Shopping: The agony and the ecstasy

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I’ve been diligently couponing for the past few months. But let me tell you, not every day is like an “Extreme Couponing” episode.

In fact, most days are definitely not. But I am saving a lot of money when I match coupons up to store sales, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to shopping blindly again. I pay a lot closer attention to emails I receive from stores and brands now, as well as couponing blogs that take the guesswork out of smart shopping.

The regular prices for the Cheerios and Maybelline mascara alone would've cost me more than I paid for this entire order yesterday./All photos by Ava Gacser

Take my trip to ShopRite yesterday morning. I scored 4 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios (12.25 oz), 2 Lysol toilet bowl cleaners, 3 Suave deodorants, 2 Maybelline Great Lash mascaras, 1 bag of chips, and 3 newspapers for just $21.13 after coupons! And that’s not counting a $2 Catalina coupon I received upon checkout for a future order!

From there I went to yoga and then to Wegmans, where I was super pleased to run into these fellas:

Now appearing at your local supermarket: The brothers Manzo!

Yes, you’re seeing straight: Chris, left, and Albie Manzo – sons of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Caroline Manzo – stopped by Wegmans in Princeton yesterday to promote their new drink, Blk. The guys have been on a *tour* of the Garden State visiting assorted supermarkets to get the word out about Blk. (For the record, the drink is actually dark in color, but the sample they gave me tasted just fine!)

New Pier 1 glasses, meet Skinnygirl Sangria!

Unfortunately for them, I was soon distracted by a display of very reasonably priced ($13.99!!!)  Skinnygirl Margaritas one aisle over. I headed over to Wegmans’ wine shop and scored my first-ever bottle of Skinnygirl Sangria (also $13.99). I was doubly thrilled, as this was the first time I’d seen the sangria in the flesh and the price was fabulous (I’ve been paying $16.99 at a local liquor store!).

Of course, the irony of my being distracted from the stars of “Real Housewives of New Jersey” for products that are the brainchild of former “Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel does not escape me.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to imbibing some sangria later today out of the gorgeous turquoise goblets I snagged recently at Pier 1 for just $4 (they were $7 each, but I had a $10 coupon!).

And now it's time for the airing of grievances. I've got a lot of problems with you people...

Not all of my shopping experiences are positive, though. Take recent incidents I’ve had with Maybelline eyeliner and Laughing Cow cheese, for example.

I've officially given up buying Maybelline's Unstoppable eyeliner after this happened one too many times.

I’ve been diligently purchasing Maybelline’s Unstoppable eyeliner for some time now, and I currently own several shades, including onyx, cinnabar, sapphire, and my favorite, pewter. I like this particular kind of eyeliner because it’s nice and soft, like a crayon, not hard like a pencil. But I won’t buying any more, ever. On more than one occasion – most recently last week – I opened the pewter one and a chunk of eyeliner fell out. It doesn’t matter if I fully retract the eyeliner into the cylinder or not, because when I pull the top off a piece of eyeliner goes flying. I would estimate a quarter to a third of the entire stick has been wasted as a result. As you know, this stuff isn’t cheap. All of this makes me wonder if it’s called Unstoppable because it won’t stop breaking.

I’m equally displeased with Laughing Cow, but for an entirely different reason. You see, I love Laughing Cow’s products. I’m a cheese fiend to begin with, and their delicious Creamy Swiss cheese wedges and Mini Babybels are regular snacks in my home. But now I’m determined to wean myself off that particular addiction.

I'm warning you, fridge. Don't get too attached.

Why? A) Because it’s expensive and B) because of the company’s lousy customer service. I emailed Laughing Cow (via its website) when I discovered that SmartSource coupons for their products ($1 off two cheese wedges or Mini Babybel cheese) that were supposed to have been in newspapers Aug. 7 weren’t. (And believe me, I looked! I checked all three of my local papers and none of them had it.) I began to wonder if only certain regions of the country got this coupon. Then I received this response:

Dear Ms. Gacser,

Thank you for your interest in our Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel products. It is always a pleasure to hear from our loyal and satisfied customers.

We are sorry to report that Laughing Cow and Mini Babybel do not offer samples or coupons by request.  Coupons are offered periodically through several sources: on the internet at our website www.thelaughingcow.com , in your local news media, and sometimes included in the coupons inserts that accompany many weekend newspapers.

Again, we thank you for contacting us, and giving us the opportunity to respond.

Sincerely,

Customer Service

bel brands USA

If they’d actually bothered reading my email, they would know I was not satisfied. They did not address my specific point about it not being fair if their coupon only appeared in certain regions of the country. If that was indeed the case – and if they really wanted to keep me “satisfied” – wouldn’t they have been happy to send me a few coupons? That would’ve made me happy and guaranteed I’d continue being a loyal customer for years to come. But they didn’t. Sadly, I have only one package of Creamy Swiss wedges left in my refrigerator – and, as my mother says, you bet your sweet bippy it’ll be my last.

Who’s laughing now, Laughing Cow?

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