Humor by Jen Lancaster

Anyone else completely enamored with the show "Extreme Couponing"?

Not since "Deadliest Catch's" maiden voyage have I been this obsessed with a television program. Premiering around the time of my first book tour, I was so taken with All Things Crab that instead of discussing my work, I couldn't stop yapping about the unforgiving Bering Sea and Capt. Phil and how the Opies might be running.

I'd be embarrassed about my fixation now, but 10 million people tuned in for the first episode of the seventh season, so I'm not alone.

I suspect "Extreme Couponing" was originally supposed to be part of TLC's Evening of Squalor lineup since it followed "Hoarding: Buried Alive." The first special featured folks who were so obsessed with clipping coupons that they did wacky stuff like take their toddler Dumpster diving at the recycling center. Seemed like a couple of those people were but a single petrified cat carcass away from appearing on the previous hour.

To be fair, most started clipping coupons as a hedge against a questionable economy. Viewers must have connected with that aspect, and now the show's more heavily weighted towards the happy savings and less about the sad pathology of consumption.

Don't get me wrong, I always root for the couponers and every time someone snags $1,000 worth of groceries for 14 cents, I cheer like I just hit the trifecta.

Yet I'm left with niggling questions.

For example, one couponer snagged 62 bottles of mustard for virtually nothing. This fascinates me for a number of reasons, primarily being that I've had the same exact jar since I purchased ham sandwich fixings back in 2009.

More important, what on earth are they going to do with 62 mustards? I mean, if the apocalypse they're preparing for comes, are they really going to care whether or not they can smear a little Gulden's on their Polish dog?

Or is it that neighborhood kids are in for the worst trick or treat ever?

Another set of couponers had to call their friends to stand in line with them so they could break up their order to save 10 dollars and people actually came! Yet I wonder if anyone they called was all, "Yeah, busy with the day job, cheapskate. How about I just give you 10 bucks and I stay here?"

Shopping off their meticulously detailed lists can take three hours and the checkout process up to five. Eight hours! A whole workday! I don't want to lie on a tropical beach and drink pina coladas for eight hours, let alone stand in line for a lifetime supply of Grey Poupon. Plus, when I'm stuck in a checkout for longer than it takes to scan the headlines about the half-boy, half-bat on The Weekly World News, I use my shopping cart as a herding device to ease the slowpokes out of my way. How do couponers not get impatient? And how do their hundred boxes of cream cheese not spoil while they're waiting?

Do couponers ever feel guilty paying full price for produce? You rarely see huge savings on fresh stuff, so I have to wonder. (My theory is apple trees aren't as intent on building brand identity through coupons, as say, Kraft, which is why they don't offer extra savings.) Or are their diets entirely composed of processed foods?

Do couponers realize they're raising a generation of kids who'll never touch jarred spaghetti sauce or boxed pasta again?

Does anyone ever get sick from poor stock rotation? Or rickets from an unbalanced diet?

Finally, is it a rule that everyone who aggressively shops with coupons must pronounce them "cue-pons"? That's one mystery TLC should please solve.

So, even though I'm a huge fan, I wish "Extreme Couponing" answered those questions.


Everyone should buy more crab to support the "Deadliest Catch" fishermen. Even without a coupon.

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