A phrase often used by couponers to describe methods of shopping whereby couponer works to avoid bringing attention to him or herself. The term may also be used to reflect a hope that others will not notice the enormous wad of coupons in your pocket on the way to checkout. (Angela Russell Dictionary of Couponese)
If you are a shy when it comes to couponing (as I sometimes can be), you might find the idea of “flying under the radar” attractive. After all, you don’t want to create a fuss at checkout, do you? Or have people gawk at your coupon binder and grocery cart full of toilet paper and tuna fish? Guess what. I’ve decided flying under the radar is NOT the way to go, and here’s why.
1. You shouldn’t have to act sneaky for something that isn’t. Shoplifting? Sneaky. (Not to mention, illegal.) Using coupons according to a store’s coupon policy? Savvy. I’ll admit, there have been times I thought I’d just get in and use the self scan to do a couple transactions back to back. While technically I wasn’t doing anything wrong, by trying to not draw attention to myself I ended up feeling sneaky. Folks, you shouldn’t have to feel guilty for using coupons!
2. You may miss out on deals. Believe it or not, did you know some cashiers enjoy seeing your good deals? And that some will even share with you how to find coupons and deals within their store? While this doesn’t happen all the time, it does happen. Start talking to hard-core couponers you know and they’ll tell you about the time some nice manager or cashier helped them save some money! I’ve personally had this happen before.
3. You’ll be able to better determine which stores are coupon friendly. I’ve really grown in my confidence at checkout. One of the biggest things that’s helped is just sharing with my cashiers about coupons. For instance, I might start off like this: “I have a bunch of coupons to use today.” They almost always thank me for the heads-up or say “OK.” If they seem friendly or give a rather enthusiastic response then I might continue with, “yeah, you have a great sale going on X right now that pairs with this X coupon…” Now I’m talking about their store and a deal that made me shop there today! On more than one occasion I’ve had a cashier ask about where I’ve gotten a coupon to do a particular deal. If I get to that point, I know I’ve found a coupon-friendly cashier, and probably, store. This is useful for me to know. If I have a store that is glad to see me with my coupons, I’ll be more confident in shopping there. In my mind, this is a serious advantage over flying under the radar! Have those conversations at checkout (where appropriate, of course).
4. Your experience with using coupons at stores is likely to be more positive. Take Laura, a friend and reader. She wrote to tell me about her experience at Rite Aid this week. Laura writes that she went to her “home” Rite Aid, “where everyone knows me because of my crazy coupons.” Lest you think this is a bad thing, I want you to follow what happens next. Laura had been looking for an advertised product for a deal she wanted to do. After not finding it, the manager ends up looking and going into the back until he finds the item for Laura! Her conclusion: “I think it was because the staff knows me that they were willing to go the extra mile to take a look.” Laura has obviously been nice and respectful to store staff and in the end, everyone benefits. (And incidentally, you can read more about her shopping trip.) Does this happen all the time? No. But if you fly under the radar? Good luck finding help like that when you need it.
5. If you’re saving big money, you shouldn’t care what others think. If you see another shopper checking out the odd smattering of items in your grocery cart, should you care? I personally don’t. Especially if I get those items for ridiculously cheap. Remember, you’re working to save money to feed your family. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.
I think you should feel comfortable using your coupons, proud even. You shouldn’t have to hide what you’re doing so long as you’re playing by the rules. Now do you need to disclose exactly how far you’ve taken this “couponing thing” to your friends, other shoppers, and cashiers? How you pour over couponing blogs and forums to find the best deals? How you lovingly collect your coupons from the Sunday inserts each week? How you keep a binder full of hundreds of coupons in the back of your car at all times? Well, my friend, that’s entirely up to you.
What about you? Do you “fly under the radar” or have thoughts about this couponing mentality?