Today we're going to hear from Caroline (aka hippibilly from the forum), who has been couponing off and on for 14 years. She wrote a great post over on the forum a few weeks ago about writing to ask companies for coupons and as soon as I saw it I just knew that I had to get her in the Spotlight! Caroline has a TON of tips for us, so be sure to click "Read More" to see the whole Spotlight. Now take it away, Caroline!
Every household's idea of a good deal is different and I'm going to let you know now, that I consider a savings of 50% to be extremely successful. I don't shop for groceries anywhere except Publix and I am EXTREMELY brand loyal. Because of that, it takes a little extra work for me to consistently achieve a savings rate of 50% off, but the extra work is worth it to me. I heavily utilize the coupon database on this site to search for odd-ball coupons for products that I enjoy. I also regularly contact companies regarding products that I always buy to ask if they offer coupons.
When I was growing up, my Mamma always contacted companies of the products that we used. Sometimes it was to provide positive feedback, sometimes it was to alert them of a problem, sometimes she received new products to try and provide feedback for. She always stayed in close contact with brands that we regularly used. I was just a little girl then and Mamma would always let me go to retrieve the mail from the box. It was always so fun to see what goodies the mail carrier brought. Mamma was a savvy consumer and an overall thrifty homemaker. She knew herself and instilled in me that companies WANT your feedback. They have to pay to get information that you could supply them for free. Nine out of ten times, they will reward you for contacting them for any reason whatsoever.
In the interest of helping any folks that are new to couponing or any folks who have yet to pick up the phone or tap out an email to their favorite brands, I'm going to share some of my experiences and information about contacting companies, with specific emphasis on asking them for coupons.
The week before last, I spent an hour contacting companies via email or the web form on their site and I'm already getting goodies in the mail box. I went through my cabinets and fridge and wrote down several products that I never see coupons for and contacted each one to ask them if they ever offered coupons. When I first went to their sites, I made sure that they didn't already offer a printable coupon and if they had any special sign-ups that stated "sign up for special offers and promotions," I signed up. When I didn't find a printable coupon on the company's website, I wrote them. I contacted twelve companies on March 1st, 2011. As of March 17, I've received an email response via email from nine of those companies and I fully expect to hear from the other three sometime soon.
Of the nine that wrote me back, eight have sent or are sending me coupons via the postal service. Only one company wrote me to kindly tell me that they wouldn't send anything (but they did provide me with useful links to sign up for promotions for several companies that I didn't know offered sign-ups...not too shabby!).
To determine which companies you should contact, think about what your household regularly uses but never gets coupons for. Do an internet search for the brand, and then contact them via a provided contact form or a provided email address. Some companies have phone numbers on their packaging, but personally, I would only use that number if I had an immediate concern..if I am just asking for coupons, I take the small amount of time to write them. Here are some tips:
Be pleasant, clear and concise. Use spell check. Watch your grammar and make sure that it reads well. If you are unsure, have someone else in your home read it aloud to you. Be as brief as possible. Short comments probably get priority and it frees up more time to write more companies. I write a few very short paragraphs. This is my method:
- In the first paragraph, I offer greetings and immediately thank them for the quality of their product. Be specific...example: "I want to thank you for the quality of your Brummel and Brown spread." The way I see it, you've got to give to get. That's why I always brag on the company and offer tips or otherwise tell them specifics about how I use their product when requesting coupons. You could also add something to the effect of: "Brummel and Brown spread is superior to all other brands on the market," but only say that if it's how you feel..don't lie to get a coupon. I also give them specifics of WHY I like their product so much...example: "Though I also use real butter, Brummel and Brown is my favorite spread for rolls and English muffins because I like the texture, creaminess and tanginess"...I do this because I think that it is important to show the company that you have knowledge of their product and appreciate what makes it different from other similar products available.
- In the second paragraph, I tell them how much of their product I use in a typical week or month. I feel like doing this might compel them to give you coupons because they will realize that you ARE a loyal customer and you've spent a good deal of money patronizing their brand. This is optional, but also in the second paragraph, I tell them about any recipes or other uses for the product....example: "I love to use Whitehouse vinegar to remove musty odors from my camping supplies" or " I use Newman's Own vinegar to make a mean balsamic pork tenderloin." I figure that it can't hurt to tell them this info. In rare instances, they might contact you asking for the recipe or the tip. You could be published or get a reward besides coupons if they really like your idea. I even offer marketing ideas sometimes. I told a vinegar company that they ought to have an Earth Day promotion that touts the use of vinegar in lieu of chemical cleaners. The way I see it, it doesn't take me much more time to offer up a marketing idea and if they use my idea, that's more coupons that will be in circulation!
- In the third paragraph, I ask them if they ever offer coupons. Be specific, ask about the particular brand, not the company that makes the brand. For example, if you are contacting Kraft about Claussen pickles, ask about the pickle coups, not Kraft coups. If I've never seen a coupon for their product in the Sunday circulars, I tell them so. That way, they know that's my primary source of coupons and they might decide to start offering them.
- Immediately after asking them about coupons, I write a short fourth paragraph where I thank them again for their product, thank them for their time and attention, and I wish them a pleasant day.
These companies have privacy policies. Be SURE to include your first and last name, email address and mailing address. If they are going to send coupons, they have to know where to send them. If you are using a web form, that info may or may not be required; if it isn't required, supply it anyway. If you are contacting via email, you can put your mailing address at the top or bottom of the message. You might look up how to write a business letter if you've forgotten....(like me..ha!).
If you are in the unfortunate position of writing a company because you are displeased, say something positive about the product before and after you tell them (VERY SPECIFICALLY) why you were displeased. Example: "My family loves your brand of frozen vegetables and I depend on your brand to offer the highest quality frozen vegetables on the market, but I was recently displeased because the last bag I bought had grass clippings in it". Be very honest and if you are contacting them to complain, make sure you have all of the info from the packaging and you know where and when you bought it. If possible save a sample of the problem item in your freezer. I recently had an issue with a chicken stock with what looked like foreign vegetable solids in it. I called the company and they asked me if I would be willing to freeze a sample. They sent me a postage-paid collection kit to send them the sample...(along with free product coupons, of course). I was happy to do it, because I really like the brand and I wanted their lab to identify the problem and eradicate it. When you are willing to do this, they are probably more generous with you, too. If it is a bad problem...(recall worthy) you could be a hero!
Really think hard and creatively when you are coming up with a list of companies to contact - because it doesn't have to be a product that you find on your grocery store shelves! My next project will be to ask companies for coupons for other things that we use around the house like plant seeds, WD-40, motor oil, maybe even guitar strings! Every company has coupons. I can't say that every company is free-wheelin' about giving them out, but some of the coupons I've received from companies were printed especially for me. Sometimes sending a free product coupon is the only way to appease a consumer that had trouble with their product, so most, if not all companies are able to send coups for money off or free product.
I firmly believe that if a company or brand is doing something right, they deserve to know about it. The way I see it, if they were doing something wrong, I would CERTAINLY contact them, so why not let them know when they are doing something right? This is especially true in the case of chain restaurants. It is not always fruitful, but when I have an extraordinarily positive experience at a chain restaurant, I write their corporate office and reference the particular location where I received such great service/ food. It makes me feel good, it lets them know that they shouldn't change because they are on the right track, and of course, I've scored some free meals by doing so. I also contact Publix to brag on my local store from time to time. My local Publix is good to me and I do not want them to change.
Finally, if you smoke, DO NOT smoke without coupons. Almost every company has a 1-800 number on the pack. Call that number and ask for coupons. It takes a little time and they will need a lot of personal info such as your government id number or last 4 digits of your social. This is to confirm that you are of legal age to smoke. You will probably have to do a survey over the phone. I called Parliament and I'm now on their mailing list. They gave me the option of receiving coupons for packs or cartons. These companies want you to keep smoking, it is no skin off their hide to send a few savvy shoppers some coups. They mail very quickly after you contact them, too.
I hate to get preachy, but please be honest with the companies you contact. Don't file false complaints or lie and tell a company that you love their product just because you heard that they mail high-value coupons. If the system gets abused, these companies will ignore our communications and no one will benefit.
I hope that my information helps someone! A lot of folks that are new to couponing haven't yet learned to contact companies. It can be fun and rewarding. I love getting cool stuff in the mail. Happy Couponing!
Thanks so much for sharing all this info, Caroline!
In order to keep the Reader Spotlight feature going, you all are going to have to volunteer to tell us about something YOU do when you are couponing!! Your post can be about almost anything to do with couponing. You can tell us about a particularly good or bad situation you’ve dealt with as a couponer, about how you got into couponing or how couponing has impacted the rest of your life, you can make a list of things every new couponer should know…just about anything, really! If you think it’s interesting and it has to do with couponing, email me with your idea at contactiheartpublix @ gmail.com!