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Business

September 18, 2010

Is there a stigma to using coupons?

Tips from the Coupon Queen

Last week, we took a look at the demographics of a typical coupon user. Did you know that the heaviest users of coupons make more than $70,000 per year? According to studies by Nielsen Co., those who use coupons the least earn less than $20,000 per year.

Why don’t lower-income people use coupons? Is there a stigma to using coupons that prevents some people from using them?

Actually, there is. There’s a widespread belief among the non-coupon set that “only poor people use coupons.” Of course, according to Nielsen studies, the opposite is true. Some people, though, are genuinely afraid of appearing “poor” in the checkout lane. They don’t want someone to think they must be enduring financial hardship.

In Super-Couponing workshops, I often hear stories from readers who say they have been “shamed” in the checkout lane of a grocery store. One woman was watching the cashier scan her large pile of coupons and the couple standing behind her turned to each other and said, “Remember when we had to use coupons a few years ago?” As if having to use coupons is somehow embarrassing! Another shopper, a father with a baby, stood in the lane handing coupons to the cashier and heard a woman behind him comment, “I know how much you must be struggling, having to use all those coupons.” She handed him a $20 bill and patted him on the shoulder!

Fortunately, both shoppers took the patronizing comments in stride – and made sure to point out that they were choosing to use coupons, not forced to. But stories like these suggest that some people perceive coupon shoppers as needy. And the idea that someone, anyone, may assume you’re poor if you use coupons is enough to deter some people from even considering picking up a pair of scissors. Now, that’s the real shame!

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