I don’t know whether to classify the following as a strange way to save money, make money, or spend money, but it is definitely strange so I’ll leave it at that. I was out over the weekend with a friend trawling some yard sales. At one sale, the seller had a table set up with brand new items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleansers, cereal, shampoo, etc. still in their original packaging. I figured it was stuff she’d accumulated using coupons and by playing the drug store loyalty card games. It was all marked well below retail but at prices that would make her a nice profit if she had gotten the items for free or pennies.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen this kind of thing at a yard sale. Reselling items from a coupon binge has become a trend. What was strange, though, was the sign hanging underneath the table that read, “Cash or coupons accepted for items on this table.” Ever curious, I asked the seller exactly what she meant. She explained that people could either pay the cash price listed for the item (in most cases $0.50 – $1.00) or, if they had an unexpired, manufacturers’ coupon for the item, she would accept that instead.
As an example, she had tubes of Crest toothpaste on the table marked for fifty cents apiece. I could give her fifty cents in cash and be done with it. However, I had a coupon for $0.25 off Crest toothpaste in my file. She was willing to take the coupon in lieu of cash. I didn’t buy anything from her because I’m a little uncomfortable buying food and toiletries at a yard sale, but she was doing a brisk business in coupons and in cash sales.
At first I didn’t fully understand this payment system. Why wouldn’t she want the cash? If she got the items for free that fifty cents was all profit for her. And then I got it. By accepting coupons, she was actually increasing her profit margin. If you assume that she paid $2.00 for each Sunday paper she needed to get the coupons, that eats into her profits. That fifty cent item may net her only forty cents, or she might have to raise her price to account for the cost of acquiring coupons.
If, however, she can get people to give her coupons as “payment” for her items, she doesn’t have to pay for coupons, meaning she gets to keep the full fifty cents if someone pays cash. She can use the coupons to get more inventory for free or at greatly reduced prices (and to buy things she needs for her own use). I assume she has enough people paying cash for items that she still makes a tidy profit even factoring in the people who pay her in coupons. She had so much stuff on that table that I’m sure it averages out for her.
It was an interesting way to make money. She’s combining her coupon skills with sales. It’s also an interesting way to save money. If you’re short on cash but you have some coupons, you can go to this woman’s sale and pick up some stuff for just the cost of coupons. Of course, if you had the coupons and the time and knowledge, you could go to the stores and get the stuff free yourself, but maybe it’s easier to shop at the yard sale.
I know nothing about the legality of her little operation. Technically she is not buying coupons from anyone. People are giving them to her in exchange for items. It seems like it could be borderline, but I’m not a lawyer. If you wanted to try it, I might suggest finding out for sure if it constitutes any kind of fraud or abuse lest you get into trouble.