Its really gotten hard to coupon anymore. Its almost impossible to get a newspaper delivered and in the past I’ve always relied on our local paper as my source for coupons. Now when you call for a subscription there are no more deals like they used to offer such as “Order Monday through Friday and get the Weekend version FREE”. Everyone wants you to use their apps these days. Some apps allow you to print the coupons only when you get to the stores and got to use them “Surprise!” they have a no “printed coupon policy” so you can’t use the coupons that you printed at home. I mean really! Do they think we are going to counterfeit a .50¢ coupon?? If you load the coupon onto you “Preferred Shopper’s” card then its always a mystery as to whether you are going to get the discount or not. Gone are the days when you could get some really big savings especially when the stores offered double or triple coupons.
There was a show that was on the air called “Extreme Couponing” but I think its run its course now and is off the air. It would drive me crazy watching these people take $1000.00 grocery bills down to like $9.00 but they put a lot of time and effort into their shopping and coupon collecting. I don’t think what they accomplish in other states is possible in my state and now that its so much harder to get printed coupons from the manufacturer it nearly impossible. Nevertheless I’ve gotten really big on using coupons, actually I always have been a coupon fan, something my mother introduced me to back in the 70’s only she used to cheat to get big savings. Depending on the grocery store and the clerk that was ringing her up some of them would put every coupon through whether you actually bought the product or not. Back then there were no barcodes, everything had to be manually priced and manually keyed into the register. With today’s technology and computers matching the coupons to what has been scanned cheating is almost impossible.
I usually let the coupons determine what I will be buying other than the staples (bread, milk, eggs, etc.). My unwritten rule is that unless its something I absolutely need I will only buy something “IF” it is on sale and “IF” I have a coupon. If neither of those variables equal “YES” then I will not buy the product. Using this concept I can still safe anywhere from 30% to 50% of my total bill.
Locally there are very few stores that double up to $1.00 but if they do then they usually limit the number of coupons that can be used and in addition I find that the stores that offer higher savings in coupons are usually union stores that pay their employees outrageous salaries resulting in groceries that can cost up to 30% more on their regular prices and so there goes the savings. (I’m not union bashing, my feelings on unions is another topic I will save for a future post, well actually I really don’t know much about unions so I’m not really sure how many I can offer in regards to their practices). But when taking into account pricing I have found the best place for me (at least in the area I live) is the Food Lion grocery store. Overall I think they offer the best bargains and despite some issues with their coupon policies (and one employee I can’t stand) I really like the store. It certainly is no Wegman’s (and I don’t know if that is a Union store chain or not) but they are a hell of a lot cheaper. I mean if a person wants to spend up to 40% more than they need to just for the prestige of shopping at one of these “luxury” grocery stores more power to them, its their money but I for one don’t make enough to just give my money away so I can brag about the store I’m using.
Generally I like my local Food Lion store. My biggest problem with store is they never have enough cashiers. Why is it during the evenings when people are on their way home from work the management can’t open up another line or two? Especially on Thursday and Fridays. Literally there are only three lines or less open regardless of the time of day. Generally the 12 items or less and two regular lines. I have walked in and witnessed the lines stretching clear into the aisles. One day a woman in front of me asked me to save her space and she went up to the customer service counter and demanded they open another line which they did but instead of asking for the next person in line they called the people from the end of the lines over, you know that ones that had waited the least amount of time. This makes no sense. I’ve waited 5 to 10 minutes and the person that just arrived 3 people behind gets to go first! And the cashier doesn’t have the balls to tell them “No I’m sorry I need to take someone whose been waiting longer”. On one occasion when this happened I just left my grocery cart full of groceries in the line and walked out of the store, ice cream, meats, milk and all, I had spent 45 minutes in that store and now I was waiting in line for 10 minutes only to be usurped by someone that had just joined the line 5 people back. Now I don’t make a habit of doing this type of thing, especially after investing all the time I had already invested knowing that if I walked out I would just have to go back later and repeat my efforts but I was in a particularly bad mood that day.
So like so many people I work and usually have to shop either in the evenings or weekends and the last thing I want to do after a hard day’s work is to stand in line at the grocery store when I see 20 employees stocking shelves or 3 or 4 gabbing at customer service while customers are lined up clear back to the aisles.
I’m not writing this to promote or bad mouth Food Lion because in the end, regardless of my feelings they are the most convenient store and their prices really can’t be beat (unless you got to Aldi’s or Sav-a-lot and settle for generic look alike foods. For me, Food Lion is just the better choice. So the other day I’m on my home from work and need to stop in the store for some dog and cat food. I’m totally out so this stop wasn’t an option lest my animals go hungry. I didn’t have any coupons so I wasn’t expecting any great savings. When I finished shopping I had slightly over 12 items and would not be able to use the express lane. Wouldn’t you know it on this day there are only 2 registers open there wasn’t even the normal 3 lines to choose from, it was either express or the regular line and again, obviously having more than 12 items I have no choice.
So here I am standing in the regular item line behind a woman with two children at her feet and a third in the cart. She’s on the phone talking the whole time as she is unloading her cart and unloading with one hand I might add, obnoxiously slow. I am watching this spectacle, unable to unload my own cart because she is spacing her items far enough apart and going so slowly that there’s no way I can do anything until her cart is totally unloaded. While she’s doing this I can’t help but overhear and having nothing else to do other than read the Enquirer headlines about some “Gay” actor I’m listening to her conversation part of which she exclaims to the person on the other end (another female and I know this because every other word to her friend on the other end of the line was “girl this” and “girl that”). She drones on telling her friend she really doesn’t understand why she’s so tired because she hasn’t done a thing all day and this grocery shopping has just worn her out. I’m thinking…well isn’t that wonderful, I’ve been awake since 4:15 AM, at work by 6:00 AM after a 45 minute drive and worked until 4:30 PM and with my drive home now at the store at nearly 6:00 PM having to listen to her woes about being tired due to having done nothing all day.
Finally when she finishes unloading her cart and I have the opportunity to begin unloading my pet food on the conveyor. As I’m putting my things on the belt I’m astounded when the cashier “whispers” (yes “WHISPERS!”) the total due so as not to disturb her customer’s phone conversation. WHISPERS!! I’m still shocked when I think about it. And of course the lady on the phone can’t hear her whisper and says “…hold on girl…” then to the cashier “What?” and the cashier repeats the amount, this time in a normal tone. The lady hands the cashier an Independence card (which is what they use in place of food stamps, essentially a welfare debit card) and a coupon (Good for her! I couldn’t help but think its great that she’s trying to spread out her food stamps by using a coupon especially when so many Republicans are trying to convince that the irresponsible recipients are eating Lobster while we workers are eating processed fish patties). It was a .50¢ coupon.
The cashier processed the card and coupon and the register reads .02¢ due. When the cashier gives the balance to the young mother, now off her phone, she says “For what?” the cashier indicates that she doesn’t know why but that’s what the register is asking for. The woman pulls out the two cents but instead of giving it the cashier she insists the manager be called over, stating “I want an explanation, it’s not the .02¢, it’s the principal of the thing…I shouldn’t have to pay anything”. So now I’m waiting, all my product on the conveyor, waiting for a manager to come over and resolve this .02¢ issue. I could have offered to pay the .02¢ but it was after all “the principal of the thing”.
The manager was obviously ready for this question and must have dealt with it already through previous customers because she had the answer right away. It seems that a new law requires that those on food stamps using coupons are taxed on their savings, I guess as a sort of income??? That part wasn’t totally clear to me and I still don’t understand the logic but I’m sure the Republicans in their wisdom developed this as yet another way to gouge another penny from the masses. The whole point of this post though is to express my frustration with this infuriating experience. Having been on my feet and at work all day while this woman, on her (most likely free) cell phone cries the blues of being so inactive that she’s exhausted and then adding insult to injury I have to wait for her as she holds up not only me but all the people behind me in line so she can complain about having to pay .02¢. The whole experience was simply dumfounding to me…but it could have been worse…she could have been using WIC Vouchers which is yet another nightmare in itself.