The other day I got tricked by a flypaper coupon. That's a term I just made up for coupons which stick to you and coerce you into buying something because the deal is SO GOOD.
This story begins with our family inheriting an HD television. I didn't know we needed an HD television until we had one, but now that we do, I love it. Its simply more enjoyable to watch higher resolution shows and movies.
So after getting the tv, I started dreaming of a blu-ray player to really exploit its capabilities. Watching Predators in standard definition was now torturous. A taste of HD had spoiled me.
After shopping for blu-ray players for a few days, I had pretty much decided that I wanted an internet-ready model, preferrably one which was wireless. Then John Marcotte pointed out that a Playstation 3 was a pretty good solution at $299, because it had a blu-ray player built in. Additionally, Sony kept updating the PS3 software to deliver Netflix, internet, video conferencing and other features. I was sold.
And, he continued, at that very moment, the PS3 was being sold at Target with a special dual incidence of savings! Sony has apparently set the lowest allowed retail price for the 160 GB Playstation at $299, but Target had worked around that by offering a $60 gift card with purchase in the weekly ad flier. Perhaps by error, there was also a Target register coupon in their system offering a $100 gift card with purchase of a ps3.
The Fatwallet boards were humming with possibilities. This was the chance to (sort of) get a playstation 3 for $140!
I am cheap, but I've never had much luck or given much effort to using coupons. On top of that, the fervor of the Fatwallet comment boards disuaded me. Popular opinion had it that either of these offers could entirely empty out the inventory of 160 GB Playstations, and with no rain checks, it wouldn't last long.
Still, there was no harm in trying. After work I visited the new Target on Zinfandel and Folsom Blvd. This store was known for being well stocked. I went directly to the electronics department.
I didn't have the $100 gift card coupon just yet. These coupons, I had learned, were obtained at the register, when buying particular blu-ray disks. Fat Wallet had had a list of qualifying movies, and there was speculation that only every second Blu-ray disk purchased resulted in the coveted $100 gift card coupon.
While I was waiting for help in electronics, I ran into my old friend John Emery from Sutter junior high. The last time I had seen John Emery, we were both learning how to play Donkey Kong.
A quick check of the inventory confirmed my fear. They were out of PS3s. No rain checks. No need to buy a blu-ray. I was out of luck.
A few days later, the $60 card deal expired. I had missed the window, but buying a PS3 was still on my mind, and I was determined to get a good deal. Over the next few days, I bid on a few consoles on ebay, but didn't win any of them. Despite being released more than four years ago, the playstation 3 has maintained its resale value very well.
After a week without a win, I happened upon one of the $100 gift card coupons on ebay. They were still valid, expiring in eight days. One ending that day had been bid up to $30. This was good enough for me. I wasn't getting the double-killer deal, and I'd have to buy the coupon for $32, but it was much better than paying full price.
However, something went wrong. The next day, Target came out with a new flyer, and guess what? It was their Father's Day Sales circular, and they were repeating the $60 gift card special! Dammit!
I know, this seems like good news! I had accidently stumbled into a replay of the double-gift card special, and if I could act quickly, I'd be able to exploit both the $100 gift card and the $60 gift card deals. Unfortunately, I didn't have the coupon yet.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the coupon didn't show up, and the tracking number didn't reveal anything. It just noted that the post office was notified of the package on Monday. Had he really mailed it? I started calling Target stores, and sure enough, they were out of stock, waiting on a fresh delivery "soon".
"Come in the morning, right when we open", the Target salespeople advised.
On Wednesday I wrote to the seller. My time was running out. I asked when my coupon had been mailed. He didn't respond.
One scenario I imagined was that the coupon seller had changed his mind when Target published the new circular. That coupon, by one way of thinking, had increased in value by $60 right after he sold it.
On Friday, the coupon didn't come. If it didn't come Saturday it would arrive too late, a $32 expired coupon.
Just as I had given up hope, I checked the tracking number. The package was in town! It would arrive tomorrow!
Damn. Was there any chance of getting a playstation on the last day? Could any stores have any left in stock? I was going to find out.
On Saturday, at 3 pm, the coupon arrived in the mail. $100 gift card with purchase of a Playstation 3 bundle. Now I had to find one. Sure enough, all of the local stores were sold out of the 160 GB version. However, a few 320 GB bundles were still available, bundled with the PS3 MOVE, motion tracking system, for $399!
Dammit! I was caught. In order to use my precious $100 gift card coupon, and cash in on the $60 deal, I'd have to spend $100 extra, on a premium package that I didn't really want.
I didn't like it, but it was still a deal. Maybe the extra disk and Move package wasn't worth $100 to me, but it was worth $50, so why not use the coupon and bring home the deal that day? Instead of getting a $299 PS3 for the equivalent of $140, I'd be getting a $399 playstation for the equavalent of $240.
I packed the kids in the car and drove to Target. We were getting a Playstation.
One more surprise awaited me in the Electronics section. The $60 gift card deal in the circular didn't apply to the 320 GB package. It only applied to the now sold out 160 GB model. Dammit! This deal kept getting worse!
I stood in the electronics section with my head hung low. Now what? Get the $399 Playstation for $299, or just eat the $32 coupon and chalk it up to an economics lesson?
"Excuse me.. is your name Rob? Do you have a website?" It was Sid! (Dean? Damn, I am sorry I forgot your name) Cockeyed fan. He had caught me at an awkward moment, but I was happy to meet him. We talked in the aisle and I forgot about my dilemma for a few minutes.
Soon my kids were tugging at my sleeves and it was time to get out of electronics. I bought the Playstation Move 320 GB bundle for $399 and successfully acquired the $100 gift card.
I was excited to get it hooked up, but I think I was more excited that the coupon ordeal was finally over. Why didn't anyone tell me that exploiting coupon deals is like a full time job?
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