Tips from the Coupon Queen




Etiquette For Couponers



Are you a shelf-sweeper?

I've received several emails from miffed readers about shelf-clearing, stores running out of stock and rude shopper behaviors in supermarket aisles. Since the TLC "Extreme Couponing" show on cable TV put radical methods of coupon usage in the spotlight, many people have developed a "get all you can take" approach to shopping at the grocery store. Listen in on these reader comments about the shelf sweeping they've witnessed.

"I am appalled by the greed I've seen at stores from fellow shoppers. Ever since that "Extreme Couponing" show aired, I've noticed people clearing shelves. I saw a woman with at least 30 bottles of ketchup in her cart the other day. She left the shelf totally empty."

And another:

"Some of these extreme couponers are rude and take everything. I saw a woman who bought every tube of toothpaste of one brand. They were on sale for $1. Nobody should be able to buy every tube. I wish the store would set some limits."

And another:

"I was at the store the other day and there was a clearance on holiday paper cups. They were 25 cents each and I bought them all. But when I was getting them, another shopper told me I should only take one of each and to leave some for everyone else. I think when a store has a clearance, it wants to get rid of the product and you'd better buy it now or miss the deal."

It's difficult to draw the line between what's stocking up and what's extreme shopping. Is 30 of the same item too many to buy at one time? What if the 30 items in question are single-serving yogurt cups, and a family of five each eats one cup a day? That's only one week's worth of yogurt.

Certainly, 30 bottles of ketchup or 30 tubes of toothpaste are different, since one unit will last longer than an individually wrapped product. But is it our job, as shoppers, to police one another's carts? I don't think so. That responsibility falls to the stores and, if coupons are involved, to the manufacturers.

Many stores post policies that reserve the right to limit quantities in order to discourage shoppers looking to buy excessive amounts of the same product in the same trip. Likewise, some manufacturers limit the number of like-coupons that can be used in the same transaction.

I understand the frustration with finding empty shelves. When it comes to clearance items, however, most shoppers agree that all bets are off. Stores put items on clearance to get rid of them and free up shelf space. If you don't act quickly, you miss the deal, as it has always been. For example, I buy holiday-themed cupcake papers after the holiday has passed every year. For my family, Easter or Christmas-themed papers on muffins and cupcakes year-round are no big deal. One year, my store had so many packages that it cut the price to five cents each. I spent 50 cents and bought 10 packages. Was that too many?

I encourage shoppers to be respectful of one another and to not aimlessly clear shelves. But if your demand for an item means taking the last one on the shelf, I see no problem in doing so.

On my coupon blog at JillCataldo.com, some of my readers follow a "Keep your eyes on your own cart" rule, which may be the most courteous approach.




 © CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her Web site, www.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.