Different Reactions…

Sometime last year a friend from high school introduced me to a TLC (the Learning Channel) program titled, “Extreme Couponing“. I was just confused, why in the world would anyone watch a show, let alone take part in a show about couponing? Then I watched a few episodes. The show is similar to “Hoarders” another program, this one from A&E (which I think is owned by the same parent company as TLC) which introduces the world at large to people who can’t throw anything away. I think I should mention here that my brother-in-law is a certified, degree-holding Drug and Alcohol Counselor who I would love to talk to about these programs, if only we lived in the same place.

Personally, I found Hoarders to be rather disgusting and sad and actually couldn’t watch more than half an episode. “Extreme Couponing” on the other hand, I watched and watched (and watched) because I felt it really was shedding light on some serious issues in America.Here is an overview of highlights from the show:

In this next video we meet Nathan who began extreme couponing a few years ago and claims to have spent “maybe $1,000.00” on a product stockpile worth “$50 to $70 thousand dollars” and takes up the entire two car garage.

Nathan is possibly one of the few exceptions for the show, since whenever he is featured on the show, he is also shown planning and then going on shopping trips in order to donate care packages to the American armed forces oversees or to the local food bank. There many other cases from mild to severely extreme.

Here is Jenna, who can clean her house for at least a year without buying anything else. She can also likely feed her family for a year without having to leave the house…perfect for the impending Zombie Apocalypse!

Here Kelly is a working mother who gives herself insomnia because she thinks about missing out on savings:

The commute her and her husband are forced to make for work is amazing. I know the Europeans I know think long commutes are insane. Many of the people showcased on the show frequently are single-income families, many of which one of the partners was laid off or always a stay-at-home parent and the other partner was downsized or laid off completely and has had to look for another job. These people likely also have very large (American-like) cars in order to transport their big purchases. They also have to have a rather decent sized home or storage space to store their ‘stockpiles’.

Many of these extreme couponers admit to spending at least thirty hours a week to planning their shopping expeditions. They have to be extremely familiar with the stores they plan to go to and often have to go on ‘scouting missions’ to the store to make sure the layout of products has not changed. Many of these people also have at least one binder full of coupons.

So what kind of American does this? One that was likely shocked after they or their partner was laid off from a job that helped them lead a very comfortable average middle to upper-middle class lifestyle that involved a nice car and other perks. To me, these people seem traumatized by the results of their personal experience. They also seem addicted to the rush of the possibility of purchasing thousands of dollars worth of household products and food but paying the least amount of money for it. I get that these people, in part are working the system in order to maintain their standard of living but at some point it crosses the line from being ‘for the family and it’s well being’ to the rush of the deal. Perhaps some of these people used to spend their time shopping for clothes in the mall or otherwise spend their money in a way that now might seem frivolous and this provides a rather legitimate outlet for them to continue a compulsion that was already there.

This is how some middle class people are dealing with the housing crisis, the economic recession and lack of employment.This seems to be a very specific group of people because if you didn’t have reliable transportation, time to look for the deals and plan your shopping trip, or the space to store what you find – you would not be able to shop to feed your family for at least a year.

And this is how some others are dealing with it:

In my opinion,  both are traumatized and dealing with the crisis as best they can. They just seem to be at such different ends of the reaction spectrum. I find it striking.

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