This is another piece I wrote for a now-defunct refund magazine, from sometime in 1994. Please note that the new generation of couponer is not even familiar with the concept of refunding but as a long-time refunder/couponer, I used to make approximately $80-$100 a month~easily~ by sending in proofs of purchase of products I had purchased. I also provided approximately 80% of our Christmas gifts through refunding premiums offered by companies in the 80’s and 90’s.
Romance at Edgeton’s Sanitation
Our eyes met across the newspaper recycling bin as our hands brushed against each other’s in our search for the glossy coupon inserts amidst the piles of newspapers. My heart started beating faster and my cheeks flushed red with excitement. After fifteen years, this man knew the way to my heart. He smiled as he handed a huge stack of uncut coupons, and smiling more broadly, he pulled a Motrin IB box from his coat pocket. “Look what I found in the cardboard bin,” he said excitedly, “And I bet there is more where that came from.”
Sound like a trashy romance novel to you? Write what you know, successful authors advise, and I know what it’s like to have a husband who not only supports my hobby, but who also believes I’ll have a book published by the time I reach 40. Most of us have some type of support system in the form of a spouse, a parent, a refunding sister, or our regular traders who visit us via the mailbox. If we are really lucky, we live with our supportive person. I’m one of those lucky enough to have a spouse who thinks refunding is both fun and profitable.
Pulling an old curtain rod from the back of his maroon station wagon, David deftly cornered a 42-load ultra detergent box in the cardboard bin, flipping it over the side with one twist of his muscular arm. My knees trembled and my heart raced as I saw him reach deep into the large bin for yet another treasure to warm my heart. Dimly I was aware of another car approaching the site. I busied myself unloading my own box of recyclables, keeping an eye on David, who continued to look through the cardboard filled bin, oblivious to the well-dressed older couple who’d pulled up in their van.
There have been times in my life when I’ve actually been embarrassed by my relationship with trash. It helps to have a spouse who has offered to buy me a Halloween mask to conceal my identity for trash digs. David tells me that someday we will look back on these days and laugh, or I will write about our experiences and be invited to the Oprah show. Our children have seen the great gifts I get for Christmas morning so they are well aware what refunding can do for them. Anyone who looks in my bathroom cupboard and sees the shampoo, toothbrushes, soap and makeup that I’ve gotten practically free through the wise use of coupons is impressed. But my husband also sees the piles of undone refunds on my desk, the stacks of trades to be answered, the overflowing basket of labels and UPC’s on my kitchen counter, and the huge box of qualifiers in my office/schoolroom. I can’t pinpoint the exact day when my husband did more than just tolerate my hobby, but I do know that the arrival of the Camel/Salem camcorder in the mail did a lot to convince him of the value of refunding. A shopping spree where I paid $45 for over $295 worth of groceries didn’t hurt either.
I couldn’t resist checking out the magazine box, where I’d been caught by a worker at the site recently who encouraged me to take the magazines home. I love reading and can’t always afford to pick up the latest women’s magazines. Besides, I’d recently bartered ten Mother Earth News magazines I’d found for two books by an author who wrote about homeschooling. I noticed the couple in their van warily eyeing David before finally getting out and emptying their own boxes. I was pleased when they approached my bin with a bag of what looked like People magazines, a gold mine for me! I smiled at the woman as she dumped them, and she smiled back. I saw her speaking to her husband when she returned to the van and he nodded. I wondered if they were feeling sorry for the poor woman who had to get her reading material from a recycling bin. I caught David’s eye and nodded to him that I was done for the day.
Together, David and I are learning what we can do without, what we really need, and all the fun stuff we can get free. I like being thrifty with my husband and would love to get a government grant to study the effects of couponing and refunding on the average marriage. Surely someone who has seen you bent over digging through a recycling bin and has not only stayed with you, but joined in, must love you a great deal.
I took hold of David’s hand as he started the car and leaned over to kiss me. “We got a good haul today,” he said, glancing in the back at the boxes brimming with coupon inserts, magazines and detergent boxes. He sighed with contentment as we drove out the entrance of the recycling center. I looked at him with appreciation, then saw his face change from pleasure to that of surprise as he looked in the rearview mirror. He abruptly braked, then pointed back to the recycling center. “Look,” he whispered. I turned to see the older couple facing each other across the same newspaper bin David and I had shared a tender moment at just minutes before. The woman was gesturing excitedly to her husband, waving a stray coupon insert in front of him. He laughed and caressed her cheek lovingly. I looked at David and we didn’t even need to voice the thought we were both having…
That’s us, in 25 years.