Coupon Etiquette Tip #1: Don’t Clear the Shelves
Have you ever been excited about a great coupon deal only to get to the store and find a big empty shelf where the product should be? I think almost every couponer has experienced this disappointment!
Sometimes shelves are empty for legitimate reasons: the store did not order sufficient stock because they did not anticipate a high demand, there was limited supply available and the stores could only get the small amount, or someone simply needed a large amount (someone throwing a party perhaps needed a large quantity of bagged snacks). However, sometimes the shelves are cleared because of couponers.
Defining a “Shelf Clearer”
- You are NOT a shelf-clearer if you go to the store and there is only 1 product on the shelf and you buy it.
- You are NOT a shelf-clearer if there are only 2-3 products on the shelf and you buy them.
- You are NOT a shelf-clearer if it is the last day of the sale and you buy the last several products on the shelf.
- You are NOT a shelf-clearer if there are a significant number of products on the shelf and you buy a large quantity that does not come close to clearing the shelf.
- You ARE a shelf-clearer if there are a limited number of products on the shelf and you buy all or most of them.
- You ARE a shelf-clearer if you shop the first day of the sale and buy all or most of the products on the shelf.
Please know that, while you may or may not care, how you coupon shop does affect others. You also may not be aware of this, but being a shelf-clearer can also affect YOU!
How Being a Shelf Clearer Affects You
1. When you clear shelves, all those unhappy customers who find empty shelves will complain to the store. The store will then begin enforcing limits on the number of products sold to each customer. That means, even if you legitimately have a need for 10 packages of chicken (big family cookout) – sorry! The store will only allow you to buy 2 at a time.
2. When you clear the shelves, people will blame the couponers. The stores will then change their coupon policies. These new coupon policies will probably cramp your coupon-style. The store might stop offering double coupons, limit 1 “like” coupon per transaction, or scrutinize every single coupon you use (meaning you’ll be spending a long time in line).
3. When you clear the shelves, the manufacturers will know it. They do not want to print a large quantity of coupons and have one person redeem them all. They want a large number of people to redeem them. The manufacturer will start putting limits on coupons that will only allow you to use one coupon per transaction or even per customer.
I completely understand how much fun couponing is. It is a lot of fun to get one body wash for free, and it’s 100 times more fun to get 100 bottles for free. However, you don’t have to have all the fun NOW. I would much rather get one or two body washes for free now and continue to get free products for many more years, than get 100 body washes for free now and NO body washes for free in the future because of strict coupon policies!
Tips For Shelf Clearers
- If you must buy a large quantity of products, please call your store and special order the products. This will allow you to buy what you need and will allow other shoppers to buy what they need. Many stores are happy to do this.
- If you get to the store and see a limited number of products left, please evaluate your need for the product. Do you already have a year’s supply at home? Is it a product you truly need and will use in the near future? If the answer is no, pass it up. More deals are ALWAYS around the corner, and you will probably come across the same sale again in a few weeks.
- If you live near several stores, you could buy a few at one store and a few at the other. This way neither store is completely wiped out of the product.
- Even if you are donating the products, you are still a shelf-clearer – nothing has changed. Many families use coupons because they need to. They do it so they don’t have to go to food banks. You can still give to food banks without clearing the shelves – you could donate from your stockpile at home or even offer to teach a coupon class! Don’t donate in an effort to justify your extreme couponing habit.
Please know that I am not against donating or building a stockpile. I think both are excellent and are just a couple of the many perks of couponing. However, you CAN do both of those things without clearing shelves and ruining couponing for everyone.
:: Coming up next up in the coupon etiquette series: “Don’t be a Peelie Thief.”