Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Coupons here and there

When we were in the USA earlier in the year (for my son's wedding) we came across stores that we'd heard of but never had the chance to visit: Barnes and Noble, for instance.   Being a bookaholic, this was one place I wanted to at least step inside, even if I didn't buy anything.  (I didn't, but that wasn't B&N's fault.)   The shop had all those sorts of things that I used to dream about doing when I was running a bookshop - though my shop could have been squeezed in one of the smallest corners of the B&N - a place for people to stop and have coffee, an internet bar, trolleys for wheeling large boxes of books around, and staff who knew what they were doing!

That's the advantage of being part of a huge organisation (although some of the things I'm reading about B&N in the news don't make for good reading, in terms of its battles with Amazon and various publishers.  But that's a different story for another day.)

While I was visiting B&N my wife was off with my son's new mother-in-law visiting other well-known places, like Target.   We weren't in the States long enough to collect any coupons from Target but I'm sure if we'd stayed there a few weeks longer she would have managed to have picked some up...and use them!

Coupon collecting isn't so popular in New Zealand - perhaps it's because coupons aren't so readily available here, or because we just approach the whole idea from a different angle.  But it seems, from my understanding of it, that some people spend half their lifetimes collecting coupons and doing very well out  of it.

Of course we collect things like Fly Buys and Airpoints (on the rare occasions when we fly) and make use of the discounts that the New World or Pak N Save supermarkets give on petrol.   I guess these are similar to the coupon system, but are basically taking a slightly different approach.

Some internet sites in New Zealand have tried to get the coupon idea up and running more successfully - I'm not aware of them really taking off.  Perhaps you just have to be really keen to go to the effort of printing out coupons and cutting them out and so on.  And of course, the coupons have to be worth your while - if they're for stuff you'd never buy in a hundred years, they're just a waste of time, and will cause you not to visit the site.   It's rather like what's happened with the Automobile Association here: they're now offering discount on petrol if you buy stuff at various motor-related outlets - plus some other places.  The problem is that most of these places are ones I'd never visit; I'm just not that into automobile outlets.   My grandson might be able to name the model of any car that we see on the road (and he's only eight) but I can hardly tell one car model from another.  It's just not my interest.

For me then (and by the sound of it, a lot of other motorists) the new approach the Automobile Association has taken to discounts is a bit of a fizzer.  In the past, whenever you bought petrol you could have you AA card swiped and that would go towards a discount on your annual fees.   Now you're never sure whether swiping the card is going to be of any value: it's very much up to the AA's random system of discounting.  Some days you'll get something, other days you won't, and I think this is a huge marketing miscalculation.   The AA has lost a good deal of its kudos in the process.

So it looks as though our approach to coupons is pretty minimal compared to the US approach - it's like the size of my former bookstore compared with Barnes and Noble in total.  Minuscule!


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