It seems like today’s latest craze is couponing. With the increasing popularity of television shows like Extreme Couponing and the exploding success of couponing blogs, many people are returning to this skill as a way to save money on the monthly grocery bill. With all the focus on collecting and using coupons, many people fail to realize the effort it takes for a supermarket to redeem your coupon, and the long journey that small newspaper clipping takes after leaving your hands at the register.
The first step a coupon takes on it’s path is being stuffed into a drawer after being scanned by the cashier. At the end of the day, the cashier empties out their till, depositing the cash and coupons in the store’s office. All the coupons that have been collected throughout the day by every cashier are stored in one central holding bin. A few times a month these large collections are shipped off to the store’s coupon clearing house, which is usually located overseas.
The coupon clearing house is hired by the store to sort and count the coupons. Each coupon is laid flat on a conveyor belt. As the coupons pass through the automated system their barcodes are scanned. A computer system instantly recognizes who issued the coupon, and a sorting mechanism later removes it from the belt. Each coupon is cataloged, and coupons from the same manufacturer are bundled together. The total value of the coupons is calculated, and the coupons are shipped along with an invoice to the manufacturer. Note that all coupons have a redemption address listed in the fine print.
Once the manufacturer receives the coupons and the invoice, they are examined one last time. The manufacturer ensures that the coupons that are received match what is given on the invoice. Once this invoice is verified, a check is mailed to the original store that accepted the coupons and the original coupons are destroyed or recycled.
When the store is paid for the coupons, they are given the face value plus $0.08 (on average) to cover processing costs. When a store offers double or triple coupons, this multiplication is not covered by the manufacturer. The store covers this extra cost, knowing that it was their price to pay for attracting your business. Any way a coupon is used, the store comes out ahead. They are fully reimbursed for any discounts or deals the coupon has to offer.
Coupons carry out an interesting journey after being used at the store that not many people know about. We can now appreciate all the effort that the stores and retailers go through to save us money, and at the same time attract our business while still making a profit. Coupons will continue to be an integral part in the advertising strategies companies employ for a long time to come. Although the products they promote will come and go, the coupon itself is here to stay.