Gillette Fusion razor. Gillette refills. Colgate toothpaste. Colgate toothbrush. Mitchum deodorant. Wisk detergent. Laundry basket. Tennis shoes. The woman ahead of us in line at Target had a cart overflowing with what looked to be “off to college” merchandise. The sons were maybe 18 or 19, and the three of them stood there as item after item was scanned and put in bags. The total kept climbing, and I whispered to Emily, “I have coupons for most of that stuff. Should I give her some?” I have often given people waiting behind me coupons, but never someone ahead of me in line. With my fists full of coupons there is always time to peruse the cart behind me and offer coupons in a gesture of friendliness. “Here, you had to wait behind me so you may as well save some money.” Even then, I was once rebuked for doing so. The woman behind me stood straighter, glared, and then said, “Do I look like I need to use coupons?”
If I offered the woman ahead of me coupons for her order, would she react the same? Would she resent the implication that she can’t afford her large order? Would she wonder why I was paying attention to what she was buying? It was hard not to; the items kept coming out of her filled cart. Pantene shampoo. Clearasil face cleanser. I had coupons for those too!
$322.00 Her total was $322. She didn’t blink an eye, and neither did her sons, leading me to believe they were used to spending that kind of money. I couldn’t help but tally up in my mind the coupons I had in my binder for those items I’d seen scanned: $4 Fusion razor coupon. $1 Colgate toothpaste. $1.00 Colgate toothbrush. 75-cents Mitchum. $2 Wisk. FREE Pantene shampoo. $1 Clearasil. Maybe she had coupons too? But no, all she pulled out of her purse was a credit card, and after swiping it, she commented wryly, “Oh good, it went through. I was wondering if it would with that total.”
“I could save her so much money with coupons,” I said again to Emily.
“Why don’t you?”
I’ve been using coupons for over 32 years. I know the varied reactions from others only too well. From the woman who glared at me and hissed, “Do I look like I need to use coupons?” to the man waiting in line behind me (with I assumed was his wife) who blurted out “Will you marry me?” after he saw my final total, I’ve seen it all. I’ve had cashiers accuse me of coupon fraud and store managers stalk away from the register (and me) after I’ve attempted to explain the difference between a purchase and a transaction. I’ve scared an old man in a grocery store aisle when I offered him a coupon for the grape jelly he held in his hand that would make it free. His hand shook as he handed the coupon back to me, and he looked all around before whispering, “I better not,” as if I’d just handed him illegal contraband. I once had a young man follow me through the entire store just so he could ask me where I got the neat coupon box. And now with all the fallout from the Extreme Couponing show, I’m never quite sure what the reaction of others will be regarding coupon use. That woman may have been very irritated if I’d tapped her shoulder and offered her some coupons in front of her sons. What would they think? Would they be impressed at the savings and wonder why Mom never uses coupons? (making her even more irritated later in the car when they are talking about that crazy lady in the store, but maybe also questioning their mother as to why she doesn’t try to save money that way, and darn it, she doesn’t have time for this?!)
But the world will never know. I choked, hesitated a bit too long, though I did actually go so far as to have my hand on the $4 Gillette Fusion coupon, ready to pull it out.
On the way out to the car in the parking lot Emily noticed the almost imperceptible shaking of my head. “What?” she asked.
“I could have saved that woman so much money with my coupons.” I sighed.
Next time I will.