Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cents-Off Store Coupons Are Less Than Meets the Eye

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Cents-Off Store Coupons Are Less Than Meets the Eye

Article excerpt

SURELY the most wasteful, expensive, time-consuming, and ultimately pointless merchandising device ever contrived has to be the manufacturer's cents-off coupon. These coupons enable manufacturers to overprice their products in the first place and then to return a portion of the overcharge by broadsiding something like half a trillion coupons a year, each of which, presented to a retailer at the time of purchase, affords a reduction of 10 cents to $1 from the wantonly inflated price of the article.

All over this land, supermarket aisles are clogged with harried homemakers trying to keep their toddlers quiet while leafing through sheafs of coupons.

For the most part, these coupons do not represent mere occasional cuts in price - they are chronic and incessant. I do not ever pay the nominal price for the three cold cereals that I buy. The shelf price is a mere figment, paid primarily by the illiterate or the semiliterate, and hence mercilessly regressive.

It is the prosperous, who read easily and who can flit from store to store, who make the greatest killing from coupons, or rather who suffer the least from them. Yet newspapers that are supposedly passionately opposed to regressive taxation acquiesce in this regressive devise for the sake of the revenue.

Coupons might perhaps be harmless if they were cost-free; actually they are nothing of the sort, for three reasons: (1) They are flung out to the purchaser by a variety of high-cost methods: free-standing inserts in Sunday papers or tucked into the food or other sections of the daily papers; they are imbedded in the fabric of cereal boxes or packed loose in the bottoms of the boxes); they are mailed en masse by some companies such as Carol Wright, Inc.; (2) An 8-cent handling charge is paid to the retailer for each coupon redeemed, which probably costs American consumers about $500 million a year; (3) processing the coupons at check-out, which entails matching the coupons proffered with the goods purchased and returning those that are incorrect, is carried on by very highly-paid unionized checkers, who are also paid by the ultimate consumer. …

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