Published on Mar 02, 2015

The cost of clipping coupons

I used to clip coupons.

I learned how to pinch pennies from the best. My dad was a frivolous man, and my great grandmother even more so. At Christmas, we unwrapped gifts with a careful touch and refolded the wrapping paper to be used again the following year. She really didn’t need to reserve such fiscal caution, and everyone in the family always shared knowing glances as we carefully removed the bow decorating our gift (an odd touch for for a gift from someone so frugal), wondering if we might see it repurposed as an adornment for next year’s birthday gift.

Thankfully, I don’t clip coupons anymore.

But when I rifled through the admailer the other day, I sighed a complaint of distress and annoyance. Just looking at the page was exhausting: the colors were too bright and the copy was corny, deceptive, and excessive. There’s no way to search for a coupon for a specific product, or subset of products you might be interested in. I can only imagine the exhaustion coupon clippers feel after hunting down the coupons they need.

I then realized that the discount one receives, is only rewarded after paying a hefty fee: spending one’s time exposed to an invasive and intellectually void form of media, desperately trying to claim the reader’s attention. It is the purest form of noise in the signal:noise ratio.

So of course paper ads are noisy. Aside from the assumption that the target audience is in an income bracket low enough for the value of time spent clipping coupons to be lower than the value of utilizing said coupons, marketers know nothing about their readers, so it’s in their interest to cast a wide net, in the hopes of catching as many couponers as possible, all the while slowing down those who sift through the muddy waters in order to find the savings they need to get by another day.

Just another example of how being poor is expensive.