Bag a bargain: Proud to be in the cheap seats

By Danielle Wright

Everywhere you look there's a coupon or daily deal to get something at a discount, but, asks Danielle Wright, why are we all suddenly proud to be in the cheap seats?

It's become popular to shop for deals and then brag about the bargains. Photo / Thinkstock
It's become popular to shop for deals and then brag about the bargains. Photo / Thinkstock

At Hurstmere Rd Brew Bar, a woman nudges her partner and waves a piece of paper for all to see: "We're not paying full price, let them know before you order that we have a voucher!"

It's a pretty typical scene these days. In fact, it's hard to walk into a shop or restaurant lately without someone asking if you have a coupon or witnessing someone who has just visited Groupon, Treat Me, Flossie, Ezypeezy, GrabOne, or any number of other places in a bid to save money.

I'm not alone in finding it overwhelming. Charles Crothers, professor of sociology at AUT, says: "Oh no, it complicates life far too much to think about vouchers and deals."

He, like me, is reluctant to enter into that mindset, but admits it's a sign of the times.

"Different generations have different views. In the 1960s pricing was very regimented. People worked for big industrial plants, joined a union and no one dared deviate from the standard. Goods were churned out in large quantities. Now, if you don't deviate from the standard you're thought to be strange. It's come full circle from mass produced to unique handmade pieces and we hate to throw anything out. We've gone back to a peasant society mentality.

"Bargain hunting through deal sites is to some degree about the thrill of the chase, but also it just adds entertainment value to shopping and provides an alternative shopping experience - searching for good deals online is a kind of remote window shopping," says Crothers.

Amelia Owen, manager at Takapuna's Phoenix Cosmetics says she often gets vouchers presented. "Many are from people who live a long way away, so won't be returning customers, but the vouchers we've had from Flossie.com have been really relevant and good."

One cupcake maker in the UK received 8500 Groupon orders after offering cupcakes at a loss and describes it to the Daily Mail as "The worst business decision I've ever made". Her usual 100 cupcakes a month grew to 102,000, which would have been great had she priced them to make even a slight profit.

Tony Vercauteren, owner of Superdockets, the coupons printed on the back of supermarket dockets, has been in the business for 13 years and says that in the early days New Zealanders were more reticent, or embarrassed, to turn up with a discount coupon.

"Through time, we've seen it become more of a normal, rather than an abnormal, occurrence," says Vercauteren. "The Kiwi mentality is a little reserved - we don't want to complain about a bad meal, but it's becoming trendy to be the informant telling people about deals. The embarrassment is gone."

Coupons are big business in the US: there's even a reality show on US television called Extreme Couponing, following families as they buy as much as they can, while saving the most.

It all sounds a bit crazy, but Vercauteren points out: "Discounting and coupons are just forms of advertising that have been around for centuries. It's just the format that has changed."

Vercauteren's new venture is Ezypeezy.com, which is coupon rather than voucher-based and is available to download free on your smartphone.

"Twenty per cent of all vouchers bought are never redeemed," explains Vercauteren.

Ezypeezy prevents this waste.

- Herald on Sunday

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