Today is senior citizen day at Publix. Are you surprised? Senior fucking citizen day.
So I never remember senior citizen day at Publix until I am in Publix. I should remember because it’s every Wednesday. Its not until I am through produce that I notice there are a lot of elderly couples at the store and there are a lot of carts left unattended in the middle of aisles with old lady purses in them. It is only until I get to the cereal aisle that I say to myself “motherfuck. Its Wednesday, isn’t it?”
Today I arrived at Publix to buy two things. I bought a bunch of flat leaf Italian parsley and a pint of heavy whipping cream. My total was $4.65.
Checking out is always fun on fucking senior citizen day because senior citizens come in pairs. Apparently when you get old and your faculties start to go you need your life partner with you at all times to pick up the slack. Either that or its like that old people dating site “Our Time” and they feel they spent the last 50 years of their marriage “apart” so now they need to make up for lost time by pissing everyone off around them. I have actually explored this with my mother, she told me, as my father gets older he has gotten more clingy to her and can’t do anything by himself. Maybe it’s the drop in testosterone? Maybe I don’t give a fuck.
I got in checkout lane 10 right behind some wandery woman with a notepad and an open purse. She didn’t have a cart but she was old and old people ask a lot of questions, so I assumed she was going to ask the cashier where the soup aisle was or something. She looks at me, gives me a tight smile and MOUTHS “my husband” and points to some vast space beyond my vision. I walked away.
I got to the next aisle, Rich was checking out a couple of old people and he looked like he was finishing up. Rich is a nice guy, but I really don’t have the patience for him. Yo, fucking….I didn’t go to Publix for two months because of school and Jared was going or I was going to Teeter, I show up during finals week and he hugs me. Like we’re old pals. He bags my fucking groceries. What’s Publix’s motto? The friendly place? Where you can get sexually molested and pay 10% more for groceries? We got fried chicken? I really don’t know.
These people in front of me had two carts. It’s not a holiday, they didn’t have kids around them, what are these two people in their 70’s doing with two carts of groceries? He finishes checking them out. Apparently they had quite the rapport during this transaction because Rich keeps pausing between looking up their bags of green onions and their boxes of Triscuits to tell them jokes. All I want is to pay for my parsley and heavy whipping cream.
The she pulls out a baggie of coupons. I notice that the bagger is still trying to bag all 15 jars of their peanut butter. Rich dutifully scans each, and every one, of their coupons. They saved $17.37. For fucking $17.37, I will dig out the change from my bag and give it to them just to get them out of the store faster. I understand why the elderly use coupons, fixed incomes et cetera. But I’m also on a fixed income, its called a salary.
I don’t understand the allure of coupons. I mean, critically, yes, you can essentially pay $0.10 less for a can of hairspray than someone who didn’t spend an hour of their time hunting down the coupon and cutting it out and then remembering when to use said coupon thus pissing everyone off because sometimes the coupons don’t work. Or worse, you have to buy two of the same product in order for the coupon to be valid so you send your spouse or child back to the aisle to pick up another can of hairspray while you smile tightly to the people who already have their shit on the thing and are committed to being in this aisle and say “he’ll be right back.”
Being a small business owner I am constantly doing math. Simple math, relax. For instance, if I charge $100 per hour for my time that means that I am able to bill up to $2400 per day. Sometimes if I don’t take my medication, that actually happens. Let’s say I sleep for 6 hours, mealtime’s equal about 3 hours, 2 hours a day for miscellaneous things, that takes about 11 hours leaving me with 13 billable hours. The hard cost of a Sunday paper is $1.50. But let’s take into account gas and mileage to wherever I am going to buy this paper because I do not have a subscription to the daily newspaper. Let’s say it costs me another $1.50 in gas and mileage to get the paper and that’s if I don’t buy anything else. So we are up to $3. I am going to leave out the snarky comment about the Post and Courier and just say I get my news elsewhere, so the sole purpose of buying this newspaper is for the coupons. I am spending money to be advertised to.
Let’s say it takes me an hour to get through all the ads and cut out all the coupons, that brings my billable hours down from 13 to 12, and lets say round trip to buy the paper was another 30 minutes, so 11.5 hours. Now I have to make my weekly shopping list to accommodate all the coupons I clipped, factor in another hour for that. 10.5 hours.
What if I need to buy multiples of things in order for the coupon to work? The purpose of a coupon is not to make you save money, but it’s a way for you to betray your brand loyalty and try a new product. Do you think Johnson and Johnson really cares enough about you to have you save $0.15 on a bottle of shampoo? They don’t, they want you to try theirs and be utterly convinced that its superior to Proctor and Gamble’s shampoo and you will buy J&J’s shampoo at full price next week. It’s the whole “you have to spend money to make money thing.” Another way that corporations get you to spend more money is by convincing you to “stock up.” It’s why the old people in front of me bought 15 jars of peanut butter. That peanut butter will turn rancid (or they will die) before they eat it all and even if it was $1/jar, that’s $15 out of their pocket and into Publix’s.
Alright, I got my list, I am at the store, taking into account gas and mileage to my Publix, we will factor in another $1.50. The reason I am accounting gas and milage into this budget and not into another budget is because coupons expire, so I am assuming that I will need to make a special trip to the store to use them. Let’s also consider that sometimes not all coupons work at all stores, for the sake of this argument I am assuming that I will only go to Publix, but in reality I may end up at Earth Fare and Harris Teeter as well. Especially since I will only buy meat at Earth Fare or Whole Foods. But that’s for another time.
A lot of times when things are on sale, the shelves go empty and you have to flag someone down and have them look in the back, or give up. Both of these things take time. An average shopping trip for me is about 25 minutes. The reason it is 25 minutes is because I know there are some aisles I don’t go down and I know where the stuff I buy is so there isn’t a lot of wasted time. In the event that I were to use coupons I would have to find the items. So let’s say, for the sake of round numbers and arguments that I am using 15 coupons on my shopping trip for 15 new products I wouldn’t normally buy making my shopping trip 20 minutes longer bringing it to 45 minutes.
Coupons are usually for new products that are more expensive to begin with. For instance, if you usually spend $10 on a package of five razors, and you get a coupon for new razors at $2 off but they are also $10, but there’s only three, you are spending more even though it seems like less. One other way to look at this is that the new razors may have new technology thus making them last longer, so it actually could be a wash.
It’s time to check out, factor in an additional 5-10 minutes for coupons, also there is a lot of fine print, so you may not be able to use some of them anyway.
Where we at?
$4.50 hard cost
And about 3.5 hours billed at $100/hour for a total of $354.50 just to use coupons. Let’s say you save $10 using coupons ignoring that you may have purchased an inferior product or more product than you actually need that you will now have to store, your actual cost is $345.50.
I don’t use coupons not because it makes no sense fiscally but because I can’t get a coupon in the Sunday paper for produce or meat, only flyers which are free at the entrance of the store.
Anyway…Yeah…Senior citizen day.