It used to be an exclusive field for retirees wanting to save and families in need, but now there is a new generation of consumers who discovered in the discount coupons an alternative to buy all kinds of discounts.
Some even attend classes to learn how to get the best discounts.
“I used to go to the stores at night because there used to be a stigma, it was like the food stamps (mainly given to poor families), the people behind, in line, used to be upset.”
That’s what Kimberly Pepper-Hoctor says, who inherited her passion for searching for coupons from her grandmother, who lived in the years of the Great Depression.
She says she saves about $ 250 every six weeks on her purchases, without spending unhealthy processed foods or items she does not really need.
“For many of us in the United States and beyond, this economy has hit us very hard and if we can save when we do market, that allows us to take that money and put gas in the car, buy clothes for the children and have cash for the mortgage, “he says.
“Many people have problems paying their usual bills, so if you can save in one area, that helps in the others.”
90 minute classes
Collecting coupons is not the idea that many have in mind when they want to have a nice time.
Kimberly spends up to 15 hours a week cutting out newspaper vouchers and planning her trips to go shopping.
But far from being bothered by their eccentric pastime – as they did in the past – a growing number of Americans with money problems want to learn how they do it.
More than 60 women of all ages and backgrounds (and a BBC reporter) participated in the most recent coupon class offered by Kimberly, in the state of Maryland, in the United States.
As incredible as it may seem, for something as simple as cutting a coupon there is much to learn.
For the next 90 minutes Kimberly introduces us to the world of six-week sales cycles, the “pay one, take two”, how to combine coupons from the producer and the seller for the same product or why it’s a good idea to buy at couples
It teaches us where to find the best vouchers, which stores receive them when they are already due, and the importance of making friends with the manager of the local store.
In recent months she has been almost overwhelmed by the demand thanks, in part, to a reality show (TV show) called Extreme Couponing , which has not transformed the activity into something ” cool ” (fashionable), so least it has made it “socially more acceptable,” he says.
“There is a small percentage of extreme coupon collectors who are almost fanatical who try to get everything for free and who do not eat healthy, they are not thinking about the daily reality of this.”
The growth of online discount sites such as Groupon and promotions on social networks have played an important role in the coupon boom. And there has been an explosion of applications for smartphones and websites for coupon lovers to share tips and experiences.
The fraction of coupons used in US stores increased by 22% between 2006 and 2010, according to the marketing services company NCH.
But industry insiders say that the vast majority of Americans still get their discount coupons from newspapers that, on Sunday in particular, are replete with them.
In the UK there has also been a big jump in the number of coupons used and there are reports indicating that extreme hobby is growing, although coupons have never been part of everyday life in the same way they have been for American buyers.
Audrey Guskey, US expert on consumer trends, says: “We are influenced as consumers to use coupons, almost like Pavlov’s dogs. ‘I will not buy if I do not have a coupon,’ that’s the mindset we have.”
“Many companies like Procter and Gamble tried to eliminate the coupons a few years ago and consumers protested: ‘we want our coupons.'”
“So they had to introduce them again, it would be difficult to dissociate consumers.”
Guskey, a professor of marketing at the Pittsburgh Duquesne University, sees the explosion of interest in the coupons as part of a greater trend towards the search for discounts, and the United States is still suffering the side effects of a “frenzy of spending” and low confidence. of consumers.
“People are doing everything they can to reduce their expenses, so that they can make any dollar they think they have as much as they can,” he says.
Amanda Kortie, a mother of six who is 32, also believes that the recent recession has made American consumers more demanding.
“The idea that ‘the consumer is always right’ was relegated and I think many people are trying to revive it, I think people are taking the reins.”
Kortie, who considers her level in Kimberly’s class to be “beginner to intermediate,” insists that she is ready to spend the hours needed at the kitchen table with her coupon folder and scissors.
“It takes a lot of effort but I consider it my job, I’m a stay-at-home mother, my only job is to provide for my children non-financially, and that’s how I do it.”
Her husband, a vat engineer, earns enough to support the family, but she states that “he could well earn a million dollars and I would still collect coupons.”
“My next adventure will be to store reservations, we do not have a room in the house right now, so I’ll have to talk to my husband about the possibility of building one or adding a shed.”
Maura Maupin, a mother of three who is 40 years old, gets an immense receipt for her most recent purchase, when she delivered 122 coupons in exchange for 346 items.
He also believes that collecting coupons is his job and has turned it into such an accurate art, that he managed to get stores to end up paying for shopping.
But others are not so convinced of the benefits of this work.
Amy Jewell, who during class was taking all kinds of notes from the first row of chairs, decided that she probably has better things to do with her time.
“I think it’s a fad, I really believe it,” he says.
“I think people see it on TV and then they want to go to the stores with their big folder and show off.”
And there are already signs that the coupon collection is falling victim to its own success.
Some supermarket chains began to reinforce their policies for receiving vouchers and imposing limits on the number of vouchers per customer. There have even been customer reports with coupons that have been vetoed from some stores.
Kimberly advises class members to bring a copy of the store’s terms and conditions and, if the warehouse manager still refuses to accept them, to call the company’s headquarters.
Or, as a last measure, to simply leave there.