Swapping Coupons: Pull & Pass or Coupon Train

by Beth Montgomery on April 28, 2011 · 12 comments

in Announcements

As coupon enthusiasts, we tend to accumulate a lot of coupons and we can’t use them all (though we may try!).   Of course, we can donate our expired coupons to military families and use extra coupons to get products to donate to food pantries and other worthy organizations.

What if you could turn those unused coupons into more valuable coupons that you would use?   Swapping coupons with friends and families is a great way to turn coupons you won’t use into coupons you will!   And, it’s not hard to get started.   You just need some basic rules and a group of swap mates.

What is a Pull & Pass or Coupon Train? This is a group of couponers that exchange coupons via snail mail.   You mail coupons that you don’t use to someone else and receive coupon in the mail yourself through an organized system.   Basically, it’s a like a chain letter that saves you money.

Benefits of Pull & Pass Coupon Swap or Coupon Train

  • Get multiple coupons for products you buy most often
  • Give coupons to someone who will use them (less waste!)
  • Easy to organize and maintain
  • Easy to do from home around your schedule
  • Get coupons from other regions or states
  • They are fun and a bit addictive!

Where to find swap mates? Couponers are everywhere and many would love an easy way to swap.   So, if you’re having trouble finding swap mates, here’s a few ideas to consider:

  • Family and Friends
  • Mom or Parent Group
  • Church
  • Neighborhood Swap
  • Office or Place of Work
  • Group or Club
  • Online

Types of Pull & Pass Swaps or Coupon Trains

Basic Pull & Pass or Coupon Train: A Basic Train is the most simple system. It consists of 3-10 members and one envelope.   One person acts as the conductor, placing a set amount (typically 20-200) coupons in an envelope.   This envelope is mailed to the first person on the list.   The recipient takes any coupons from the envelope that they would like, then replenishes the envelope with coupons they don’t plan on using, and sends it on to the next person.

Things to note about the Basic system:

  • A one-time Basic Train is great to exchange seasonal or holiday coupons.
  • The “conductor”, the person who starts the train, organizes and manages his/her train.
  • You will want to set a limit on how long each person can keep the envelope.   For example, it must be mailed within 1-3 days of receipt.   It’s good to set it so each person should receive the envelope once every 4-6 weeks at least.

Round Robin Pull & Pass or Coupon Train: A Round Robin Train can consist of 2 or more people and can accommodate large groups.   Each person in the group starts the train by filling an envelope with a set amount of coupons (typically 20-50) and mails it to their assigned person.   The recipient takes any coupons from the envelope that they would like, then replenishes the envelope with coupons they don’t plan on using and sends it on to their assigned person.   Each person on the train should receive an envelope each week or every few days, depending on deadlines.

Things to note about the Round Robin system:

  • You will want to set a “mail by” day of the week.   For example, everyone must mail their current envelopes by Friday of each week or every 1-3 days.
  • It may be necessary to have “Spring Cleaning” weeks.   For example, every 4-6 weeks, since that’s when most coupons expire, everyone could take time to clean and replenish their current envelope by removing any coupons that no one wanted.

Things to Consider

When using a Pull and Pass Swap or Coupon Train system to swap coupons, there is a lot to consider.   The object is to get valuable coupons to people who will use them before they expire, so it’s good to set a few rules up front to keep things moving smoothly.

Maximize Benefits

  • Opposing Needs: Coupon swaps work best with groups of people who have opposing needs.   For example, if one needs coupons cat food and treats, another for baby food and diapers, another for gluten-free foods, and so on and so forth. Or it could be as simple as one needs Huggies diapers and another needs Pampers diapers.
  • Wish List: To help make the swap as effective as possible, gather the swap mates “Top Wish List”.   Ask them for the top 5-10 coupons for products they buy most often and would appreciate their swap mates donating.
  • Communication: Set a place, like a group or online forum, for your train to communicate.   That way, if someone if someone has an anniversary coming up and would love a coupon for a nice restaurant, they can add a quick note to everyone that lets them know.   Plus, this will help the conductor keep track of where the envelope(s) are and who has them to make sure they are moving.

Rules & Regulations

You set the rules for your train, but here’s a few rules I recommend to keep the swap high-quality and moving in timely manner.   Keep in mind that groups will vary.   Strangers may need more rules than friends, for example.

  • Each envelope should have a set number of coupons in it each time it mails.   Set that number up front and take into consideration postal fees.   Around 50 is a good number to avoid additional fees.
  • Recipients should remove all expires coupons and coupons they want to keep.
  • Recipients should replenish the envelope with the same number of coupons as he/she removed, including the expired coupons.
  • Envelopes should be mailed in a timely manner.   Set a deadline (e.g. 1-3 days from receipt, every Friday, etc…).
  • Each member is responsible for the cost of the envelope and stamp when it’s their turn to mail the envelope(s) on.
  • Recipients may not take all the coupons from an envelope for a particular brand/product, unless they are the only person on their train with that particular item on their “Wish List”.
  • Who is in charge of organizing and managing the train, including notifying members of any changes?

Questions for Thought

  • What coupons are allowed?   Printable coupons?   Mail-in-rebates?   Store coupons?
  • How will you track the envelope(s)? Can each member record the date they mailed their envelope somewhere in the envelope or online?   Or e-mail the conductor when they mail the envelope(s).
  • How will you   maintain quality?   Will recipients be required to replenish the envelope with coupons equal to or similar in value to those they removed?
  • How far from their expiration date should the replacement coupons be?   Take into consideration postal delays and holidays.
  • Will you limit the number of duplicate coupons that may be added?
  • What will you do if the train breaks and someone decides not to mail the envelope on to the next member?
  • How will you handle members who continuously replenish the envelope with low-value and/or useless coupons?

When it comes to swapping, one important thing to keep in mind is that if you give great coupons, you’re more likely to get great coupons

What are your thoughts? Have you participated in a Pull & Pass Coupons Swap or Coupon Train?   What did you like about it?   What didn’t you like?   What would you recommend for those thinking of starting or participating in one?

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