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How to Use Personal Finance to Make Friends

After leaving my umbrella on the metro on the way home from work, I needed a change of clothes and a new umbrella. I changed when I got home, but I don’t enjoy shelling out $20 for new umbrellas every few months.

Two days later, I saw an awesome deal going on at Gap: 30% off plus they donate 5% of the purchase to one of a few charities that you can choose from. Score! I could get that umbrella for $14 (It’s a sweet umbrella. Automatic open AND automatic close).

I headed to the store during my lunch break and picked out my umbrella. After the cashiers laughed at me for buying an umbrella on a beautiful day was silly, I headed out. But since the coupons aren’t unique and therefore reusable, I knew I could either walk out the door and throw away the coupon or I could hand it off to someone else who would save a nice chunk of money without doing any work.

I turned around and found the closest person to me. There were two girls standing pretty close, so I offered the coupon. They were really grateful, but they were actually on their way out, so I had to find a new target.

Maximize Your Generosity

I tried a new tactic. I found the person carrying the most items, thinking that I could save them the most amount of money. I explained the situation, and happily handed off the coupon.

You should have seen this woman’s face. She was ecstatic. How often are you in the middle of shopping and get an offer to save $30 or more?

Now I know how to get people to like me: offer them a way to save money with nothing to lose. They’ll be amazed at your generosity, you’ll don’t really do any work to help them, and everyone will feel great about themselves.

Readers, how do you use personal finance to get people to like you? Should I try my newfound tactic to try and get girls too?



  1. I think that was a lovely thing to do for that woman, but I’m going to start the comments off with a different opinion.

    The only reason a store provides coupons is to draw customers into their store. If they wanted to give that discount to everyone, they would just mark the prices down and forget about the coupon altogether.

    By giving someone a coupon who was already going to pay full price, it’s basically stealing from the owner of the business. Stealing from the “rich” to help the “poor”, while glorified in Robin Hood movies, is still stealing.

    • @Kevin @, I hear what you’re saying, but…

      Had I told someone that if they waited a day to purchase, the price would decrease, is that stealing too? I think that giving information is ok, but maybe handing out coupons is going too far? If they had asked me for it, would that have been different?

      When you’re going to buy something, do you ever look for a coupon online? Even though you know you’re going to purchase anyway? Where does that fall?

      Given the choice, I’ll always choose to help people vs. chain stores. Keep in mind that I’m the same person who told the small business owner that he can legally require a minimum on credit card purchases. Just handing out the truth!

      • @Daniel,

        Giving information is definitely not stealing. If you had struck up a friendly conversation and she said “I remember seeing this coupon and forgot to print it out,” then that’s definitely fine, but if she saw you use it and said, “I want free money,” then I think giving it to her is wrong.

        When I buy something online, I’m always actively looking for the best price, coupon codes included, so that’s morally acceptable in my mind.

        You had a third choice, which was to do nothing. I don’t really agree with “people” vs. “chain stores” because companies are made up of people. If enough people do this and reduce Gap profits enough, “people” are going to lose their jobs.

        I did a follow-up post on my site this morning because it’s such an interesting topic. Thanks for sparking the discussion!

    • @Kevin @,

      If the the “Store” had an qualms about customers reusing their coupons, then wouldn’t you think that management would just have the cashiers keep the coupons when the original sales are made. My guess is the store is probably more than happy to have that second or third customer reusing their coupon.

      You need to remember, the store is having their sale for a reason, and typically it is not to just help out their customers. The store is having their sale to move old and/or excess inventories, to make room for the coming season’s new inventory or they are just trying to boost sales to get more turns on their inventories, especially during this current economy. If an item gets sold, even at a discount, it allows the corporation to take that money and reinvest it in additional inventory and make that new sale, again. These corporations, for the most part, have some idea as to how they need to merchandise and market their products. You really need to look at the bigger picture.

      Don’t worry about these stores. I sure the Gap has already consider the all the various ways their coupons can be redeemed, and are probably more than happy to get that customer in the door any way they can. Your “moral” spin on this has nothing to do with the reality of this particular situation!

      Kevin, you might want step down a bit from your moral high horse and maybe reconsider, when making ethical or moral judgments for the next guy! And stealing, come on, give me a break. If the Gap didn’t want “everyone” to have their coupons, then they wouldn’t make the coupons available to “everyone”.

      • @Jim in Edmonds, WA, you said coupons are for boosting sales and moving inventory. Well, Gap would have had more dollars and would have gotten rid of just as much inventory if Daniel hadn’t given her the coupon because she was willing to pay full price. So none of these reasons is applicable to this situation.

        You also said that Gap is happy that the coupon brings customers in the store. But this customer was already in the store without the coupon. Again, your reasoning doesn’t work.

        I fully understand the dynamics of how a sale or coupon brings people into the store WHEN THEY WOULDN’T NORMALLY GO. Too bad that’s not the case here.

        Maybe before you tell people to step down from a moral high horse, you should have reasons that actually pertain to the particular situation.

  2. Not to sound to hokey but random acts of kindness are few and far between these days. I think it’s great that you took the effort to actually find someone that it would help… most people probably would have just tossed the coupon because it was easier.

    Nice job!

    Oh and definitely try it to meet girls :)

    • @Jeff @ Before You Invest, I think part of it comes from the same place writing here does: I want to help educate people, help them not waste their money and start spending wisely!

  3. While being out of the game for a while, I don’t think handing out coupons at the mall is going to get you in with the women….

    Notwithstanding that is some good freaking karma!

    • @Evan, Lol not when you put it like that! But imagine going up to someone and making it personal and completely making their day. There’s no way that wouldn’t work!

  4. Kevin – “stealing” implies an illegal activity. Daniel may have deprived the store of $30 but this is balanced out by his saving the customer $30. Unless it was cheating to reuse the coupon (which it wasn’t), there was no stealing involved – just a value judgment about whether to benefit the store or the woman.

    As for picking up girls, I actually misread the column at first. Daniel wrote: “There were two girls standing pretty close”… which I read as “There were two pretty girls standing close” and I wondered where the post was going…


  5. Thanks for sharing.

    I experienced a situation like this the other. My girlfriend and I were at the GAP and she had a coupon that was good for a three day window.

    Well, we had just finished using the coupon and knowing that we were not going to be back at the store to use it again, handed it off to the guy standing behind us. He was really grateful for the chance to save some cash.

    As far as handing off “coupons” as a form of stealing, I don’t by that. That would be like saying that by informing a customer that they can save money by shopping at a different store is stealing.

    Letting someone in on an “inside” deal is not stealing. If the company makes a coupon, it is free-game for everyone. The company might not like it that their “star” customer is not the one redeeming it, but none-the-less it is not stealing.

  6. Great Post! Come on Kevin, are you just playing devil’s advocate here? You’re joking right? I could almost say there’s something noble about your protecting the store, but….

    If you want to talk about ethics, why don’t stores do away with coupons and just lower their prices. If they are willing to sell a $100 item for $70 to a guy with time for coupon clipping, why not to the busy frazzled single mom? Now that would be the fairest to all! In the absence of that….I say pass on the coupons, again and again!!

    As to it being a dating strategy….I’m not sure….I can’t recall every being attracted to a man because he gave me a coupon….but then, I can’t recall a man ever giving me a coupon, so who knows! It’s certainly a conversation starter – is it any worse then the pick up lines one might try in a bar? Let us know how it works!

  7. I don’t think that’s stealing… I think you were very nice to give away that coupon to someone else and to make their day.

    It’s like when I’m at a pay parking lot and someone tells me I can have their ticket because they’re done with it.

    I think that’s called “paying it forward” :)

  8. If the store did not intend for the coupon to be used again, they would have taken it from you when you purchased the item. I’ve let my friends know about good coupons I’ve seen in the paper and I’ve also clipped coupons and given it to a friend that I know uses a certain OTC medicine. I’m glad and I’ll bet the store is glad that you gave the coupon away to be used again by someone who may have purchased even more items in the store than what the coupon was for. Coupons are all about marketing.

  9. Here is a copy of what I posted at Kevin’s site in support of you. I put some time into writing it, and thought you and your readers might like to see it here. It is written in the point of view of addressing Kevin, so the ‘you’ is speaking to him. Hope you enjoy.

    “Kevin – In the last part of your post you make the statement that what you would do (and by this I assume you mean the moral thing to do) is to take the coupon elsewhere, and give it to another person (I don’t see any moral difference between purposefully dropping it with the intent that someone else pick it up and handing it to them) in the hopes of them going to the gap and spending money there they wouldn’t otherwise. This means that you see nothing immoral with the sharing of the coupon, just the person who it was shared with.

    The difference you see then, is whether the coupon is used for its intended purpose, of encouraging new customers to go to the store (or maybe getting them to spend more than they would have otherwise).

    Does this make you immoral when you use it as a returning customer? Does it make you immoral when you look at the flyer, decide on an item to buy and that the price is acceptable (say 100$), but then find a coupon for 30% off and use it anyways? You are not buying something you wouldn’t have otherwise (using that coupon for its intended purpose). You are ‘taking 30 from the stores register and putting it in your own pocket’.

    Stores put out those coupons in the hope that they will get new customers or cause repeat ones to spend more, but it is not immoral to use one otherwise. They know when making them that a certain percent of people will use them for items they would have bought anyways, and they will get a certain number of new customers and overspenders, and they are okay with this or they would not have made the coupons this way.

    Assuming the earlier posters (Ira and Leslie) are correct about the meaning of non transferable then there is nothing wrong with handing it to someone else in the store, and if they are wrong, then you would have been equally morally wrong in purposefully dropping the card for someone else to use.

    However, it is not morally right to say (as other posters did) that it is okay to share the coupon just because the gap didn’t make it difficult or impossible to do so. If they had specifically said on the coupon ‘only to be used by one person one time’ or something similar, it would still be immoral to share (either with someone in the store or how you would have) even if the gap did not retain the coupon or make the coupon codes unique and good for one use only. They could have decided it would be too costly to make unique coupon codes or retain the coupons (although I don’t see how this could increase cost). Stealing is not right just because an item is not tied down or guarded.

    Thanks for the opportunity that allows me to flex my philosophical argument muscles. I have not had much opportunity lately, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and writing this.

    I will definitely subscribe to your blog and check back to this post (which I’m sure is at least partly your purpose in writing articles such as this) but I would not be immoral simply to take my enjoyment from it and then leave. :-) “

    • @Jenny, Thanks so much for the long response, and for defending me (and the act) on Kevin’s site. I agree with most of your points, though I see how it’s a tricky situation when you give the coupon to someone who was literally about to buy without it.

      I won’t say that it’s better for one person to have the money than another, but I don’t think it’s stealing either way.

  10. Daniel- totally not stealing! This happened to me once at the grocery store and I felt like I had own a million bucks! (Whereas I think the actual coupon was $3 off my order). Way to make someone’s day!

  11. I love giving cupons to people. I think that it sometimes helps the store- if people decide to buy something they wouldn’t.

    And it makes people’s day. One lady told me she was praying for a cupon and then I came and gave it to her!!

  12. Daniel, when you wrote this blog did you think it would stir up such a heated debate? I personally think what you did was a nice gesture that was priceless.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  13. As much as my kids loathe unsolicited advice and being preached to, I’ve put all of my life lessons for them online. When they or anyone else want to see if I have anything to say on the matter, they can simply look it up. As the proverb says, “When the student is ready, the master appears.”

  14. I see nothing wrong with the handing off of the coupon. Companies like this make their projections and sales estimates assuming that a certain percentage of sales will be marked down via coupons. When you’re looking at the total volume of sales, the little $30 saved is inconsequential, and I’m sure that anybody versed in statistics would agree that it is factored in appropriately.

    So I say give those coupons away and feel no guilt whatsoever.

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