Hey where's my senior citizen discount? - Bob Paslay

OK, so sue me. I've given in to the coupon craze. I never paid much attention to them in the past. I bought things with mail-in rebates but seldom ever mailed anything in.

I have to admit I even tapped my foot and rolled my eyes a little in the past when some person in front of me in line started fishing out a stack of coupons.

But now I have started noticing coupons and other discounts. When I go used book shopping I make sure to go on a day when I get my extra 25 percent off for being over 55. I proudly flap out my id and say: “Hey, I'm old. Give me a discount.”

I remember when I first got a senior citizen discount a decade before I qualified and I was taken aback. I thought it was funny. But now it is serious stuff.

I got a coupon in the mail for $10 off if I bought $20 worth of merchandise at a certain office supply company. I get to go in and find bargains and then lop off another $10. Never mind that I don't need anything. The first coupon from this store I got, I found $19.99 worth of stuff and was in line and the clerk said, “You need $20 worth of stuff to use this coupon.” I panicked, so close, so close. I glanced around frantically. A ball-point pen, no it is $4. Hmm, note cards $3. Then I spied a stack of candy. One Snicker Bar and bam, I was over the magical $20 mark.

My greatest pursuit now is getting enough soft drink cups from a certain fast food restaurants to get a round-trip airline ticket. I bug people at work if I see them sipping on a soft drink in one of the cups. “Hey, you going to throw that cup away? If so, save it for me.”

And today I crossed the 40 mark. That means even if I have to go and buy 24 more soft drinks all at once it will only cost me about $36. But between buying soft drinks, bugging friends and talking people out of throwing the cup away and giving to me instead I plan to reach my goal. I even admit to seeing a cup sticking up out of the trash staring at me when I am putting my trash away. I don't pause any more than a hungry wolf would pause at a helpless little lamb. I pounce, snap the top off and let the ice drain out and pluck the golden prize from the trash. Shameless, maybe. But I don't care. I am on a mission and I am not going to stop until I get something free.

I am about to fly to Costa Rica (don't ask me why except I have never been and it is warm) and I am using 35,000 Delta frequent flier miles. So I don't get many presents any more and this present sure feels good. I get to say to myself, So even if you don't speak Spanish, even if you don't have any plans except to see a little scenery and savor some of their food, heck, the trip didn't cost that much. Getting something free is so much more fun. It takes the burden off. You enjoy it because it is free.

I know there are whole coupon clubs devoted to exchanging these little pieces of golden paper with someone who has something you want.

And there is something addictive about saving money. I was in a book store once and these people in front of me didn't have the 10 percent off card. “Here,” I said, “Use mine.” I got some odd pleasure in knowing I was saving even more money even though it wasn't my money. Does that make sense? Probably in some twisted shopping scenario.

So if I am ever at the airport and they want to bump someone for a couple of hours and give them a free ticket, I pop right up and volunteer.

We get a lot of free offers around the newspaper. But my schedule is such that I can't go and gorge on something free or see something free. I would if I could.

I like to shop but never understood the retail business. I do know that a nickel's worth of Coke and lots of ice can make a restaurant a good profit on a buck, fifty soft drink. I do know that the markup on clothes and furniture must be pretty good for them to eventually offer 60 or 70 percent off and not stay there crying as you haul it out of the store.

Once you become coupon attuned there are discounts everywhere. The Sunday paper is a treasure trove of discounts. They come in the mail. They are at the front of stores.

I admit that I am never going to get onboard on this mail-in thing. It takes too long to get them back and you probably lose the receipt before you can find an envelope and a stamp. That scam is a win-win situation for the manufacturer. You buy the item because you think you are saving $30, sort of found money. Then you don't mail it in, so they don't have to refund anything. Even if you do mail it in, it takes so long for the rebate to come back the manufacturer earns enough interest on the extra money to pay for the rebate.

So if you are unlucky enough to get behind me in line with my coupons, tough. I have discovered them and I'm not giving them up.

Bob Paslay is editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at bpaslay@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.