Terrible Costco Coupons Equals No Costco Trips This Month

December, it seems, is the holy grail of food months. Buying food, groceries, etc.  What better month to count on than December, right? So, if that’s the case, it’s really amazing that Costco is trying to shoot themselves in the foot with a terrible coupon insert.  The Costco Coupons book that we eagerly look forward to was a total dud..

As a result, we haven’t gone to Costco. Those two things go hand in hand, as it turns out.

Our Costco Coupons Habits

We have been Costco members since before we got married.  That means it’s been over ten years now.  Wow, does time ever fly!

During that time, Costco has always sent out a monthly coupon book.  For three weeks out of every month, members can enjoy savings on a handful of items. It’s always been a good mix of general merchandise, electronics, and food.  Until this month.  This month, Costco pretty much eliminated the food category.

We have about 12-15 regular items that we’ll buy with the coupons when they go on sale.  Actually, it’s probably a few more than that, because there are usually some that only go on sale around the holidays.  We look forward to those.

Except none of them were in the book this year.  Not a single one!

In fact they only had three food coupons in total.

Comparison Shopping

We are lucky to be in an area where we have both Costco and Sam’s Club in pretty equal fashion.  Where there’s one, mb-money201308chances are there’s the other within a mile.

We’ve always been loyal to Costco, but we heard a while back that Sam’s Club started offering coupons to members.  This piqued our interest.  We also saw that Sam’s had some pretty good sign up deals from time to time.  There were deals where you could buy a discounted membership (for the first year), plus receive additional free items and coupons.

These deals seem to happen a few times a year, and it honestly might be time to consider if Costco does not return to offering desirable coupons on everyday items.

Is Costco Going Too High End?

One of the things that I’ve noticed, and this latest coupon fiasco seems to affirm, is that they’re going after higher end consumers.  I’ve had my suspicions even on the food side, as they’ve gone increasingly to higher priced organic options.   I’m not sure that they think they make enough money from people who go in and buy coffee, spaghetti sauce, and the like.

Their latest coupon book, which eschews all of those things, instead has TVs, computers, and other gadgets.  It’s all high priced.  Maybe they’re only interested in selling those items.

If so, fine, but we’ll be out.  It’s not that we’re claiming poverty.  It’s that we buy everyday items because of the value and the occasional big ticket items.  It seems like they want their shoppers to do the reverse.

Winter Will Tell The Tale

We have the Costco Visa card and we have a good chunk of rewards money lined up.  The way that their rewards works is that you get a payout once per year, and it happens to be in February.  If you cancel your membership (along which cancels your card) anytime in between, you forfeit your earnings.

That’s not going to happen.

However, if we get our payout in February, and things have not improved on the coupon side of things, that might be time to make a clean break.

As it so happens, Sam’s Club also has a rewards credit card that offers similar category discounts.  Line that up with a cheaper membership and better coupons, and it might not be long before we’re noting ourselves as former Costco members.

I hope that doesn’t happen, but the clock is ticking.

Readers, what do you think of Costco?  Have you noticed a gradual shift away from lower priced items in their targeted strategy?  How does that fit in with you?  Any Sam’s Club members out there that can give some insight on how things are on the other side of the fence?  Please let me know in the comments below.

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Save More Shopping Online With Groupon Coupons

I’ve been a big fan of Groupon for a number of years.  We have saved on a lot of different items, meals, and events over the years.  Now, Groupon is offering a whole new way of saving money, with Groupon Coupons.

Unlike the traditional method of using Groupon, you don’t have to purchase anything.  That’s right, it’s completely free.  What Groupon Copuons offers you is a database of over 55,000 coupons across 8,000 online stores.  You can search for what you’re looking for, whether it be for a particular store or by a particular item that you’re looking for, and you’ll be presented with matches along with the options to save money with the online stores.
You may be thinking that there are already services out there like this, but I assure you, Groupon has used their strong name and reputation to assemble a very strong database of participating merchants across a wide variety of retail categories.  You’ll find popular stores like Home Depot and Walgreens, just as an example.  These are two stores that I visit frequently, and now I have the option to shop from my home and save money along the way.  It doesn’t get much better than that!
Stores are going to love this because they get to partner with one of the strongest names in the world that relates to saving money, and people will love this because it will allow them new ways to shop at their favorite stores or give them exposure to all kinds of new stores, all while saving money!
Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

At What Point Does Declining Value Become A Concern?

I’ve had a few recent situations where I was presented with declining value in varying circumstances.  In each of the circumstances, which I’ve briefly outlined below, I pointed out the declining value through social media circles, and I was surprised to see the response by other followers.  Or, more exactly, the lack of response.

Halloween Fun At The Zoo

The Detroit Zoo holds an annual event called the Zoo Boo.  It actually stretches across most of October, and on Friday and Saturday nights, families can come and walk through a portion of the zoo where there is a corn maze, seasonal themed displays, an activities center, and some handouts of candy and other treats.  It’s pretty popular and we have gone for the last three years.  So, we were thinking about going again this year, when my wife pointed out two changes:

  • Admission for the event went from $7 to $8
  • They were now charging parking.  Typically, all parking for the Zoo Boo was free for both members and non-members.  Parking for regular zoo visit is free for members who purchase an annual pass.

mb-201310moneyFor a family of four, this meant that the cost (assuming they all drove together in one car) would go from $28 to $37, over a 30% increase.  I felt this was unwarranted.  I was kind of annoyed by the fact that they were charging for parking (especially members, which we have been for many years).  I questioned why the cost needed to go up, especially considering that most of the handouts were provided by the sponsors, so it’s not like they had to pay for the candy and such that they give out.  I even looked closer to see if maybe they were adding new events, displays or access, but the description of the event was the same as in years past.

Nobody from the zoo responded, and not a single of the 173,000+ followers liked my post or expressed similar concerns.

Restaurant Rewards

There’s a local chain of Italian restaurants (Andiamo) that has been a favorite of ours for years.  We had our rehearsal dinner at one location, we threw a surprise 25th anniversary party for my parents there, we’ve dined there multiple times for various events such as birthdays, New Years, and our anniversary.  So, a few years back, it was a no-brainer to join their rewards program.  We paid a one-time enrollment fee and for that, we got a free dinner during the month of my birthday, as well as a program where after every $350 you spent, you got $25 in credits.

They announced that they were changing the program, and promoted it as ‘new and improved’ as you now got rewards after only 250 points.  The reward changed to $10 after you crossed this threshold.  I did the math in my head, and realized that on a reward-per-dollar spent you were getting 44% less bang for your buck.

I wrote on their Facebook wall pointing out that the program was definitely changed, but maybe not necessarily improved.  To their credit, they actually did write a very detailed response acknowledging that they made other changes which would offset the reduction in other ways (a second meal sometime during the year), and also basically acknoweldged that the program needed to be tweaked to allow them to balance the rewards with profitability.  I was actually pretty impressed and gave them a lot of credit.  In my mind, I understood the changes, and didn’t have a complaint about the changes themselves (especially given that the cost of joining the program were a one-time only thing), but it was just that they presented it as ‘improved’.

Still, after I posted on their wall, there were over a dozen people that liked their announcement, but only one that liked my response pointing out the 44% reduction.  that one person…my wife.

The Sliding Scale of Value

These incidents both happened within a couple of days of each other, so the lack of attention by others was amplified since they both happened.  And, I spent a couple of weeks thinking about why the issues I raised really weren’t of concern.

I think one of the reasons would be that there’s a sliding scale of value, and that there are thresholds along the way, and only after you cross those thresholds do you get concerned.

Some examples would be:

  • Gas – We don’t generally get alarmed every time the price goes up, but over the past few years, anytime prices in most areas get anywhere near $4, the chatter instantly heats up.
  • Food packaging – It’s long been a pet peeve when food packaging changes (new look, same great product!) only to find out that the new package contains less of the product than the old one did, but the price stays the same.

In these cases, or similar cases (like my examples), there’s probably some wiggle room before a trigger goes off.  I’m sure in the case of food packaging, there are lots of studies done beforehand to find just how much they can get away with taking away before consumers howl.

Removal of Excess Value

After thinking about the zoo example for so long, I looked at it a different way and thought that maybe people felt that $37 for a family of four was still a value.  Maybe, for many, the previous cost of $28 was considered a great deal.  Meaning, that there’s wiggle room in what they can get away with charging before they put attendance at risk.

Acceptable Loss

Sticking with the zoo, what if the zoo full well knew that the price increases were going to turn people away, but were completely fine with that?  This could make sense if the loss of customers was made up by the price increase.  What if 10% of families decided to skip the event this year.  The other 90% are still going to pay the extra 30%, meaning that they’d still come up with a revenue increase of roughly 17% (90% of last years attendees x 130% of last years pricing).

This could go south if too many people decided to skip the event, but again, I’m thinking there are probably studies and such done in circumstances involving national brands and the like.

Long and short

I spent the first week or so after these two things completely bewildered about why the concern that I was expressing didn’t even warrant a few likes.  But, after thinking about it, I started to see a little sense in it.  Maybe some of the long ago learned items from my marketing classes in grad school started to bubble to the surface.

Readers, have you ever raised a concern about pricing or something else and found apathy, especially in the day of social networking?  What are some of your thresholds or hot buttons that get you going when it comes to pricing and marketing?

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Coupon Policies Are Not Always Enforced

Have you ever looked at store coupons and seen rules and stipulations a mile long, and said “Forget it” to the whole thing?

Not so fast!

At least if you’re shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

We’ve had a couple instances of very good luck using coupons that, according to the rules on various coupons, shouldn’t have worked.

Two Bikes

Last year, my wife was in the market for a new bike.  I think this was prompted by the fact that my sister-in-law had just got a new bike, and while usable, the aqua green 10-speed from the 1990’s just wasn’t alluring.  We do quite a bit of bike riding during camping trips, so she used birthday money to get her bike.

My sister-in-law actually came up with the suggestion to try to use our Entertainment Book coupon, where Dick’s has a few entries.  I looked at the coupon and it had some brand exclusions, one of which was the bike my wife wanted.  I asked my sister-in-law and she said that they took hers without a problem, even though she bought a bike from the same manufacturer.

Sure enough, when I went to the store to pick up the bike, they took it without so much as a second glance.

We saved $15!

Two Canopies

Last year when we had my daughter’s first birthday party, we borrowed a couple of 10×10 canopies from my aunt and uncle.  They worked great.  So much that we thought it would be a good investment to buy a couple for ourselves.  We knew we’d have parties and gatherings at various points, plus we also figured it’d be good to take one on camping trips, as it could be good to add covered space in addition to the awning on the camper.

They typically retail for $100, but we saw one for $80 and were thinking about getting at least one.

Then, my wife hit the jackpot.  There was a coupon in the Sunday insert that allowed you to buy one for $50.  That’s half off!  We asked my parents for their coupon, and went in with the age old strategy of deciding to buy one each, since the coupon clearly stated ‘One per customer’.

Then, I remembered what store I was working with.  I looked in this year’s Entertainment Book and saw that they had two coupons that we might be able to work with.  One was $10 off $50 and the other was $20 off $100.

I looked at the coupon and it also said ‘Cannot be combined with other offers’ but what harm did it hurt to try, right?

We took all the coupons with us, and walked up to the register.  Our first option was to use the $20 off $100 coupon, so I asked if we could put both on the same order and use two coupons.

“Let me check,” the cashier said.  She scanned both items in, scanned one of the coupons…and both of the items immediately went to $50.  So, they don’t even program their computers to match the written policy.

We then asked if we could use the coupon from the Entertainment book.  She looked at it, scanned it, entered the value, and we got an extra $20 off.

All told, with tax, we paid slightly over $84 for two canopies.

Earlier in the week, we had been prepared to go get one for a sale price of $80.

So, even with what we were prepared to pay, we got two for the price of one!

Just goes to show that the fine print which is written on coupon policies might not always be enforced, so next time you think about tossing that coupon, think about giving it a shot.  You might be surprised.

Readers, have you ever had luck using coupons that you didn’t think you would be able to?  What deals did you score?

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