try to use store-specific coupons at other stores (unless they have a policy to accept competitor coupons), and don’t try to use coupons that are expired. And, NEVER EVER copy coupons or attempt to alter them in any way. Basically, just use coupons as they are intended, and you should be fine.
There are other DONTs to consider too, though:
DON’T be rude to cashiers. You should always be kind to everyone, right? That includes cashiers and customer service people where you shop. Some cashiers might be cranky by nature, or are having a bad day. There are probably even some that hate scanning for coupon users. That doesn’t matter. You can be kind to them regardless of all that. Try to keep your coupons organized, and if there is an error with a coupon, try to be helpful. If you do need to ask to speak to a manager to resolve a coupon issue, be as nice as possible.
DON’T expect everyone to understand couponing. I love using coupons. You might love using coupons. But there are many more people out there that don’t use coupons, or don’t even really understand what they are. Most cashiers are trained how to deal with coupon users per their store’s policies, but they still might not understand how it all works or why we want to use them in the first place. It’s the same with the couple that rolls their eyes as they squeeze past you and your cart while you frantically search your coupon binder for a coupon you need to go with a sale you just found. They just might not understand. None of it really matters though, as long as YOU understand what you are doing and maintain a nice attitude about it. Maybe you can take the time to educate someone about how much they could save and even spread a little Coupon Cheer with them by sharing a coupon they could use right then. Set a good example, and it gives all coupon users a good name!
DON’T be greedy. This is a big one. Coupon users already have to deal with stereotypes, especially with the unrealistic TLC show Extreme Couponing on the air (click here to read why I am NOT a fan of the show). You don’t need to clear the shelves of every last shampoo or bottle of mustard, just because you can. Leave some for others. Worse than clearing the shelves though, don’t take all the free coupons you find in stores on products, dispensed from aisle blinkies, or on tear pads. There’s not going to be a prize for the person with the biggest collection of coupons, especially if they go unused and expire. Other people can use them if you leave them there and take just what you need.
DON’T let couponing consume your life. You can spend a lot of time each week hunting for coupons, clipping coupons, organizing coupons, and visiting websites that help you match your coupons with deals and sales. At some point you have to decide if the amount of time you spend doing all that is worth the money you are saving. Is it also worth the time you don’t get to spend with your family or friends? Get help with your coupon needs, or figure out how you can pare down your coupon process and still be effective.
DON’T be embarrassed to use coupons. Coupon use is becoming more common, especially with the changed nature of the U.S. economy. I really believe that most of us will never be able to spend the way we once did, and that more and more people are being forced to learn new ways to shop…simply to survive. You aren’t doing anything wrong by using coupons. Companies released over 300 billion coupons in 2010 and are on track to release as many or more for 2011. While only a fraction of those coupons actually get redeemed, it isn’t an uncommon practice. Be proud of your coupon use and how much you save!
These are just a few of the DONTs that I think are important when using coupons. Do you have others? Share them with me in the comments, and if I think of more, I’ll add them!