Who is this Mr. Coupon guy?  I’ve been watching and hearing about him over the last year, so when Extreme Couponing’s Nathan Engles approached me about doing an interview, I thought I’d go for it!   I’ve heard more rumors about Mr. Coupon than I can count, and I was thrilled when he agreed to answer ALL of my questions!   I didn’t hold anything back, and neither did he.  In the hope that some of you may be interested in knowing more about this true, extreme couponer, I’ll publish our interview in full!  Read on to find out Nathan’s thoughts on the Coupon Information Corp, J’aime Kirlew’s coupon fraud, and his mother.

First, the easy questions for Mr. Coupon, of TLC Extreme Couponing

[Joanie] Where did Mr. Coupon shop?

[Mr. Coupon] I shopped at Kroger, and currently, in my region there are unlimited doubles!  I did two transactions in the first show and in the second to avoid crashing the register!  My Kroger is so awesome, and I have a fantastic relationship with their corporate office, and they let me film this YouTube video about double coupons at my Kroger!

[Joanie] How long did you spend preparing for your shopping trip?

[Mr. Coupon] Most planning for my shopping trips is quick.  I check online to see what’s up, I clip my coupons and go to the store.  But unlike everyday shopping, TV shopping requires intense planning and organization.  They are looking for a desired result, and you want to deliver that result.  So for this trip I spent a long time planning.

[Joanie] What was it like having a camera crew follow you around?

[Mr. Coupon] It’s actually very stressful.  You have to understand that it’s TV, so the editors have complete control.  IF you say one little thing, they can use it, so being on guard and always watching what you say is very difficult.  It was fun and I enjoyed it, but at the same time you bit your nails for months waiting to see the final product.

[Joanie] What does a typical shopping week look like for you?

[Mr. Coupon] My average shopping trips are much MUCH smaller.  I couldn’t possibly spend that much time planning.  Like you, I run a large coupon site  and have a family.  Stockpiling allows me to skip sales if I already have a healthy stock of an item.  Toothpaste is a good example.  I generally won’t buy it even if it’s free (you still have to pay tax in my state) because I have a good amount already, unless I’m buying for charities or food banks.

[Joanie] May I borrow some toothpaste?

[Mr. Coupon] It’s all gone!!!  The wall was donated while the cameras rolled, so was much of the body wash; I love when they leave things out LOL.  But I doubt you need any toothpaste LOL!!

[Joanie] If you could only teach a “coupon virgin” one thing that you’ve learned from year(s) of couponing, what would it be?

[Mr. Coupon] I always say I have TWO.  It’s the two O’s: Online and Organization.  Get online and get organized.  Sites likes TheKrazyCouponLady and WeUseCoupons are fantastic resources for newbies.  BUT if you’re not organized those resources are meaningless.

Now for the good stuff!

[Joanie] I thoroughly enjoyed being on the pilot episode of Extreme Couponing.  It was fun to plan and execute a record setting shopping trip.  BUT when asked to participate in the series, I declined.  I don’t normally shop with 4 carts at a time.  I also don’t usually save 99%.  I continue to be a big supporter of the show because I know it will bring new families into couponing.  But– I am more than just “Extreme Couponing”, and although the one-time extreme was fun, I didn’t want to give the impression that that’s how I shop on any kind of a regular basis.
Nathan, I’ve got to be honest.  I think you might be the truest extreme couponer of us all.  It appears, based on your stockpile, that you might actually shop like this on a regular basis. Do you really?  What does an average week of shopping look like–for you?

[Mr. Coupon] My week is very normal.  I generally shop Kroger and Walgreens.  In the past I’ve shopped Meijer, but I just don’t have time anymore.  I’ll occasionally go to Walmart.  My shopping generally occurs on Saturday.  My wife gets what we call a ‘mommy morning’ on Saturdays, and I shop with our daughter.  Media is something that I understand very well.  Being different and ‘extreme’ is a great way to get people’s attention.  No one would care about a 100 year old grandmother using 2 coupons, but they are interested in what you and I do because it does truly make a difference.  I WANT their attention because I know that we can help them.  Your blog and my site offer fantastic opportunities and education to people that would never know it existed.

[Joanie] Did you have a difficult decision deciding to do the series?

[Mr. Coupon] It was a VERY difficult decision.  My wife and I prayed about it.  She told me she would refuse to be on camera again and didn’t want me to put our daughter on camera either.  We worry about weirdos, honestly, but if you’ve seen my story on YouTube, I found out about couponing by watching TV.  I know that this show, although controversial, will touch people and help people in amazing ways.

[Joanie] Tell me the Jello is gone, man!  Did I see a garbage can of Jell-O boxes still in your garage?

[Mr. Coupon] LOL did you see Jell-O?  I kept 6-7 of each flavor because we ‘color’ with it!!  (We do have a 14 month old)  We donated the majority of the Jell-O when the Nightline segment ran LOL in March of 2010.

[Joanie] Love that the show highlighted your giving spirit!  I know that nearly all of the extreme couponers donate massive amounts of food to their communities, so I’m so glad the light was shown on you!

[Mr. Coupon] It’s something that so many couponers do, and I’m so proud to be able to show that side of couponing.  So many people think we ‘hoard’ things, and that’s really not what this is about at all.  It’s about providing for your family in an amazing way and often-times blessing those around you!

[Joanie] You bought 1100 boxes of Total cereal in the pilot episode.  How many boxes did you donate?

[Mr. Coupon] 700-800 boxes were given immediately to a charity called: Franklin Area Community Services.
300 boxes were given over a period of time to my church’s grocery giveaway.
Of the 50 or so boxes that were left, we’ve been eating them, giving them away to friends and the like!

[Joanie] What do you think about the CIC’s stance on selling and trading coupons (details here) being against the law?

[Mr. Coupon] I’ve spoken to the CIC about trading, and essentially they have said it’s not a real concern.  They are not concerned with our site and others having coupon trading forums.  He likened it to a church group trading coupons.  He did express concern over coupon clipping services, and I really don’t have an opinion.  I’m not a lawyer, and if they are against the law, then law enforcement should shut them down.  BUT they aren’t shut down and continue to exist, so you be the judge!

[Joanie] If J’aime Kirlew did indeed commit over $1700 of coupon fraud on the series premiere, what would you suggest should be her punishment?

[Mr. Coupon] I’m no lawyer, nor am I a judge.  I have no idea what type of punishment would be applied in this case.  BUT if it were me (barring that there are no minimum sentencing requirements), I would appreciate her making a public apology, returning the items OR giving them ALL away to charity, volunteering as a cashier at Safeway at minimum wage until she paid back the money, which would be around 235 hours (federal minimum wage), AND doing some community service.

[Joanie] Tell me about the public reaction to your segments. How many positive comments compared to negative?

[Mr. Coupon] I actually refuse to read negative comments!  I refuse to fill my head with meanness and nastiness.  The old rule of ‘if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say it at all’ applies here.  We have moderators on WeUseCoupons so I rarely see anything there.  I have a select number of blogs I visit, yours being one of them that are very positive, and that’s really it.  Most of the comments I see are positive!

[Joanie] Do you expect negative consequences to the couponing community as a result of the TLC Extreme Couponing?  If yes, what do you think those consequences will be?

[Mr. Coupon] If any store changes their policy in the next six months, people will blame it on the show.  Stores and manufacturers have been changing policies for the good and bad for years.  I’ve been doing this long enough to know that.  So if a store changes their policy, blame will be applied to the show.  It’s not fair, but that’s how it is.

[Joanie] What will be the benefits of the Extreme Couponing, to the same community?

[Mr. Coupon] Like anything else, raising awareness is what it’s all about!  Average people look at us and say ‘weird’.  Bloggers that chat and post about coupons all day are extreme like it or not.  BUT what they do is AWESOME.  They empower people to save money for their families.  We all want to raise awareness because we all know that coupons help real people!  That’s what the benefit of this show is!!

[Joanie] When does a stockpile become “too big”?  Is there such a thing?  How would you define it?

[Mr. Coupon] It’s different for each person and each family.  Just like the Vegas commercials, I repeat, “know your limits.”

[Joanie] Do you participate in or support the reselling of food or health and beauty items?

[Mr. Coupon] I’ve had three garage sales where I sold stockpiled items along with regular garage sale items.  The last sale I believe was in 2009 when I was literally faced with a collapsing business and a mortgage to pay.  I never really liked doing them, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Part of the reason we give so much now is because of those sales.  My life and financial situation has stabilized tremendously since then and I am now in a fantastic position to give and give abundantly.  Last year we gave around $50,000 in product to charities.  (Yes I do have receipts, and, no, my accountant won’t let me claim them.  We donate 10% of income to our church, of which he only lets us claim 7%).  Would I have a garage sale again, no.  In the last two years my opinion has evolved on them.  I don’t condemn people who have them (that would be hypocritical) , but I personally wouldn’t do them again.

[Joanie] Tell me one thing that bothers you about other couponers, in general.

[Mr. Coupon] Not really anything.  I have found couponers to be some of the kindest people I’ve ever met.  They tend to have giving hearts, would give you a coupon or the item they just purchased in a heartbeat, EVEN if it cost them something.  I do get bothered by people who are inconsiderate, but that’s not just couponers!!

[Joanie] Are you a momma’s boy?  :)

[Mr. Coupon] Heck yea! LOL.  My mom is AWESOME; didn’t you watch her?

[Joanie] Do you think you could out-save me if you came out to the west where coupons are never doubled?

[Mr. Coupon] You would beat me hands down!!  LOL

 WeUseCoupons.com is the brainchild of Natan Engles.