Coupon Crazy

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Oh boy, another addiction on display for entertainment. This time, it's The Learning Channel's (TLC) show about super couponing. This is the newsworthy accumulation of coupons and store deals that have shoppers paying less than a hundred dollars for a thousand dollars worth of merchandise.

The show, "Extreme Couponing" repeats on January 4th and 5th, but will probably be rerun many times (based on TLC's programming history). If you get a chance, check it out.

It's hyped as, "Extreme Couponing profiles four shopaholics who use coupons to save thousands of dollars and amass huge stockpiles of goods.These shoppers go to the extremes, dumpster diving for coupons and spending hours a day searching the internet for great deals."

What is particularly striking is the desire and tension on the faces -- the build up and the release that is the hallmark of a shopping addiction. Of course, along with this comes the hoarding and the time spent (incredible amounts of time) on the activity; the failure to see any harm in it; and the passion. Along with these though, comes the idea that extreme couponing is somehow economically sound or a good idea.

That last bit is missing from most addictive behaviors. It's hard to rationalize alcoholism or drug abuse as having a good payoff or saving any money.

The actual couponers, those who treat the idea with reason and only do it to save a few dollars, are not happy with the show. They point out that couponing doesn't have to be addictive and that the show skews reality in the name of entertainment. A good read for this point of view can be found here.

The fact that there are those who participate and who don't show the addictive behavior shouldn't be surprising. Not everyone who has a drink will become an alcoholic. It's when the behavior goes beyond reason that it rises to the level of harmful.

If you do catch the show, take note of the looks on the faces when they are showing off their hoard of a decade's worth of toothpaste -- the way they recall the "deal" and relive it. Ever talk to a gambler about their "big score?" Yep. Like that.

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