The TV show, “Extreme Couponing” is causing more harm than good to both consumers and retailers according to Phil Lempert, a leading food industry expert and editor of SupermarketGuru.com and The Lempert Report. Why? Because it creates unrealistic expectations in shoppers, and grocery stores can't routinely give out those kinds of discounts and still stay in business.
“Extreme Couponing” features everyday people who save hundreds of dollars in a single trip to the grocery store. By combining different coupons with sale items, the shoppers take home cartloads of groceries for a few dollars.
“When I saw the first episode of “Extreme Couponing” last December, I thought the viewing public would learn new ways to save money and be reinvigorated to use coupons each time they shop,” wrote Lempert in The Lempert Report. “However, according to research and direct feedback that we’ve received, consumers no longer feel good about saving $10, or 10-to-20 percent. They’re becoming depressed that they are not able to buy $1,000 or more groceries for 25 cents.”
The show has prompted supermarkets to revise their couponing policies to limit the amount of coupons that can be used on one item, to avoid driving themselves out of business.
Retailers use coupons to introduce new products and spur sales in particular ZIP codes or with targeted customers.
“Couponing is a valuable tool for brands and marketers,” wrote Lempert. “With the Internet's ability to focus offers better than ever we should be rejoicing. Instead, we're promoting a desperate feeling to catch up, saying that unless we can save more than we spend, we are failures at food shopping.”
“Extreme Couponers” may save upwards of 90 percent but who have spent between 30-to-40 hours per week clipping, researching and managing their coupons. So it's basically a full-time job.
Lempert says, “It’s fun entertainment and certainly there are tips we can all learn, but I don’t want people to feel bad because they are less successful than those featured on the show.”
He adds, “As food prices continue to rise, and shoppers continue to search for the ultimate savings, we can only hope that more meaningful food messages — like good taste and good nutrition — are not lost.”