Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Do You Need That Many Mustards?"

Since I've been learning how to shop for free, I've been having a blast. The last two days, however, I've hit a couple of snags. Yesterday, Target refused to adjust a coupon amount down to the purchase price of seven items I wanted to buy - per their own corporate policy - so I ended up only buying one of the nine total items I'd planned to purchase for a grand total of $.95. Then today, I get into an annoying discussion with the cashier at Pavilions when I tried to purchase 4 bottles of French's mustard.

Perhaps it's because the Pavilions thing happened on the tail end the Target fiasco that it has really stuck in my head. Here's the background:

Safeway (Vons, Pavilions, etc.) has a double coupon policy where they will double coupons up to $1. Not as good as it has been in the past, but that's still something. I ran into an issue at Ralphs where they only double one like coupon per transaction and I wanted to know if Pavilions had the same policy.

Instead of a simple 'yes' or 'no,' the cashier asks, "Do you need that many mustards?"

Huh? Really? Why is the number of mustards I wish to purchase your business? I don't have much of a poker face so I'm sure my expression immediately conveyed my annoyance and the woman got super nice. Turns out the answer to my original question is, 'yes.' They will only double one like coupon per transaction.

I'd been prepared for that answer and had already separated everything out on the conveyor belt into transaction groups so things went pretty smoothly from there, but I still can't get this woman's initial reaction out of my head.

Given the state of our economy, it always amazes me when people turn down money. Not that I'm in a position to do any major economic stimulation by myself right now, but every little bit helps. Under that theory, it's really bad business for stores to turn away sales like this.

Yesterday, Target had the opportunity to earn an additional $7.56 from me. Instead, they only got $.87. Granted, my out of pocket expense after coupons would've been less than $.50, but Target would've gotten the value of the coupon plus $.08 additional per coupon used from the manufacturer. Instead, they settled for $.87. If this is the corporate business model, it's no wonder sales are down.

Today, Pavilions got everything I'd planned to spend and more because the mustard hadn't been on my original list. I happened to walk down that aisle and see the bottles on sale at 2 for $3 making them $1.50 each. I had about six $.50 off coupons when doubled would make the mustard $.50 each. Of course I'm going to stock up at that price. It's silly not to. That's if you can consider four bottles stocking up.

So, yes. I do need that many mustards. Given that the purpose of a grocery store is to make money by selling products to customers, don't you think it's a pretty bad idea to try to talk those customers out of buying the products that cause the stores to make money?

Granted, $2 is not a very large drop in Pavilions profit bucket, but it is a drop. If you are trying to talk me out of a sale, you can bet there are cashiers all over the country trying to talk other customers out of a sale. It doesn't take very long for that same $2 to snowball into hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed sales.

Before long, the store will cut costs by cutting jobs if they don't have to go out of business altogether. And then where will you be?

What's really sad is that we, as average Americans, don't seem to get that we're all connected. This applies equally to both the cashier who negatively impacts the bottom line by talking customers out of sales then wonders why when they get caught in a massive layoff and the CEO who cuts jobs at the company only to wonder why no one is buying his goods anymore.

So to answer the woman's question, "Yes. I do need that many mustards. You need me to need that many mustards. The people we've annoyed in the line behind me with this stupid conversation need me to need that many mustards."

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