Published Thu, Aug 16, 2012 10:02 am Dateline
Updated Thu, Aug 16, 2012 10:21 am
Savvy Couponers in Southeast Ohio
Although Vinton County resident Wenda Hunt has never seen TLC's “Extreme Couponing,” it's fair to call her coupon clipping extreme.
Hunt says years ago, as a stay-at-home mom, she'd only spend $30 to $50 and come out of the store with $150 to $200 worth of groceries.
“Once you get your house clean, the dishes done, you know, what else was there?” said Hunt. “So, this was our way of working and supporting the house and keeping things up and having extra, and it helped a lot.”
She gets a lot of her coupons from newspapers, and she also trades with friends.
“We'd just get together, bring what coupons we didn't use, and then we'd just sit and chitchat and swap out coupons, look through everybody else's, and that's how we accumulated the coupon club,” says Hunt.
Cindy Strausbaugh, a Wilkesville resident, says she's been couponing for 20 years.
“I think you'd have to have plenty of time on your hands to do that sort of thing,” said Strausbaugh. “I've seen the shows. I heard people talk about that. I can't believe they actually do that to the extreme where they walk in a store and get money back. I just find it hard to believe.”
Catherine Bowles, the mayor of Wilkesville, says she uses coupons more and more because of rising prices.
“We weren't that rich,” said Bowles. “We had to (coupon), and when we did that, we saved for our retirement too, so in other words, we're all tight wads, and there's nothing wrong with that.”
The Business of Couponing
Natalie Kessler and Lauren Benedict are two women who specialize in creating coupons for local businesses. Kessler is the founder of Buckeye Discounts, a couponing website that allows customers to look for local deals. She says she started the business because “we wanted to find a way to make it easy for people to go online and find local deals.”
There is no fee for people who are interested in using the coupons on Buckeye Discounts, and customers are not required to enter any personal information. The website offers a wide variety of coupons for anything from restaurant deals to car repairs. Customers can find deals both on their website and on the Buckeye Discounts Facebook page.
Lauren Benedict is in the couponing business as well, but her focus is on a couponing magazine. Incoming Cash By Mail magazine (ICBM) comes out every two months and is mailed to customers in Southeast and Central Ohio. The magazine offers customers coupons from local businesses too. Like Buckeye Bob’s, customers are not required to offer personal information in exchange for savings.
Buckeye Discounts and ICBM magazine have recently combined their couponing business efforts to get the maximum savings for their customers, and the most benefit for local businesses.
Kessler and Benedict both agree that coupons are mutually beneficial for both customers and businesses. They say any local businesses hoping to expand should think about offering a coupon, because it gets customers into the store, and spending some money.
Keeping Consumers Safe
There’s no denying the increase in coupon use over the last few years. In fact, in 2010 alone, more than 330 billion coupons were issued, worth more than $1 billion. Of those coupons distributed, about three billion were redeemed by consumers. That’s according to Coupons.com, a firm that monitors coupon usage around the country.
But with this recent increase in couponing, there’s also been a rise in the number of scams associated with coupons. One organization that’s working to protect both consumers and businesses from these deceitful practices is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB is a nonprofit group that works to create “an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other."
Here in Southeast Ohio, the Central Ohio BBB is where shoppers can go when they think they’ve been scammed and want to take action. Joan Coughlin is the vice president of Marketing and Public Relations for the Central Ohio BBB and she says filing a complaint is as easy as visiting their website and filling out a form.
“There are a lot of scam coupons out there that are costing between three to six million dollars a year,” said Coughlin.
She points out there are plenty of red flags that consumers should be looking for when using coupons. For example, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And she says online is the place where these scams can occur.
“The internet just opened up a whole flood gate of activity for additional ways to be scammed. The internet has increased the potential for these kinds of scams,” said Coughlin.
The BBB also offers shoppers a way to check out the credibility of both local and national businesses. All someone has to do is visit their website and search for a review of particular business. Coughlin says the best way to keep consumers safe from scams is by getting them informed.
“I think it’s better to be ready and on guard and take your time in deciding what to do,” said Coughlin.