By Quentin Fottrell
The Chattering Classes On … Extreme Couponing: The television critics have been less-than-kind, but TLC’s Extreme Couponing tied for the top-watched ad-supported cable show on Wednesday night. It follows obsessive coupon collectors and bargain-hunters, mostly women, who can knock over 90% off their thousand-dollar grocery bills even if it does mean vast stockpiles of bottles of mustard.
One of the least surprising critics: Steven Boal, CEO of Coupon.com, which limits many of its online coupons to two prints per person. Boal is not a fan of those who go shopping armed with hundreds of coupons. “Not only am I not a fan,” he tells Pay Dirt, “think about the shopping experience. Could you imagine being stuck behind someone like that in the checkout line?”
“It’s not good for stores, manufacturers or consumers,” he says. “It’s good for entertainment television.” As a provider of coupons online, what really caught Boal’s attention was how stores market products to you: “I’m less interested in the quirks of consumers and more interested in the background, how products are laid out and the operations of the store.”
Many of those on Twitter were baffled. “It’s beyond me why anyone needs 35 bottles of Maalox,” FugitiveAlien wrote. Atlanta-based bargain hunter and columnist Lauren Davidson says the coupon-clippers give consumers who use coupons more selectively a bad name, and will force stores and manufacturers to clamp down on how many coupons cash-strapped customers can use.
The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Knowles called them desperate housewives: “The show’s natural climax comes at the cash register, where a hapless check-out worker must spend hours scanning a single extreme couponer’s staggering amount of groceries and sorting through the corresponding discounts and coupons as bemused shoppers and store managers look on with the a mixture awe and repulsion.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker was slightly kinder. “Are they weird, selfish people or thrifty smarties?” he asks. Tucker lays some of the blame on the weak economy. “If, while gawping at the people who spend their lives scouring trash cans for newspaper coupon supplements, a viewer learns how to reduce his or her grocery bill for the family, what’s the harm?”
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