Coupon Craze: Bolstering Trend or Growing Problem?

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With the current state of our country’s economic downturn, coupons have become all the rage, garnering national media coverage ever since the debut of the TLC television series, “Extreme Couponing,” in April.  The show documents the lives of several devoted shoppers, who’s excessive compulsion to seek out bargains has whittled a whooping $555.44 of groceries to as little as $5.97.  This is only one example of an extreme case.

Inevitably,“Extreme Couponing,” has also created a lot of worthy buzz for the couponing industry.  According to SignOnSanDiego newspapers throughout the country have even seen a growing number of their patrons filing reports that coupons are being stolen right out of their newspapers.

While some newspapers have reported thefts, the reports coincide with news that sales are up due to the help of coupons.

Following in the footsteps of mainly coupon sites, like Groupon, Living Social, and Yelp, local publications like the San Diego Union Tribune and NBCSanDiego have acquired or enhanced their sites with daily promotions.

Although online deals seem like a good incentive for coupon users, businesses, and newspapers alike, cyber coupons are not creating the sort of unanimous appeal that these sites were originally hoping for.

A New York Times article reports that a restaurateur, who owns four businesses in New York, has lost sales due to “online deal ploys.”  The article also cites an owner of a Portland, Ore. bakery and café, who blogged about her loss of $8,000 in Groupon last year

Though the discount age is divided into many camps, depending on whether you don the perspective of a coupon user or own a business vantage point, there is no doubt that coupons have amassed world-wide appeal — that to some people’s chagrin — could possibly become a mainstay in today’s business infrastructure.

According to Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., the coupon business has been very healthy during the recession.

“I think, particularly with unemployment rates what they are, the phenomenon is going to be around for a while,” he said on SignOnSanDiego.

On that note, we’ll leave you with quotes from a few avid diners and people in the restaurant industry.  Their thoughts can also be found in the June 30-July 6 issue of San Diego’s entertainment guide, Night & Day:

It’s not as simple an answer as ’yes’ or ‘no’ regarding the use of coupons by a restaurant; it comes down to whether or not they are the right fit for this form of marketing.  Creating a brand and gaining exposure can be costly, whether it’s through print media, email promotions, public relations and/or coupons.  I’m personally a fan of the right kinds of restaurants using incentives that encourage me to take a risk with my dining dollars.

David Sallsbury, a law firm’s director of business development, avid diner

I never use coupons.  I think I was traumatized by my mother making me go to the grocery store with those giant multicolored food stamps in the ‘80s.  I don’t’ know that it reflects on the quality of the restaurant – business owners are trying different ways to get people in the door.  As for me, our profit margins are tighter than Joan Rivers’ face – not a lot of room for expression.

Ricardo Heredia, executive chef at Alchemy Restaurant


Photo Courtesy of sdc2027 and Groupon via Flickr


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