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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Alex P.

Coupons have been a staple of retail stores for decades, as have sales and any modification of prices to influence consumers to purchase a product. This is due to the fundamental laws of business governed by basic economics, if a product is being supplied, then I must meet demand, and if demand can be increased, then so can potential profits. For this reason I rarely use coupons, coupons are not created with the intention of benefitting consumers, they’re a cynical marketing tactic devised to implore consumers to spend more money at a particular location. This is due to the fundamental rule that all businesses actually have the same goal whether they’re selling tires or cocaine: they’re in the business of making money, plain and simple.

Business is in reality a colloquial term for the process of taking money from a customers pocket and putting in yours in exchange for a good or service. In a transaction in which the product is uniform across the spectrum, such as buying electronics, the consumer has no loyalty to the retailer and the retailer has no loyalty to the customer. The two operate solely on the premise of personal benefit, the retailer may offer a deal or coupon to entice a consumer to make a purchase based on the premise that accessory purchases will offset the lost profit on the item offered at a discount, in economics this is known as opportunity cost. Consumers are thus deceived into believing that they’re cheating retailers and receivers, but really this is a delusion since retailers have performed rigorous calculations on how to manipulate the consumer to believe this while actually reaping a greater benefit than if the item was never offered at a discount with a coupon. Consider a simple example offered by two grocery stores, if one offers a coupon for a stick of butter sold by both retailers, then consumers will prefer that grocery store and purchase all their groceries from it, thus offsetting the opportunity cost imposed by the coupon that is usually for pennies on the dollar.

A note from us at I’m In:  We offer lots of ways for you to save on groceries at I’m In!

The only time consumers will ever reap the benefits of a coupon is if they only purchase the item they posses a coupon for, this is the only time I ever use a coupon, and even then it’s only when I stumble upon the coupon. This benefits the consumer because they’re actually receiving the benefit of the discount, but even in this situation the retailer is still not coming out at a loss since they will never offer a discount below the value of the item unless they’re liquidating and profit is relatively unimportant.

There are times that coupons can have a net benefit, but only at the introduction of significant opportunity cost to the consumer. Consider a mother such as mine who spends excessive amounts of time clipping coupons, she receives the benefits of couponing only because she spends her time actively searching for coupons and bases her purchases almost solely on the necessity of the item weighed against her possession of a coupon for the item. Using my mother as an example again, she also bases a number of her purchasing decisions on whether a sale exists for that item, such as two for one sales or any other discount she can find, but again this imposes a high opportunity cost of invested time.

While coupons have the potential to save consumers money if used wisely, they’re rarely used as such and more often than not tend to impose harm to consumers at the benefit of retailers. This isn’t to say that retailers are evil deceptive entities, its really that consumers are unaware that they’re up again an opponent with infinitely more resources and much more time invested on how to manipulate consumers. This is as opposed to consumers who have little or more frequently no time invested in how to manipulate retailers. While consumers and retailers will always be at odds like lions and gazelles, the two will always need each other to survive, each one destined to provide for the other in a beautiful symbiosis that transcends both time and money, such is the nature of free market capitalism that proves mutually beneficial to everyone.

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