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What happened to paper coupons?

Posted at 8:48 AM, Oct 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-21 08:48:29-04

Joyce Riebe runs a dog rescue in her home. Each week she buys lots of dog food and laundry detergent. "Having dogs, I do a lot of laundry, and it has come out smelling nice," she said.

So she was stunned to open up the latest P&G Brand Saver insert in her community newspaper and saw no coupons. "They had what looked like coupons that are not coupons," she said.

Instead of the usual coupons she clips for Tide, Tide Pods, Downy, Bounce and Gain), there was a little box that told her to go online and register for digital P&G coupons.

"If you are not reading them closely, you don't see that," Riebe said.

Riebe says she likes to clip coupons the old fashioned way, not register for them so that marketers have her email address.

In addition, she says she struggles with her home printer and doesn't want to have to print her coupons. And don't even get her started about downloading coupons to her phone.  She doesn't want  to attempt that.

"But if you don't go onto their web site, you can't get coupons for them anymore," she said.

Riebe says she's noticed a real cutback in coupons lately in the fliers that arrive at her doorstep or in the newspaper.

She says there are a lot of ads but fewer and fewer coupons to clip. Instead, dollar store ads are taking space that used to be for product coupons.

And the coupons she does find require you to purchase more items for you to be able to use them. "They are tougher, because you have to buy more to get the same amount off," she said.

Time Magazine says paper coupons have been declining about 6% a year as brands switch to digital coupons that lead to more shopper loyalty and lets stores better track usage.

Kroger, for instance, has made a big push to digital coupons that you download onto your smartphone.

We contacted Procter & Gamble, which had no comment on the change at this point.

However, the coupon blog  posted comments from P&G's Facebook page that explained it is experimenting with new ways to deliver coupons in the digital age that better reward loyal customers.

"The value and variety of coupons will vary from month to month and even by region. P&G continuously tests ways to reach consumers and extend more valuable offers to our most loyal customers," P&G said in Coupons in the News.

Other shoppers say their Brand Saver inserts still have real coupons inside, so it appears to be a regional marketing strategy: your insert may still have them for now.

But for old fashioned coupon clippers like Joyce, the great deals are getting harder to find.