MOUNT VERNON — Clipping coupons to save money is almost a ritual for many shoppers, but the ritual is changing. Back in the day, coupons were delivered to a person’s house by mail or they came with the hometown newspaper. Now, those paper coupons are seen less frequently, and electronic, or digital, coupons have emerged. It is now possible to find digital coupons on many sites all over the Internet, and shoppers are taking advantage of that.
Some shoppers, such as veteran couponer Marilyn Heck, prefer the paper coupons, but are switching to digital to keep saving money.
“Everything is going up and up and up,” Heck said. She does miss the coupons that used to come in the mail. “I used to have envelopes packed with coupons. We don’t get a lot in the mail anymore. I’m going to get on a computer and start doing that. That’s the way to go.”
Some shoppers prefer the electronic version. Robert Williamson is one. He said he uses coupons nearly every time he shops, and therefore saves money. He uses both paper and electronic coupons, but likes the electronic version the best.
“It’s just simpler,” he explained.
For Kroger customers, using digital coupons can also mean they don’t have to remember to bring the coupons to the store.
Amy McCormick, spokeswoman for Kroger, said if a customer goes to the Kroger website, he or she may load digital coupons directly to his or her Kroger Plus card.
“Automatically, then,” she said, “when I go through the register and use my Kroger Plus card, it connects that I have made the purchases that were required, and then when the cashier hits total, it will automatically take that coupon off.”
There is a catch, however — a paper coupon may offer more savings than the one on the card, and only one coupon per item may be used.
“If the customers have loaded an electronic coupon to their [Kroger Plus] card,” McCormick said, “the electronic coupon comes off first. If they have a paper manufacturer’s coupon for the same item, they would have to use that one in another transaction.”
For some coupon enthusiasts, there is another drawback. Kroger does not double electronic manufacturers’ coupons, although the grocer does double manufacturers’ paper coupons.
When the News talked with some area stores that honor coupons, another drawback to electronic coupons came to light. While digital coupons are convenient for customers, the electronic versions can cause some headaches for store managers — they are too easily counterfeited.
Both electronic and paper coupons are accepted at Neff’s Cardinal Market in Mount Vernon. Accepting only one coupon per item, Neff’s doubles coupons up to 99 cents. Store manager K.T. Colvin said paper coupons are preferred, but the store does accept electronic coupons, as long as they are not a forgery.
“That’s the new deal now,” he said. “Unfortunately some people ruin things for everyone else. It’s rampant right now. There are a lot of forged coupons out there, because of the fact they are printed off the Internet and with the quality of printers today. ... People are falsifying them and changing the amounts on them. We get a sheet of 10 to 30 a month of coupon forgeries that we have to look out for. Most of the time, though, forgeries are really obvious.”
Dale’s Cardinal Super Market in Danville accepts any manufacturer’s coupons on products they stock, said manager John Hammond. “We accept electronic coupons, as long as they are legitimate. Some of them are counterfeit, and we have a list of counterfeit coupons that comes through the Ohio Grocers Association and also from our warehouse.”
Hammond said a fairly large number of his customers use coupons.
“We can have probably $8 to $10 worth of coupons a day,” he said. “One of our [Danville] football teams had contacted Smith Dairy and they got books of coupons and they were selling those as a fundraiser. I just turned some in a week ago and it was close to $300 for maybe two months. It helped the team out and, of course, Smith sold their products.”
Dales does not double coupons. Hammond said, “It’s kind of like saying we’re going to give you double coupon but we’re going to raise the price on something else to make up for it. That’s my feeling on it, anyway.”
Fredericktown Market does not accept computer-generated coupons because of the forgery issue. Paper versions of cigarette and pop coupons are the most frequently used by customers at the market.
Danny Lamb, manager, said he doesn’t do a lot of store coupons anymore.
“When I discount items, and put something on sale,” he said, “my operating system doesn’t allow coupons on those items, especially if the end price would be below cost. You can’t use a coupon on a discounted item and do what I call double dipping.”
For News subscribers who miss the Saturday coupon inserts, there is hope those money-saving sections will return.
Mount Vernon News Advertising Manager Corby Wise said he is working to restore coupons to the Saturday edition. He said the agency which provides the coupons made the decision to discontinue having the News distribute them.
“It was a decision made on Madison Avenue,” he said, “as opposed to here on Main Street. It’s not something we had a lot of input on. They didn’t have a conversation with us about dropping us. I asked how to get back on their distribution list, and I feel we have met all of the criteria on their list. They only evaluate that every six months, but we are hoping to get back on [the list] in July.”