The major consumer product manufacturers want to take away our Sunday cents-off coupons.
Technically, the companies' goal, according to a story in today's New York Times, is to shift our access to coupons from the traditional glossy inserts in weekend newspapers to more high-tech delivery methods.
Now I'm obviously a big fan of doing things electronically. And I once thought I'd never shift from paper checks to online payments, but I have. So I won't say "never" when it comes to collecting coupons in a newfangled way.
But, as the story notes, it's going to take a while before the companies can completely convert most of us old-style clip-and-save adherents. Still, that doesn't stop them from trying, and manufacturers are exploring several different ways to wean us from paper.
There's the baby-step method, in which we'll find the coupon online and then print and redeem them at stores in the traditional way. But they also are aiming for totally electronic coupons, which will be delivered to cell phones (upon request, of course; no one wants coupon spam, even if one of the e-coupons is for that processed meat) and cashed in by waving the phone over a cash register scanner.
The phone option, an enthusiastic high-tech coupon advocate told the Times, will be de rigueur in five years. Yeah, right. Don't underestimate the power of quasi-Luddites.
We might all be talking too much, too loudly in too many inappropriate places on our cell phones, but talking's all we really want them for. Just look at how hard it's been to get us to use credit cards, which kids today seem to be born with an innate knowledge of, in vending machines, and that's just a small shift in the traditional use of plastic.
If something that simple and already a part of the national purchasing process is still trying to make additional inroads into our shopping culture (blogged about here), I don't expect cell phone couponing, as appealing and easy as it might be, to show up in just five years.
More than money: Plus, as the Times' story points out, paper coupons are not only a
means of saving a few cents (or more if you use them wisely), but also
a way of learning about new products on store shelves.
I know that as I laze around on my couch each Sunday afternoon, I find browsing and clipping from a mini "coupon catalog" a lot easier and more appealing than sitting in front of my PC and conducting a lot a separate product searches. Especially since I can simultaneously clip paper coupons and keep an eye on the NFL (or other major league) games.
Sure, coupon aggregation sites where you can find a collection of coupons to print have been around for a while. A few popular ones are FreeMania, Cool Savings and Freebie Fanatic. Saver/blogger extraordinaire Frugal for Life also offers a review of some the sites that she looked at last year.
So by all means, check out the coupon Web sites. You might find a few worth printing. Just be sure you can use the online versions. Back in Florida, the grocery store where I regularly shopped refused to take computer printed coupons. Apparently they had encountered some issues with unknowing or unscrupulous shoppers redeeming fake coupons they found online.
As for myself, I'm going to stay with the paper system I instituted back in my much younger and poorer days (and detailed in this earlier blog posting) for as long as I can, for nostalgia's sake as much as for the savings.