Monday, May 23, 2011

Extreme Couponing And The End Of The World

WARNING:  The following paragraphs may contain subject matter that some of you whom I consider my friends may find offensive. Please note that this is not a personal attack on you, merely a diatribe on a current consumer trend which slightly bothers say the very least. Reader discretion is advised.

It's the end of the world as we know it...and I'm a little ticked. No, I'm not talking about Harold Camping and his huge "miscalculation" (again) regarding the beginning of the end of time, which did not occur this past Saturday (and who is now conveniently unavailable for comment by all accounts). I'm talking about this extreme couponing fad that's spreading like juicy gossip in a beauty salon.

Now I'm all for saving money, that's all well and good. I will even go so far as to say that I applaud the efforts of all you couponers (by the way, since when did "couponer" become a word, and since when is "coupon" also a verb? – but I digress) who diligently pore over websites and newspaper ads and dark, secluded alleys, or wherever else y'all dig these things up, in order to save beaucoup bucks. I really don't mind these things at all. To each his or her own.

What I do mind is the apocalyptic chaos that ensues when foolhardy grocery store chains decide to make an entire week "Triple Coupon Day" and not tell poor saps like myself in advance! Now, I know what you're thinking – I could have, and should have, read the sign on the door before entering the store, and should have run as fast as Usain Bolt in the opposite direction in order to spare my sanity. And I would agree with you – but I didn't look; I wasn't paying attention to such details.

I was looking forward to my usual, quiet during-my-Monday-lunch-break shopping trip, a system that works for me and my wife, since she works in another county, and often gets home later than I do. What I found instead, upon entering the store, was wall-to-wall shopping carts being pushed around by – my apologies to all you sane female and male couponers here – CRAZY LADIES, with honest-to-goodness three-ring binders full of coupons, which I can only assume must have been alphabetized by the item's name for each and every row of the grocery store, judging by the methodical nature in which each lady pored over her binder.

Side note here: I'm not criticizing the methodology of this. If you're going to do something like this, you should do it wholeheartedly, and with some degree of organization, as would I if I were so inclined (it'll never happen!).

Here I am with my pitiful little grocery list – filled out by hand on a printout of a Microsoft Word template that I found years ago – trying my best to get my deli ham, toothpaste, coffee creamer, etc. And I'm having to, literally, fight my way through each aisle of the store to get to what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for any particular brand, I don't have to buy four of anything, I'm just picking up whatever brand is on sale. I really don't give a rat's patooty what I COULD BE saving if I put forth a little effort.  No, this closet claustrophobic is just doing my best to tamp down the rising anxiety of simply moving through the store.

Finally, I got everything on the list, not a single "extra" thing, which befuddles my wife, but maybe makes her a little proud as well; I'm not sure. And then I head to the checkout line. Oh my word, I'm thinking, I have twenty-four minutes to get through this line, get across town back to the house, unload the groceries, and get back to work. This is never going to happen. Each open line, and there are far too few of them for "Triple Coupon Day" Week, has at least four people waiting, nearly all of them with full-to-the-brim shopping carts. And nearly half of the people in line stand proudly with their 40+ coupons in hand, ready to save LOTS and LOTS of money. I groan inwardly – strike that, I groan outwardly. Quite loudly. People in front of and behind me probably think they are in the presence of a mooing cow, my groan is that outward.

Running out of options and time, I find a line with only one couponer, and she's already checking out. Five minutes or so later, I'm done and out the door. I empty the contents of my cart into the trunk of the car as quickly as possible, being mindful that I don't break the eggs or smash the chicken, and head over toward the shopping cart docking station. Similarly to the store, the parking lot is also wall-to-wall with cars, and some of these people can't park worth a lick. So I'm – once again the panicky claustrophobic – trying to squeeze this empty cart between parked cars to get to the docking station without nicking anyone's side mirror or paint job.

I finally arrive, only to realize that I am on the back side of the docking station, and there's no getting around to the other side due to the close proximity of the cars (probably some of those crazy couponers, so excited to have arrived at the grocery store so they could SAVE MONEY that they didn't bother to notice that their minivan was as crooked as a politician in an election year).

Now running severely short on time and patience, I lift the entire empty shopping cart over the rail and slam it down inside the docking station. It bounces a little, but doesn't roll out. My back twinges a little, but I feel good. There's nothing like throwing a shopping cart to let off a little steam. You should try it sometime.

Twenty-five minutes later, and twenty minutes after I'm supposed to have returned, I arrive back at work, safe and sound, and not much worse for wear.

What's the moral of this story? There isn't one. This was just a straight-up rant. And I'm okay with that. If you were offended by this, I'm truly sorry. If you laughed a little, because maybe you saw a little of yourself somewhere, or because you didn't know I was half-crazy myself, then my work here is done.

And for all you couponers out there who may be reading this: Help a brother out and let me know when this stuff is going on ahead of time, so I won't have to throw another shopping cart. I just might begin to enjoy it TOO much!

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