If you use coupons with any regularity, I’m sure you’ve had run-ins with the people I call “coupon huffers.” These are the people who get behind you in the checkout lane and then huff, tap their feet, and practically climb over you in their impatience to check out. Your transaction is taking too long, they think, as the cashier scans your coupons and manually enters the ones that don’t scan. Heaven forbid the cashier has to call over a manager for an override. That sends a huffer ballistic. Huffers may mutter things under their breath like, “Come on, you’re not saving anything,” or, “This is just ridiculous.” If you’re like me and you have a lot of coupons, it only makes things worse.
I used to get intensely uncomfortable when a huffer got behind me. I’d think that maybe I was somehow really inconveniencing them. I’d get nervous and flustered and think that maybe I should stop using coupons to be more fair to those in line. Many years later and I realize that was a stupid way to feel. Coupons are put out there for us to use. Stores accept coupons. Therefore, I’m within my rights to use them. Other people have the same opportunity. That they choose to huff instead of clip isn’t something I can do anything about. However, if huffers bother you, I’ve got a few strategies for dealing with them, politely.
Offer them a coupon
Sometimes I’ll glance into a huffers’ basket and see that they have an item for which I have a coupon that I’m not going to use. I’ll say something like, “I see you’re buying General Mills cereal. I have a coupon for $1.00 off if you’d like to have it.” Most of the time they’re so flabbergasted by the gesture that they forget to huff. Most people are actually grateful and take the offering. Some decline, but almost always with a smile that says, “Gee, I was being ridiculous, wasn’t I?” It’s a way of diffusing their frustration with kindness.
Let them go ahead
If the cashier hasn’t started ringing me up yet and a potential huffer with just a few things gets in line behind me, I’ll ask if they want to go ahead. I’ll wave my stack of coupons to show them that if they decline, they’d better be prepared to wait. Most accept and say thank you. If they decline, well, I warned them.
Direct them to a self check or open lane
Sometimes when a huffer is showing signs of being really impatient or rude, I’ll casually mention that there is a self-checkout stand open, if they’d like to use it, instead. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in huffing, they honestly don’t realize that other lanes are open. If I point out an open lane and they continue to huff, they’re got no one to blame for the wait but themselves.
Mention your savings
If I have a huffer behind me, particularly one muttering about how ridiculous this is or how little I’m saving, I’ll make sure to turn and smile sweetly and say, “Wow, I just saved $93 on that order. That’s great.” At some stores, the cashier will announce this for you. I enjoy watching the huffers’ jaws drop. Most huffers truly do not understand the savings to be had; they think they’re being held up for twenty-five cents. I’ve had more than one huffer reform after learning my savings. Some even apologize and congratulate me.
You are certainly within your rights to use coupons, so no apology is ever necessary. However, sometimes a huffer can be diffused with a quick, “I’m sorry this is taking so long. The computer must be slow today,” or some other bit of polite nonsense. The huffer may still be mad but at least they may quiet down, or they may smile and say, “It’s okay.”
Thank the huffer
If I’ve got someone behind me who is huffing a little bit but clearly building to a full on huff, I’ll turn and say something like, “Thank you for your patience. It shouldn’t be much longer.” It usually gets them to calm down a bit and prevents an all out huffing fit.
Don’t get confrontational
I once saw a woman actually turn on a huffer and cuss him out. Granted he was being ruder than most and making obnoxious comments at full volume, but it’s not worth starting a war over. In this day and age, you never know when someone will snap and shoot you. No coupon savings are worth that. Just ignore it, let it roll off, and move on.
Ask for a manager
If someone is getting really confrontational with you, wave over a manager or store security. Let them handle the huffer.
I don’t think that most coupon huffers are bad people. Maybe they’re in a hurry or having a bad day. Maybe they just don’t understand how much money can be saved and why it’s worth it to us to use coupons. Whatever the reason, most huffers can be discouraged with a bit of kindness or a polite acknowledgement of their situation. Those that can’t are best left alone or turned over to management. You aren’t obligated to placate a huffer, but it can make the checkout experience a lot less stressful for you if you can get them to calm down.