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Your loyalty cards do more than save you money.

29 Oct

As an extreme couponer, I have tons of loyalty cards. My keys now looks like a ugly charm bracelet from all of the loyalty key tags I have. I hate the way it looks, but I am on a mission to save money every day.

Before I was couponing, I found it ridiculous that I needed to scan these loyalty cards to get the store sale price. “I don’t have my card with me. No, I can’t punch in my number, because I probably used a fake one when I signed up. Can I just use yours, please?”

Now that I extreme coupon, I can see the benefits. For example, at Harris Teeter, I get customized deals sent to me that are not available to everyone else. I can also get electronic coupons attached to my account. (Although, there are always issues with it working properly!)

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At Giant, I get to participate in their gas deal. I now have almost 9,000 points (my record was over 11,000 points) and pay just $0.93 a gallon for gas weekly.

At CVS, I get to scan my card at a red machine in the store and get extra coupons that virtually help make my total zero. And it earns me extra care bucks, which is the same as cash and helps me get around $20-50 worth of stuff of week for almost nothing.

Last week I read an article in the Washington Post about a company called Applied Predictive Technologies aka APT. I had never heard of it. But when I read how 100 of the largest companies in the world use them (think CVS, Wendy’s, Redbox, and Wawa),  I wanted to learn more.

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APT claims $1 of every $5 in U.S. retail transactions goes through its database. How is this possible?

APT is a cloud-based predictive analytics software company. They have incredibly large databases that companies can use to help improve their business decisions. Using their data and research, ADT can help tell companies if a certain model generates greater sales, if a wall color helps sales more, if store prices are working as well as they should, if store  hours are maximizing what they should, and even if the overall design is aiding sales.

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On top of that, they take clues from your loyalty cards, your ATM withdrawals, and even receipts to create some kind of predictive outcome, like that I am more likely to pick up Haribro gummy bears if they are by the checkout lane. (Which is true!)

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As a research nerd, I find this kind of fascinating. I am sure in their eyes, my data looks beyond insane. 40 oatmeals, 20 cereals, 5 razors, 3 dozen eggs, 3 organic milks, 3 bags of apples, 4 bags of oranges, 55 fruit snacks, 3 romaine lettuces, 10 Lindt chocolate bars, 90 rolls of paper towels, 10 gallons of ice cream. You get the picture.

I know some people cringe at the idea that companies are stalking its customers using Nostradamus-like technology, but personally, if it helps tell them how to better serve me so I have a great experience, I am all for it. If you know what I am interested in, what I will buy, and what incentives to send me, I don’t mind. With three kids five and under, any help I can get to save money and feed and clothe my kids is appreciated.

Although, I admit, as an extreme couponer, I am not loyal to stores like I used to. In fact, I now understand stores, their promotions, policies, user interface, and more than I ever have. My loyalty has been tested at every store. Whether it is being accused of misusing a coupon (when a cashier has not been properly trained), having a cashier sigh really loud when they are annoyed at how much I am buying, having not one employee connect with me when there are many standing around and I need help, having managers come up and yell at me when a coupon is valid yet they don’t want to deal with it or me, or talking with 6 different employees about how their store sold a particular wine for over a year and now it is gone and when will it be on the shelf again? Answer. We have no idea.

I often find myself wishing stores would hire extreme couponers to give insight from the field, like mystery shoppers do.  Sometimes, I get really nice cashiers and it really makes my day. I always remember the nice ones and then I look for them when I return.

From my experience, loyalty isn’t given. It’s earned. And I have to say from all the stores I shop at, the CVS in Haymarket, Virginia is by far always the best experience for me. It’s probably the only store I am loyal to.

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What if non-profits hired Extreme Couponers?

24 Jun

Similac $5 coupon

I’ve been couponing for about 6 months now. And in that short time, I have learned how to amass a stockpile where a lot of the items didn’t cost me any money, just my time. It’s definitely a learning curve as I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but thankfully, I haven’t given up. And it’s paying off.

Just today, I bought $160 worth of groceries for $28. My haul included free salads, free toothpaste, free chocolate candy, free shampoo, free conditioner and even free canned vegetables. I was running low on items, because we’ve either donated items to the nearby homeless shelter or friends and family on assisted living. And doing all of this got me thinking, non-profits should hire Extreme Couponers.

I mean really, it should be an entirely new job category. Couponing has taught me that you can pretty much get anything for free–from baby formula and food to office supplies like paper reams and tape to paper goods like paper towels and napkins. And then of course, there’s always free or next-to-nothing cleaning products like hand soap, cleansers and let’s not forget magic erasers ( I think I have like 10 boxes.) 

My point is imagine how much farther people’s donations would go if non-profits and shelters hired Extreme Couponers. I bought a two months supply of Similac formula (30 quarters, 20 cans, 1 tub) for about $15. The retail is about $200. So think about it. Disaster strikes. Babies need feed. Someone generously donates $200.

Without an Extreme Couponer, the non-profit spends $200 on:

-30 ready-to-feed quarters

-20 formula cans

-1 powder tub

Now if they hired an Extreme Couponing and said you have a $200 budget, get what you can get. Here’s the probable outcome: 

30 ready-to-feed quarters

-20 formula cans

-1 powder tub

-25 toothpastes

-25 toothbrushes

-25 flosss

-25 mouth wash

-100 bars of soap

-100 shampoos

-100 conditioners

-100 body washes

-100 hand soaps

-100 deodorants

-100 boxes of pasta

-100 bottles of barbecue sauce

-500 instant noodles

-20 half gallons of soy milk

-100 bags of salad

-100 paper towel rolls

With an Extreme Couponer, they would have gotten like $3000 worth of stuff for $200. Sounds crazy, but it’s actually quite real. Think about it. If citizens opened their wallets and donated $1 million to help a cause and let’s say 50% went to manpower. With the remaining $500,000 budget, extreme couponers could get like $3 million worth of stuff.

Now I am not saying I could do that. Right now I am consistently getting at least 70% off my grocery bills. But extreme couponers who save 95% off, well even if you paid them $50,000 and they turned a $100,000 budget into $1 million in products and food, then it’s totally worth it.

Oh, never mind. Why in the world would companies and non-profits want to stretch their dollars anyway?