Encounters in a Bookstore #294: These Coupons Do Not Go to 11

The bookstore where I work wants your email address. You will then receive about one email from us per day, most of which aren’t worth opening. But before you decline to give it to us, just remember: some of those emails will include coupons.

A while back, one such coupon was good for 40% off an educational game or toy of your choice. Like most coupons it included very fine print, and that fine print stipulated that the coupon was only good for one item per transaction per customer.

At my store, assuming you’re nice to us, we’ll probably be nice to you. So, say, if you come in with your best friend and the coupon on your iPhone, and you want to get two sets of $60 Legos and use the same coupon for both, we’ll probably allow you to hand your phone to your friend, along with your cash, and we’ll turn a blind eye to the fact that you’re putting both purchases in the same bag.

If you walk up to the register with eleven educational toys and games, and eleven copies of the coupon that you printed (that’s fine, printing coupons is fine), and demand that we give you the deal eleven times because some cashier allowed it two days ago, and even though we may be wearing glasses, NONE OF US ARE THAT BLIND.

Naturally, the woman in question had two young children with her, and naturally some of the toys and games were for them, and naturally those kids could turn on the tears on cue. Naturally the woman also had a few items—also in need of 40% off—for her sister who lived very far from our bookstore. Naturally other bookstores honoring this coupon did not have the same nice items. Naturally the woman’s previous purchase, two days prior, had been for Toys for Tots, and since she’d been allowed to do a charitable but otherwise identical purchase then, of course she was entitled to do this now.

So we pointed out that the cashier from days ago had made a grievous wrong. We would allow her to use three coupons, and do three transactions, since there were two other people with her.

Naturally that was not good enough.

Rather than take no for an answer, the woman turned to other customers—complete strangers. “If you’d just buy this for me and use this coupon, here’s the money.” One woman almost went along with it, but then heard her husband calling and dashed away. The coupon lady turned to others. They shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot and also heard their husbands or wives calling from great distances. Eventually security asked the woman and her crying children to leave.

It may sound coldhearted to say that this did not make us feel bad. But given the reactions of most people who were present as the scene unfolded, I think you would have been right there with us. We want you to use those coupons we send. But really, we just want your email address.

Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.