Sheridan: Coupons create nothing but hassle
March 26, 2010
My skepticism toward customer reward programs began with S&H Green Stamps. They burdened my childhood like colds, oatmeal, and Justin Nelson's cooties.
Customers received the stamps as a reward for purchasing groceries, gas and other merchandise. The pesky critters came in gummed sheets that were glued into booklets and redeemed through the S&H catalog or at redemption centers.
Children across the country suffered from gummed tongue.
Mom collected her stamps in a shoebox. When the box was full, she dumped it on the kitchen table and pressed into service any youngster found loitering around the house — hers or not.
I rather liked the licking part, but resented Bob's critical comments when I aligned stamps and pages too creatively. We stacked the full booklets in a moist tower and tried to convince Mom to trade them for toys, though she held out for an iron. Not once was I rewarded for my labor.
After I left home, I collected stamps of my own; but I improved my gluing method with a damp sponge — going to college had increased my reasoning ability.
I remember wandering around the redemption center in Reno as a newlywed, clutching my booklets, looking for Christmas presents to send to my family. I couldn't find anything, for which I had enough stamps, that anyone would want. That was the year I gave my 10-year-old brother an imitation leather shaving kit.
He never sent a thank-you note.
Today, I experience similar frustrations with coupons. Since retiring, I diligently rip them from newspaper advertisements and magazines, thinking such thrift will outweigh my frivolous habit of purchasing houseplants and watching them die.
I've read stories about people who insist they save hundreds of dollars a year with coupons.
I have trouble keeping track of the validity dates. I invariably present a coupon to the checker before its time or after its passing. Then, embarrassed by my inability to comprehend numbers, I buy the products anyway.
Another irritation is not finding the exact products specified on the coupons, even when I put on my glasses and bend double to examine the bottom shelves. If I find a product that matches my coupon, I'm so thrilled I buy it — even though I don't need it and never have.
Last week, I came home with Triple Awesome Grape Kool-Aid.
I think I've won the gold medal of shopping when I enter a store gripping six coupons, find the products, and then the scanner accepts my pieces of paper with jagged edges and tear stains.
Airline frequent flier miles also make me crazy with blackout dates and limited seat availability: "Actually, ma'am, you can only use those miles on Tuesdays during the months of February and July of alternate years on flights to Detroit or Helena, and we have only three seats available on each flight so you'd better book soon. Thank you for flying with us."
I was once included in a class action suit against an airline now defunct. If I could confirm my flights over a five-year period with either ticket stubs or a completed form detailing my flight dates, itinerary, fare, and contact information for a person who could verify each trip, I would be eligible for free flights.
After arduous hours of researching my credit card and bank statements and finding someone still living to vouch for me, I submitted my evidence.
I dreamed of a free flight to Tahiti, or at least Topeka. Eight months later, I received $100 worth of vouchers in $10 denominations that had to be used within a year. Only one voucher could be used per trip. Excluding blackout dates. Pending availability of seats.
Here's an idea for all corporations wishing to reward my loyalty: could you forget the rewards and lower prices instead?