Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Things I Don't Get

I turn on the TV to grade, and after a while, I'm just sitting here gape-mouthed in a combination of horror and disbelief.

There's a show about people who use a lot of coupons. And by a lot, they're talking thousands of dollars worth. Of course, it takes a lot of time, so basically they're doing coupon organization and usage as a full-time job (or more).

The thing is, they seem to have these huge storage areas, and tons of food (and other stuff) that don't seem to meet their needs. For example, one woman has a bunch of sleeping medicine that she doesn't use. But she's really happy because she saved a lot of money buying it.

The thing about this show is that the TV folks go to the store with the women (they both seem to be women, so far), and then there's this huge stressful thing where they worry about whether they'll meet some goal they've set for the day. Right now the woman is aiming to go shopping for $400 worth of food. The show is trying to build this huge drama around whether a coupon is going to work or not.

But it's not like she's getting stuff that looks great (there's a huge load of candy because there's a coupon for it), and she talks about making her kids eat breakfast cereal they don't like because that's what she has a coupon for.

But what's the point of buying stuff just to buy stuff if you aren't going to at least enjoy it? (I totally understand living on ramen or whatever if you're on a really tight budget, but these women aren't buying ramen.)

And then there's storage. How much does it cost to build all those shelves and such?

See, told you I don't get it. I want to have as little drama at the grocery store as possible. (I also make it a goal to enjoy the food I buy, and not waste much.)

That's almost an hour of grading I didn't get done. Gah.


  1. I find it useful sometimes to interrupt intensive grading or research and watch shows like this one. They remind me that I'm a very normal and balanced individual. :-)

    The show is completely insane, you are right.

  2. I just saw that coupon show the other day, too (while staying up all night to write a paper for a conference...)! It really freaked me out. Why have all that useless stuff you don't want everywhere?

  3. The same network (I think) that does the coupon show also does a show on people with hoarding disorders. I think they ought to introduce the coupon people to the hoarding people, because there is something similar going on.

  4. Anonymous6:38 AM

    Apparently they also pay money for the coupons from services. There's been some discussion on the personal finance blogosphere about whether or not Extreme Couponing is misrepresenting these folks (some do give copious amounts to charity according to Donna Freedman, a journalist who has interviewed some of the people on the show) or if it's exploiting people with psychological disorders (like Hoarders).

  5. The more channels there are, the dumber and dumber teevee becomes.

    Coupons are overwhelmingly only offered for processed foods that no one really "needs." Aside from the occasional coupon for Quaker oats or some other whole food, I fail to understand how they help families save money (because they encourage the purchase of crap the families' don't like and/or don't need) or how they help families eat better (because they encourage the purchase of highly processed foods.)

    Coupons serve the interests of food manufacturers, not consumers. That's why they offer them for "free." And, I suppose that pitting women against each other in a competition involving shopping for processed foods offers more opportunity for drama than encouraging people to plant their own gardens.

  6. I've seen the trailers for this show -- I enjoy watching Househunters -- and I'm with you. Unless you have twelve children, you can't eat all the food, and as Historiann pointed out, you don't want to eat it if you can help it.
    There are times when you can get good coupons (start of summer, you can usually get some coupons for paper plates) but most of them are not worth it.

  7. I've watched several of the shows: two or three people featured were doing big buys for donations. But a lot of people seem to have untenable hoards and that's scary.

    On the other hand, I've found some great coupons for things we really need and use thanks to some of the couponing sites getting coverage these days. I'm only using coupons on items we need and use regularly. This includes a coupon for two free pounds of bananas, three dollars off of ground beef, two dollars off of chicken and a dollar off of any veggies.

    But to be as obsessive as the people on the show with their huge stockpiles of stuff taking over their lives and for things they don't even really need? No way, no how!

  8. What a weird show! Maybe they could combine it with one of the hoarding shows...

    I wanted to give you this link, in case you didn't see this before. Because of your Poe comment today. ;)


  9. Peter5:29 PM

    On a related note, I often grade with the TV on. Funny; I can't read generally with distracting music or television, but something about the tactile elements of commenting enable me to completely shut out the distraction. And sometimes it would be too intense without the background noise, not to mention breaks every few completed papers. I'd say I do it about 15-20% of my grading sessions.

    As for the comments above about the overlap with hoarding, I'd say a big yes there, except the show doesn't pathologize this behavior--in the least. I've seen it one and a half times (once while grading) and was horrified. One woman put on full combat makeup, some pointy-heeled boots, and tight jeans, claimed people call her something like the coupon diva, and announced that if her outfit made people think she was rich (my reaction: WTF?) that was fine with her. And then she and her husband went out and bought 77 bottles of mustard (leading up to the climax at the cash register others have noted). And her husband doesn't even like mustard. She got 1200 dollars worth of groceries for 100, so if she is giving it away or selling it at 15 cents on the dollar, I suppose it's ok. But I think even at the peak of my mustard consumption, I might have bought two jars a year. Who wants to drown in that? And, yes, if you are accumulating stockpiles of the kind of food that won't decay and is offered in most coupons, it's going to be full of sodium, nitrites, sugar, and a whole brew of chemicals. I can't get high and mighty since I buy more of that stuff than I should, but it's not the major part of my diet.

    All of this goes to show how dysfunctional so many cable channels are that once angled toward a specialized purpose and could be so much more. I forget which one this is on, but places like A&E, History Channel, Travel have been reduced to things like ghost chasing and eating "bizarre" foods. I don't watch any of it much anyway, but, like junk food, I'd be better off without any of it.

  10. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Hey, don't knock Man vs. Food. Adam Richman is the bizbomb. Though Bizarre Foods is most interesting when he's not eating the bizarre foods.