Free Butter and BBQ sauce

Well, it's been awhile since my last post. Working two jobs and taking care of a very unhappy minpin has kept me from getting back to you about my many adventures in stockpiling.

I made a big mistake a few days ago at CVS. I bought four packages of toilet paper instead of three. They have a great deal where you buy $25.00 worth of select items and you'll get $10.00 back. Toilet paper is always a difficult thing to save on, so I definitely planned to capitalize on the sale.

A thing to note about rain checks. After a sale is over, the manager or cashier has to manually enter the price of the item into the computer. They'll also have to manually enter the amount of coupons you're using into the computer. So you can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the cashier didn't enter the correct amount off for the Cinnamon butter. The conversation went like this:

Me: I'm not that great at math, so what's 8 x $1.50?

Cashier: ::smiles:: types in $6.00 into the register and leaves ( I was at the self checkout).

Me: Umm, excuse me I believe 8 x $1.50 = $12.00..

Cashier: ::frowns, gives dirty look:: and enters another $6.00 off into the computer.

My friend and I had some major issues last night. She didn't get her $3.00 catalina and I found out as soon as I got home that the idiot cashier didn't enter the correct amount for the BBQ sauce either.

Lesson of the day? ALWAYS check your receipt before you go to the store. I can't tell you how often I'll go to the store and end up losing out on some hard earned $$ because a sloppy cashier didn't give me a discount. Don't feel intimidated by the cashiers, I can't emphasize to you enough that 9 times out of 10, you probably know a lot more about the coupon policy than the cashiers themselves.

P. Manolos

No Escape

I got angry at the dog today. I yelled at him and told him to get in his crate. I don't think he's ever seen me so angry. After cooling off, I wanted to give him a hug.

No. such. luck.

He wouldn't budge from his cage.

I've learned my lesson- never get mad at a dog who loves you and won't leave home even with the backyard gate open for a week. It's not worth it and I can't bear the thought that one day he could walk out the door.

There's no such thing as bad dogs. Just bad owners.

P. Manolos

Coupons 101: Coupon Fraud

At approximately 3AM this morning, I thought about coupon fraud while I was vomiting over my toilet. You know, praying to the porcelain gods.  Tossing my cookies.  Actually, my first thought was what the hell was I thinking when I decided eating two boxes of Totino's pizza rolls (they're on sale right now for 60 cents each w/a coupon at Giant Eagle so I bought two today). Being the greedy, twenty-six year old I am, I ate both boxes in the course of one hour. This happened before I started watching Keeping up with the Kardashians and after I read online that Totino's pizza rolls contain a ton of trans fat.  At first I was full, then I turned green, and then unlike my alarm clock this morning, my stomach woke me up to play a rousing game of toss the rolls back into the toilet. What the hell possessed me to eat both boxes in the first place? More importantly, why the hell did I let myself eat them all in one sitting? Not only did I get violently ill, I found myself experiencing an epiphany good enough to share with all of you. 

Too much of a good thing, is definitely bad.

Yes, there are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, too much of a good thing is definitely bad. That's where coupon fraud comes in. Part of my disgust with Extreme Couponing are the acts of coupon fraud shown on national TV. Coupon fraud, in my opinion, happens when people want to get more than their fair share and take advantage of the flawed system to do so. They are taking advantage of a good thing (coupons) to achieve bad results for everyone else. Let me explain some basics before we get into walk down the techie brick road known as coupon fraud.  

Thanks to for the pic, I couldn't find one on google...
Anatomy of a Coupon:

Small black print- These are the terms of the agreement between you and the manufacturer. You, the store, and the manufacturer are entering into a contract. You promise to buy the right product, the manufacturer promises to give you a discount and the store is promised by the manufacturer to get the face value of the coupon AND 8 cents extra for shipping costs. Limit 1 coupon per transaction means that you can only use one of their coupons in a transaction. So if you want to buy two boxes of Similac, you'll need to split your transactions. 

Bar Code- This is what the cashier uses to scan into the computer. The computer contains the store inventory and matches the coupon with what you've got in your cart, as well as letting the store keep track of coupon redemption. The barcode on the left is an old-style traditional barcode all of us should be used to, the other barcode is a much more sophisticated version stores are just beginning to use. Not to get too techie, but this barcode gives much more information than its predecessor. Try to buy Similac regular with this and that computer is going to beep at ya. Why? Because it's the wrong product. 

Bar Code Numbers- These numbers correlate to the product in the picture. If something is wrong with the scanner, the cashier is able to type in the numbers. 

Ok, so here's where the fraud comes in. Sophisticated couponers are able to tell from the bar code numbers whether or not a coupon will double. I can't help but scratch by head when manufacturers write "do not double", but then use a sequence that the computer will automatically double anyways. 
Typically, bar code numbers starting with a "5" will double.  I'm not going to go any further on this issue.

Here is where the fraud comes in. To get more than their fair share, many couponers will use the wrong coupon for the wrong product. How is this so? Let's go back to the Similac example. There's Similac advanced and Similac regular (I'm taking a wild guess, I have no children so I wouldn't know for sure). With all manufacturer product lines, the regular product tends to be cheaper than the "new and improved" or advanced product. So what many unscrupulous individuals will do is use the coupon for the advanced product to purchase the regular product. This often happens when a sale+ bad coupon= free.  The computer might not beep because the product code is a reference to a family of the manufacturer's product (family in this sense means the code is similar enough to other product numbers in the manufacturer's line that it won't beep). For the most part, the computer will beep and often the poor, unsophisticated cashier will just push it through at the insistence of an irate customer. They only glance to see that the picture kind of looks like the product and to read the numbers to push the coupon through. 

I hear what you're saying, "So what's the big deal right? Who cares if someone uses the wrong coupon!" Everyone should care. Even those who don't use coupons should care because when someone commits coupon fraud,  everyone loses. 

The store loses because they can't get reimbursed for a product they didn't sell. They have to show proof to the manufacturer that they sold the product within the guidelines set by the coupon. When you have someone who purchases 100 bottles of detergent for free using a bad coupon, that's a lot of money the poor store isn't going to see. 

Consumers lose because the store will recoup the cost from your wallet. They'll raise prices or no longer offer the promotional deal because someone decided to screw over the system. Couponers definitely lose because the boss will yell at the cashiers and the cashiers will be more reluctant to take coupons. Manufacturers get pissed and they'll stop issuing coupons for the product or they will reduce the value of the coupon and set up draconian limitations (ex. P&G's "Like four coupons per shopping trip"). 

People have even gone to jail for coupon fraud: 

So what can you do to prevent coupon fraud? Read your coupon carefully. Don't use expired coupons or coupons for the wrong product. Call others out on fraudulent behavior. If you see someone ahead of you in line using coupons incorrectly, get the balls to go up to the cashier and tell her that she's using the coupons incorrectly. The cashier will thank you for your honesty, but the customer will probably want to fight you. Well, they probably won't because in my opinion coupon frauders are whimps. 

P. Manolos

My Stock Up List- Top 5

Hi.... I'm P. Manolos and I don't practice what I preach..

Well, not all the time anyways. 99% of the time, I do exactly what I say I'm going to do.... Remember how I told everyone to have a list of stock up items organized by aisle, shelf price, sale price, and rock bottom price?

I haven't done it (shields face from flying rotten tomatoes). I've been so wrapped up in getting caught up with my clipping (the stack doesn't look so bad right now, thank GOD it's a holiday weekend). So here's some of my top 5 stock up items with prices.  (BTW- No coupons in the paper this Sunday, it's a holiday weekend, so take the time to have fun with the fam!)

Try to make your own stock up list and keep it with you at all times. It will help you save tons of money, not to mention it will keep you busy for a few hours if you've got time to kill. You should come up with more than five, but I'm tired and it's late so I'm only sharing 5 today.

P. Manolos' Top 5 Stock Up Items w/Prices

1. Laundry Detergent- Does anyone else besides me think it's creepy that I really really love laundry detergent. I feel so barren only having a dozen bottles in the stock closet. I'm waiting with abated breath for a sale on Wisk in the next four weeks. I think the All coupon that was just released stinks ($1.00 off wth?) so I'm gunning for a good sale on Wisk, hopefully snagging some 28+ loads at $1.50 each.

Let's chat about brand loyalty for a second while we're on the subject of laundry detergent. I've got something else to tell you, but I feel like this will feel as good as when you first found out Santa Clause wasn't real. You know all those laundry detergents? You know how everyone has their "favorite" detergent. Well, sit back in your chair because this will rock your world.

It's ALL THE FREAKIN SAME. Yup. EXACTLY THE SAME. Manufacturers don't want you to know this. They love it when people develop an affinity for a brand because then they can overcharge you and you'll just fall for it because it's your favorite brand. Do you know who makes Wisk? What about All detergent? Ummm the same damn company that's who. If you go on All's Facebook page, guess what? They freakin LIKE Wisk.  Different fragrance... yes, but that's all your paying for and frankly I don't think it's worth it.

Shelf: $6.99/ Sale: 3.99 /Stock Up Price: $1.50 (Remember, all of the stock up prices factor in coupon use.)

2. Feminine Products- Um.. who the hell wants to pay full price for this stuff? I can always get pads on clearance or combine coupons with the target $5.00 gift card deal and they're always almost free.

Shelf: around $5.00/ Sale $2.00/ Stock Up Price = Free up or up to 50 cents

3. Deodorant- Deodorant is always almost free. My supply closet upstairs is fully stocked with deodorant. I don't really have a preference yet, I just want to smell good.

Shelf: $3.50/ Sale: $1.19/ Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

4. Toothpaste- Remember that rule where I told you don't be brand loyal because good deals come in all shapes, sizes, and manufacturers? Well... I really, really love Colgate Total. My mouth feels so clean and happy after I brush with the stuff. My dentist always passes out travel size Colgate Total toothpaste every time I go in for a visit. It's always on sale. That being said, toothpaste is ALWAYS FREE. If you are out of toothpaste, come by because I have 50 tubes of toothpaste in my closet.

Shelf: $3.00/ Sale $1.00/Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

5. Floss & Toothbrushes- The manual toothbrushes are always free. Floss by Reach is always free with a coupon.

Shelf: $1.75/Sale $1.00/Stock Up Price = Free or up to 50 cents

Well, I'm off to bed. I had a long day at work and then spent the rest of my day babysitting two rambunctious nieces.  Ahh, sweet exhaustion.

P. Manolos 

My Dirty Little Secret...

Cleaned up at  Giant Eagle $19.50 baby!
I love cleaning supplies. That being said, my house is a damn shame. Haven't cleaned up since my last post where I woke up in the middle of the night and scrubbed the entire kitchen from top to bottom. My cleaning supply closet looks pristine. Nothing has been touched since I put stuff in there.

Hoarding issue came up a second time for me this week. A friend of mine mentioned that my habits can be perceived to the outside world as hoarding. I mean, who needs six bottles of cleaning liquid (like the umm... ones in the pic..)

It's how I save money (and hopefully you will too). Like I said in a previous post, every time I go into my supply closet to use something, I write down how much it would cost me if I ran out and bought the item at full price. I won't purchase any cleaning liquid until mid 2012. If I'm tempted to do so, I just invite all of my friends over for a little shopping in the supply closet. They take away my stuff I don't want or can't use, and I get the satisfaction of helping someone I care about.

What's better than helping out a friend? Perhaps me getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Cleanin' Up Shop,

P. Manolos

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