To Serve and Protect

It’s on those windy autumn days, when just looking at the ice cold rain outside sends a chill to the depth of my bones, that I’m grateful we’ve managed by some miracle to keep our garage clear enough to pull the car inside.

Our garage door had opened and closed almost 20,000 times over thirteen years, far outlasting many of the other builder-installed add ons in our home, when even the most generous squirts of WD-40 would no longer silence the ear-splitting squeals of failing mechanics.  One day it refused to open at all.

Our new model came with an exterior keypad so we could open it without the ‘clicker’ by punching in a series of numbers (which I can never seem to remember).  I didn’t think we needed this feature and in keeping with my reputation for frugality, I tried to negotiate a better price to exclude the keypad.  What if rain causes a short circuit and the thing goes berserk, opening our garage door while we’re out one day?  The salesman reassured me that a protective cover on the keypad would keep this from happening.  The price was a package deal with no option to omit the external unit.

So you can imagine my dismay when I returned home last week, in the middle of a driving October rainstorm, to find the protective cover lifted and the keypad exposed.  A plastic bag containing a “Water Analysis Data Form” and a small plastic bottle had been hung from the unit.

I was alarmed by the prospect that there might be something wrong with our water.  But reading more closely I realized that this wasn’t a public health initiative.  It was a marketing ploy.

The form read like an official notice and carried a number of logos, including the Canadian Water Quality Association and the Better Business Bureau, along with instructions for collecting the sample.  A series of questions asked, ‘When was the last time you had your water tested?’ and ‘Is drinking water quality important to you?’

Looking beyond my own driveway, I could see that my neighbourhood was littered with these bags.  They were hung on garage door keypads, garage door handles and even the odd light fixture.

This kind of marketing really bugs me.

Years ago, while chatting to our neighbours we learned that they had signed up for a long term fixed price gas contract.  Debating the merits of fixed versus market pricing for gas, we quickly came to appreciate that this seemingly bright and well-educated young couple had entered into the contract with little thought.  The salesman had seemed official, and gave the impression that everyone in the neighbourhood was making the ‘obvious choice’ and signing on.  I had often wondered how these door to door companies stay in business; doesn’t everyone know to shut the door in their face?  Apparently not.  It’s not just elderly grannies who get duped.

At the very bottom of the “Water Analysis Data Form” there was a telephone number.

“Yes, I’m calling to complain about the marketing materials that your company has littered throughout my neighbourhood.”

“One moment please.  I’ll put you through to the marketing manager in charge of that program.”

Several minutes of on hold beeps gave my blood ample time to reach a rolling boil.  While I waited, I dropped the bag of marketing materials into the kitchen trash can.

When the marketing manager finally took my call, I gave her a heady blast.  I criticized the company’s marketing practices and called them unethical.  And I fumed about distribution people having the nerve to fiddle with my private property and expose my garage door keypad to the elements.

“I am so sorry!” she said.

She really sounded sorry.

“The delivery team should never have touched that.  It is most definitely not the way we want our materials to be delivered and I completely understand why you’re upset.  On behalf of the company, I want to sincerely apologize.”

Well, that really took the wind out of my indignant sails.

“I want you to know how much I appreciate you calling to let us know.  I’m sure there are many people in your neighbourhood upset about this, but it was you who took the time to pick up the phone and call us.  You see, we hire distribution companies to deliver the materials and although we give them instructions as to how this should be done, we would never know they weren’t following our instructions if it wasn’t for you.  Thank you so much for calling.”

I didn’t quite know what to say in response – you’re welcome?

“We’ve been in business for many years and have a reputation to protect.  I want you to know that we will make this right.  Can I ask your address so that I can contact the team responsible right away?”

This woman was AWESOME at her job.  In just a few minutes she managed to completely diffuse my anger and endear herself to me.  She was just the kind of authentic, empathetic and articulate person I enjoy working with and she was incredibly passionate about the company she works for.  In fact, I was so taken with her, that after I hung up the phone I reached into the trash and retrieved the flyer to look up the company name.  And I started to wonder, “Maybe we should get our water tested.”

Now, I’ve come to my senses since then.  I still think the best water out there is the stuff continually monitored by municipal water professionals that pours straight out of my kitchen faucet for practically nothing.  But I share this story because it’s an illustration of the power of fantastic customer service.  There is no more difficult job than that of the complaints department.  The people who do it really well have a special gift, and the potential to save a company from damaging word of mouth that can render marketing efforts useless for years to come.

I worry about the future of customer service in a world where it’s farmed out to faceless call centres.  It’s easy to tell when someone is reading from a script; there’s no heart baked into the words they say.  When customer issues become ‘transactions’ billed by the minute, with the objective to mark the issue closed as quickly as possible, the true nature of customer service is lost.

And marketing for these companies, gets a whole lot harder.

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I Dreamed I Won the Lottery

Yesterday, as I opened the card attached to a gift from Craig and the kids, out tumbled a “Classic Black” lottery ticket promising a top prize of $500,000. Imagine if I won!?  I couldn’t get to the cutlery drawer fast enough, to fetch a spoon and start scratching!

My brother Stephen says lottery tickets are a tax on the stupid, and I used to agree.  After all, the odds of winning anything substantial are so remote that regardless of
whether you have one ticket or twenty, they’re pretty much the same.  Close to zilch.

Back in the olden days, when I had a real job and a big salary, I almost never bought lottery tickets.  However, now that I don’t have a steady source of income I’ve found
myself buying tickets on a semi-regular basis.  How else are we going to get our hands on a cool quarter million???  We’re certainly not going to be able to save that figure in the near future.  A lottery win has become our only chance.

Plus, I now have time to buy a ticket.  In my prior life, shopping was all business.  I didn’t have time to dilly dally around, trying to choose a scratch ticket from the display case.  Even if someone gave me a scratch ticket as a gift, I could barely find time to enjoy the experience of uncovering the bingo/keno/scrabble spaces to see if I had won.

But now, not only do I need the money, but I have the time.

Although I have a fair amount of hope pinned on a lottery win in the near future, I know from my days in consumer packaged goods marketing that the odds are much better on the contests and sweepstakes offered by commercial companies.  So I’ve become quite active in these as well.  Every month, when my issue of Chatelaine arrives I flip to the ‘Have Your Say’ section in search of the question of the month and the associated prize pack.   I do my best to pen a witty response and monitor my inbox for a message containing the good news that I have won (any day now, I’m sure.)

Two years ago, the chance to win a Game Day Experience with Sidney Crosby would have been tossed in the trash with our Dempster’s bread wrapper but today the PINs pile up on my kitchen counter along with contests and offers from other products that I regularly buy, until I can find time to go online and enter them all.

A couple of weekends ago I sat down at the computer to attack this pile.

The first website I typed in was for Elle Magazine and their monthly ‘Win It’ promotion; the colour of the nail polish in the prize pack had caught my eye.  Unfortunately, the contest website address didn’t work.  Never one to give up easy, I tried going through the magazine’s main site.  Typing ‘Win It’ into the search box yielded nothing of value, nor did typing in the issue date of ‘October 2011.’  It was fifteen minutes before I was finally able to locate the contest entry screen, by which time I was convinced I would be the only entrant, given how difficult it was to find.  Diligently, I filled in the required data and pushed the ‘submit’ button, only to be met with a warning from my computer that I should think twice before going any further; the site was trying to attach cookies to my machine.  I do love cookies, but I vaguely recalled that techno ‘cookies’ were designed to function as little spies  monitoring your online activities and sending information back to the Mother Ship.  Crap!  I knew that Craig would have my head if I did anything to compromise the security of his beloved iMac, so I reluctantly aborted my quest for the nail polish.

Next, I pulled out the Rice Krispies box we had emptied at breakfast that morning.  A free $5 gas card promotion had motivated me to purchase this humungous package.  Eagerly, I tore open the carton to retrieve the unique PIN code printed inside.   This time, the web address I entered worked fine but the page gloomily declared that the promotion was over.  What?!  How old was the cereal that I’d fed my children that day?  Holding the carton at an angle where the embossed expiry date caught just enough light to become legible, I was shocked to discover that the product had been expired when I purchased it.   Now, I’m wise enough to check expiry dates on hamburger buns, yogurt and even pre-packaged deli meat, but Rice Krispies!?  Do I really have to start checking
expiry dates on shelf stable products?  I shuddered at the thought of how long it would take to do our weekly grocery shop.

Thankfully I thought, I had saved the best for last.  My latest box of Sunlight laundry detergent had contained a little instant win card that promised every PIN code was a winner, and so I held high hope for a positive experience.  In a few clicks I learned that I wasn’t a winner of one of the big prizes but I could still get a valuable coupon by continuing to enter information.  One of the pieces of information requested was the size and fragrance of the Sunlight I had bought.  Sadly, this was not on the tip of my tongue.  And so I humped my way up the stairs from the computer in the basement to our laundry room on the second floor to collect this information.  Lemon scent 64 loads, I chanted in my head on my way back down.  I proceeded to enter my name and address but hesitated when the site asked for my complete birth date.  Isn’t this a no-no?  I tried to enter just the year of birth but the site refused to process my submission without complete information.   I weighed the odds of the good folks at Unilever stealing my identity with my personal desire to have at least a measly coupon to show for the time I had spent online, and eventually entered the full date.  (Craig later tsk tsk’ed me for revealing this information and asked why I hadn’t entered a fake date of birth.  Good idea for next time.)

Finally, the site asked me to complete a skill testing question.  I’d had my morning coffee, but to be on the safe side I pulled out a calculator to do the math and then carefully typed in my answer.

“Your answer to the skill testing question was incorrect”

What?????   I used a calculator!  How could it be wrong?  I pushed the back button in an attempt to see the original question and identify the error I had made but the site wouldn’t let me get back.

With steam pouring from my ears I located the ‘contact us’ page and banged out a letter of complaint.  The icing on this bitter cake was the fact that I couldn’t find the ‘submit’ button to send my rant to the powers that be.   Arrrggghhhh!

I look back on my marketing days and regret that I didn’t spend more time pretending to be a consumer interacting with our products and the promotions we offered.  I spent so much time making sure that our communications OUT to consumers were strategically on target and legally sound, that I ran out of time to check to see what it was like for a consumer trying to engage IN.

Oooops!

Maybe the lottery is your better bet after all.

Mixing Business and Charity — A Cautionary Tale

“Would you like to add a one dollar donation to your purchase to support …children’s literacy? …feeding the poor?  …families without homes?”

I hadn’t yet been able to comprehend how a shopping trip for milk, socks and shampoo could result in a $147.82 bill (deeply regretting the tooth whitening kit I had tossed into the cart on impulse), when the cashier asked me to spend another dollar to help some of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our community.

I pride myself in being a charitable Canadian, but I always say no to these requests.  I’ll make my donations directly, thank you very much, and get my own tax receipt.  The picture that is proudly displayed in the customer service area showing the president of WalMart presenting a big cheque to his favourite charity really bugs me.  That’s not WalMart being charitable; it’s WalMart guilting its customers into being charitable!

Still, I feel a little sense of shame every time I refuse to donate, and have sometimes even tried to explain my rationale to the woman in line behind me (who probably just wishes I would stop talking and keep it moving.)

Then there’s the kid that stands outside our neighbourhood gas station every Saturday selling chocolate covered almonds.

“Would you like to help sick kids?” he says.

Who can answer no to that without looking like a heartless cad?

So one day, I broke down and bought the almonds.  $5.00 for a small box inside of which was a cellophane bag filled mostly with air.  I think I counted eight almonds in there and the chocolate could most generously be described as waxy.  Since then, I’ve made a habit of using complete strangers as human shields and avoiding eye contact
with that kid as I rush past him into the store.

However, somebody is buying those almonds or he wouldn’t be standing there.  And if I’m correct in my theory that the number of retailers soliciting donations from their customers is growing, then they must also be relatively successful in getting people to fork over an extra dollar.  After all, people want to be charitable and most of us can spare a dollar or two.

This weekend, an essay in The Toronto Star caught my eye.  The subhead read: “Buying products linked to good causes makes us feel better, but who really benefits?”

As I sat down to read it, I thought — I know where this is going; another expose on the big bad marketer.

Sure enough, the writer gave an example of a $40 t-shirt that was sold in support of a good cause.  The shopper feels like they’ve made a $40 donation to that cause and has the t-shirt to prove it, when in fact very little of that $40 goes to the charity.  The t-shirt manufacturer is really in the business of selling t-shirts and the good cause is just a means to that end.

This is (dare I say, obviously) true.  Years ago when the pink ribbon campaign was just beginning to turn the world of consumer goods pink, I suggested running a promotion with pink ribbon themed bottles of TUMS.  We already had a couple of varieties of TUMS that would fit the bill.  Just figure out where to make the donation, fill bottles with the pink hued tablets, slap a pink TUMS label on the front and you’re pretty much ready to go.  (I’m sure my product sourcing comrades are shuddering with the simplicity I’ve assumed in this process – sorry!  I’m afraid that old habits die hard.)

TUMS was such a big seller that it wouldn’t take long before even a small donation per bottle would add up to a significant dollar amount for breast cancer research.

Unfortunately, the TUMS brand management team didn’t share my enthusiasm.  I had long ago vowed not to be one of those bosses who comes up with ideas and then forces their team to mindlessly execute them…  and so the pink ribbon idea died a silent death.  But I always wished that we had done it.

I’d like to think this was because I desperately wanted to get a donation in the hands of a worthy cause like breast cancer research.  But it wasn’t.  I wished we had done it because I was certain it would sell extra cases of TUMS and generate incremental profit.  The donation was a bonus.

It never crossed my mind that the effect of my promotion might be to decrease net donations to breast cancer research!  But the Toronto Star article went on to cite studies that have illustrated something called ‘moral licensing.’  Essentially, it means that when people believe they have already done something charitable, they are more likely to let themselves off the hook when faced with a future choice of good versus not-so-good.

Picture the self righteous woman with her reusable shopping bags tearing out of the store parking lot in her gas-guzzling SUV.  If her shopping bags allow her to feel less
guilty about her environmentally unfriendly choice of vehicle, then the net effect of those shopping bags is actually negative!

I thought about this for a good long time and I wish that I could argue that it isn’t true, but something in my gut tells me it is.

On the plus side, it’s one more reason to keep saying no to those awful almonds at the gas station.

* * * * *

Consumers no longer have to watch advertising in order to see their favourite television programs and web surfers have become incredibly good at blocking out unwanted messages.  As a result, the marketing gurus tell us that social marketing is the future, and that brands need to find ways to participate in the online conversation taking place between consumers.  Well, a handy way to get conversation happening on your brand is to tie it to something that people really care about… like a charitable organization.  But this whole moral licensing thing makes it a bit tricky doesn’t it?

One example of a product that’s getting it right is Pantene, with their Beautiful Lengths program.  I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago when my daughter Taylor decided she wanted to get a big haircut and donate her hair to a cancer patient wig-making program.  What a beautiful brand tie in!  Girls are encouraged to grow long, strong hair
by using Pantene and then to donate that hair to a worthy cause.  There’s no false sense of the value for that donation; Taylor’s hair will become one-sixth of a wig.

It’s not easy to avoid the landmines inherent in mixing business and charity, but it is possible.

* * * * *

Here’s the article from The Toronto Star that inspired this post http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1070419–philanthropy-and-marketing

Here’s a link to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program  http://www.pantene.com/en-ca/beautiful-lengths-cause/Pages/default.aspx

For more information on moral licensing check this out  http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2009/04/our_moral_thermostat_-_why_being_good_can_give_people_licens.php

The Wandering Mind of a Soccer Mom — Part 2

In my last post, I described a great example of amateur sports sponsorship used to deeply engage a relevant consumer target.  Continuing on that topic….

I also award kudos to last winter’s league-wide sponsor of my eight year old son Jack’s hockey team.  At around this age our budding NHL superstars typically get their first taste of tournament play and so we were faced with the new experience of packing up our Subaru Forester for weekend-long, team trips.  Well, the hockey bag alone is humungous!  Add luggage for a family of four, a 12 pack of beer, juice boxes, snacks
and the like, along with bulky winter wear, and we were squeezed tight in a vehicle that had always been more than adequate in the past.  The timing could not have been more perfect for our league sponsor to write ‘Caravan Kids’ on the back of each and every player’s hockey jersey!

We had to admit that we were going to need more space soon, but Craig and I couldn’t imagine ourselves owning a minivan.  Maybe a nice hybrid SUV some day… but never, ever, a minivan.

Then along came plans for a winter trip to visit my Dad in Florida.  The mere thought of twenty-four hours in the car with Jack and his sister Taylor bickering and within poking
distance of each other in the back seat was more than we could bear, and so we chose the next best low cost option and flew out of Buffalo.  Once we reached Orlando, we rented a minivan in order to accomodate the four of us plus my Dad, on outings.  By some co-incidence it turned out to be a Dodge Caravan.

“Awesome!” Jack said when he saw the side doors slide magically open with the click of a button.

“I get the back seat!” said Taylor.

“I’ll sit way up here,” said Jack, taking the second row.

Not only could they sit FAR apart from each other, but the storage compartments, passenger lighting and armrests kept them occupied for what seemed like an eternity.  Meanwhile, Craig and I loaded our luggage in the back.

“Are you sure we’re not missing a bag?” I said.

Having driven to the airport in our packed full Subaru, I simply couldn’t believe that a skinny looking area behind the third row seating could hold so much.  Our hoard of luggage fit easily, with room to spare.  Craig and I giggled with glee as we settled into the luxurious captain’s chairs and oriented ourselves to the variety of gadgets within reach.  The kids were still fiddling with their cup holders as Craig accelerated through the parking garage, smoothly taking corners at speeds well beyond the posted limit.  Maybe we are minivan people!

Now if only the marketers behind our local hockey sponsorship had gone that one step further to give everyone whose son was wearing a Caravan Kid jersey this kind of experience!  How about offering an entry in a draw to win a free two year lease to everyone who brings their family to test drive a Caravan?  How about having a collection of hockey equipment and weekend luggage on hand in the showroom to illustrate the storage capacity behind that third row?  How about displaying the vehicle at the arena for a weekend so everyone going in and out could at least have an up close look?  I can think of a hundred ways to take what must have been a costly league wide sponsorship, one step closer to closing the deal.

In my years as a marketer, I never gave much consideration to amateur sports sponsorship.  But now that my butt is aching from sitting through a year’s worth of games, I realize that there are thousands of parents just like me, watching those jerseys streak by week after week.  Together, we are a captive audience that is ripe for the taking.  But companies are going to have to go further than a logo.

The Wandering Mind of a Soccer Mom — Part 1

I never thought we’d be one of those families.  But here we are, our calendar jam packed with activities.  In my working days, we had no choice but to restrict our kids’ extracurricular endeavours; we were stretched thin just getting homework, baths and daily household tasks completed.  But since I’ve ‘retired’ from corporate life, there are no such excuses.  And so this summer we look forward to many hours spent around dusty baseball diamonds, buggy soccer fields and stale-smelling hockey rinks.

The Mom in me is thrilled to simply watch the games instead of having my head buried in a laptop, looking up only when my own kid is on the field and when it sounds like something exciting is happening.  But my marketing mind sometimes wanders, and the
sponsor logo on the jerseys has caught my eye.  It’s an odd mix of logos; big corporate names like Ford and Pizza Pizza alongside the local law office and neighbourhood restaurants.

Over the years my kids have had many different team sponsors but I must admit that there are only a few I can recall off the top of my head.  Those are the ones that went beyond simply placing their name on shirts.

The best example of this was last summer’s sponsor of my ten year old daughter Taylor’s soccer team.  At our first meeting with the coach, Taylor was issued a bright yellow jersey emblazoned with the Booster Juice logo.  I had the impression that Booster Juice was being marketed with some sort of health angle and so the connection made sense — selling ‘healthy’ food to kids engaged in healthy physical activity.  But to me, the product also carried with it a black cloud.  I imagined it to be as calorie laden as one of those energy bars or the sports beverages that I refuse to let my kids drink.  I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that a kid playing and hour’s worth of soccer (at times half-heartedly) requires ‘electrolyte replacement.’

Along with the jersey, Taylor was given an information packet which contained two Booster Juice coupons.  One was a buy one get one free offer which all of the kids in the league received.  The other was distributed only to members of Taylor’s team and it
promised a free snack size smoothie if the player visited a Booster Juice store wearing her team jersey.  I might have been able to fend off pleas to redeem the buy one get one, but the freebie was impossible to refuse.

So off we went to Booster Juice, Taylor in her jersey along with her seven year old brother Jack, my husband Craig and me.  Taylor took the freebie, Jack and Craig used
the buy one get one, and I self-righteously declined to have anything.  As we waited for the blending to take place, I perused the nutrition information catalogue.  Hmmm….  let’s see.  Funky Monkey, Mango Hurricane and Berry Cream Sensation…  much to my surprise, the calorie count, sugar content and fat on the snack sizes were relatively
reasonable.

“Let me have a try,” I said, reaching for Craig’s Mango Hurricane.

With one sip I was hooked!  It was fantastically cool and delicious, and so much healthier than a trip to the ice cream shop.

Just to close the deal, Booster Juice awarded a weekly player of the game prize… another free smoothie for Taylor and of course she couldn’t go alone.  It was a chance for her entire family to fall in love with yet another delicious flavour.  I would bet that 90% of the players on our team gave Booster Juice a try that season.  From game to game we compared notes with other families and raved about how good it was.  Chatting with members of the opposing team we would often end up on the topic of Booster Juice and we would encourage them to take advantage of the B1G1F coupon in their info package.  Our entire team became Booster Juice ambassadors.

I actually can’t recall the sponsor of Taylor’s team this year; all I remember is that her jersey is pink.  But you’ll still find us at Booster Juice after the game.

I have more to say on this topic of amateur sports sponsorship, so stay tuned for Part 2 in my next post!

The Williams Family highly recommends Booster Juice!  Check it out: http://www.boosterjuice.com/

Coupon Hangups

Ever since I left my job, in a desperate attempt to maintain some of the quality of life to which we have become accustomed, I’ve been doing some fancy footwork when it comes to shopping for food and basic household supplies.

Each Thursday the local paper lands on our doorstep and I race for it, eager to scour the grocery flyers for fantastic deals.  Butter for $2.97??  I put it on the list and plan to take full advantage of the customer limit of four.  Our favourite laundry detergent for $4.97?  That’s less than half price!  And the cheese!  Every week the jumbo size seems to be on sale for less than $5.00.  Once I spotted it at an all time low of $3.97.  I can’t
believe I ever paid full price for this stuff and we’ve never had cheesier meals.

In pursuit of these deals, I’ve learned to love the discount grocery environment.  Thanks to repeated coaching by elderly Italian gentlemen, I eventually got the hang of the grocery cart release mechanisms.  FYI, those contraptions look similar from store to store, but the quarter can go in a variety of places, and that pointy thing at the end of the chain sometimes goes in and sometimes pops out when you get the quarter in place.  Now I’m a pro, and I sometimes look for struggling amateurs with whom to share my expertise.  The stores themselves were a bit of a shock at first but I’ve learned to love them in all their cardboardness.   I dance around the aisles picking up incredible deals on peanut butter, taco kits and frozen vegetables, and wonder why my fellow shoppers seem so grim-faced.  Why doesn’t everyone shop here???  Could people really be so put off by misshapen green peppers to pass up such deals?

However, I still haven’t quite got the hang of couponing.  I’ve started to think about
it lately because my kids have become captivated by the show Extreme Couponing.  They want to know why I’m not shopping with stacks of coupons and leaving the store with a cart full of goodies for just $1.54.  I tell them that the show takes place in the United States and the rules are different, which is true, but the fact is that I don’t use coupons at all.

I do clip them.  Along with my Thursday flyer ritual I pull out the coupon booklets and tear out offers for products we often use.  I even occasionally rip them out of magazines.  Then I place them in a manila envelope I keep in a basket on our kitchen counter.  But somehow the contents of that envelope only make it out of our house every six months or so when I sort through it and throw out the offers that have expired.  And each time I do this, I ask myself WHY I bother cutting them out and saving them when I NEVER use them.

Well one reason, is that I tend to forget about them.  I go shopping with a list but I never seem to take that step to pull out relevant coupons and bring them with me.  But I think the main reson I ‘forget’ to bring them, is that I have an image in my head of coupons being in the same category as food stamps.  Only the desperately poor use them. Once, in my twenties, I tried to use a coupon and was loudly refused by the cashier because it was expired.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes.  Expires September 30th.”

“But isn’t that today?”

“Yes ma’am.  It’s expired today.”

I felt the eyes of the other customers in line boring into the back of my head, heard one of them sigh deeply, and felt my cheeks turn red with deep shame.

I also remember being a busy career woman and how annoyed I felt when the customer ahead of me pulled out a stack of coupons at the last minute.  With each one, the cashier felt a need to verify that the product was indeed somewhere in the bags of purchases before she would ring it through.  That time it was me who looked at my watch and uttered a heavy sigh.

But I think I’m going to give it another go.  The other day I finally got up the nerve to
take advantage of my local discount grocer’s offer to price match advertised competitor prices.  I carefully folded the competitor flyer to the appropriate page and placed it on top of the matching item amongst all the other things on the checkout belt.  My heart began to race as the conveyor chugged forward and I held my breath as the cashier’s hand reached out for the flyer.  Would she know why it was there?  Would she have to call her supervisor to get some sort of authorization?

She simply picked it up and made the adjustment without even saying a word.  Easy peasy.  Just like that, I saved $2.47!

Flipping through my current collection of coupons I see at least twenty dollars in savings to be had.  Surely I won’t feel any sillier using them than I did a couple of months ago when I checked through with a shopping cart full of cans of soup at the hot price of 44 cents each.

Is this increase in bravery due to my current economic situation?  Maybe I’m simply reaching the age when I just don’t give a crap anymore.  Let the customers behind me think what they like…. all I see are dollar signs!