DEAR ABBY: I'm a 43-year-old veteran of the grocery industry. I am also an associate of one of the premier supermarkets in the country, and I disagree with your response to "Chicago Clipper" (Feb. 18)!
Coupons are a necessary evil and are graciously accepted, but they create an abundance of work for retailers. It takes countless hours of sorting, logging, filling out forms, mailing and receiving to be reimbursed for the face value of the coupon. This is hardly a benefit to the grocer.
The abuse and fraud associated with coupons adds up into millions of dollars. When a customer leaves one on a shelf for the next shopper, it usually ends up on the floor. So we now have a slick surface that someone can slip on and fall. When they are placed on an item in the dairy or meat case, they inevitably fall to the bottom and clog the drains, which causes water backups -- another safety hazard -- not to mention it's trash we must fish out. All of this takes time and money away from the associates performing our duties in a very low-profit industry.
By leaving an unwanted coupon on a store shelf for the next customer, Chicago Clipper is not "paying it forward." She's adding to the problem. So, please, folks, keep your coupons in your purse, wallet, pocket or coupon book until you get to the checkout line. -- FLORIDA BUTCHER
DEAR FLORIDA BUTCHER: Thank you for pointing out to my readers and me some of the problems coupons may create. Your sentiments were repeated by many retailers. However, other shoppers and retailers offered suggestions that may help to eliminate the problem, including: coupon exchanges, donating them to the military, posting them on Freecycle, Craigslist or Facebook, etc. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am a coupon user. I am also a grocery store employee. I constantly have to pick up coupons left by customers who are "paying it forward" or "being generous." Not only are they a safety hazard, but they make our store look unkempt. We pride ourselves in maintaining a high standard of appearance. We actually clean up more coupons than those we redeem.
Why not hand the extra coupons to your checker and ask that they be offered to the next customer? As for litterbugs who leave expired coupons laying around, every check stand is equipped with a garbage can, and an employee will be more than happy to throw out your trash if you ask. -- STORE MANAGER IN MONTANA
DEAR ABBY: I leave coupons for others, but I often go one step further. If I see someone with the item in his or her cart, I'll offer the coupon directly to that person. So far, I have met pleasant people who are happy to get a break at the cash register. I have also met people who have told me how delighted they were to find coupons on shelves. -- MARIE IN MAINE