Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life with Fred & Lucy, Part 23: Coupon Clipper

                 Fred behind counter, Jane with customer                                                          

Back in the fifties and sixties, my father had a love for coupons. It started when he had the store. Since the supermarkets were accepting coupons, my father had to do the same in our store or lose his customers. We had lots of customers and they liked saving money, so you can imagine the amount of coupons collected over a month’s time. The only problem was that someone had to separate the coupons before Fred could mail them out to the manufacturers and regain our losses. Guess who got stuck with that job? Yep, Jane and I. As soon as Michael and Lucy were old enough, they were also shanghaied.
Every Wednesday right after dinner, Fred would place the paper bags full of coupons on the kitchen table. Then he would repeat the same instructions, word for word, that he did every Wednesday night. “Separate by company, then by product, then mark down the amount in the copy book. Don’t mess up.”
We kids hated sorting coupons. There were hundreds of stinking coupons and it took hours to sort them all. One day, the four of us devised a plan to stop the flow of coupons that made their way to us every Wednesday night. 
We started stuffing the coupons down our shirts whenever a customer handed them over with their payment. The plan was to dump the coupons down the sewer at the end of the street. We were able to dump two full bags until a neighbor caught us and told Fred. Darn snoopy neighbor!
Fred went ballistic. “Are you *&%&$#&* nuts? Coupons are the same as money. Go to your rooms.”  All four of us were grounded for a week. Eventually, the companies changed their redemption policy and it was less work for Fred to redeem his profits. We were set free!!
We were young and didn’t understand the importance of those coupons to Fred or that those coupons were paying for our clothing, school, doctor’s visits, summer camp, etc.
I swore that I would never clip coupons when I grew up, but here I am sitting at the table clipping coupons and I swear, every once in a while, I hear Fred saying, “Separate by company, then product, then mark down the amount………”

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