Since the beginning of the economic unpleasantness a few years ago casual couponing has evolved into extreme couponing complete with its own cable TV show. However it rarely impacts Private Brand products as retailer Private Brand owners seldom use coupons. This story from the New Bedford, Massachusetts-based daily The Standard-Times tells the story of one such story at Supervalu owned Shaw’s.
Call it a bargain of biblical proportions. April Pavao of Somerset found a loophole in a Shaw’s Supermarket flier and turned it into an enormous gift of charity.
Earlier this month, Shaw’s offered a 10 for $10 sale on Private Brand pasta and sauce, with no limit to the number of items per customer.
On top of that sale, Pavao spotted coupons in a weekly Shaw’s flier for $1 off those products.
“I said ‘Oh my God.’ This can’t be,” said Pavao.
She tested it out by taking 20 boxes of pasta to the register and her bill came to $0.00.
“I couldn’t believe it.’ I said ‘That’s it. I’m on a mission,'” recalled Pavao.
Pavao — who works collecting donations for the Massachusetts State Police and Firefighters — is in her car all day. So as she traveled the state, she bought up all of the pasta and sauce in every Shaw’s Supermarket she passed.
She ended up with 2,300 free jars of sauce and free boxes of pasta.
She donated 300 items to the Lions Club, 800 items to the food pantry at the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen, 600 items to the Church of Our Savior in Somerset and 500 items to Marie’s Place in Fall River, as well as to the Somerset Middle School food drive.
“It’s the craziest thing to walk to the register with five carriages exploding with sauce and have them tell you ‘Zero,'” said Pavao.
She also found a coupon for $1 off Shaw’s-brand pop tarts, regularly $1.29, so she bought and donated 50 boxes, paying only $14.50.
“I always do coupons. I love to find deals,” said Pavao.
Her daughter Andrea, 17, and son Brandon, 14, also helped her collect the goods, along with Andrea’s boyfriend, Nick Rose, 20, of Fall River.
“The people working at Shaw’s were in shock. Despite their absolute awe, they happily obliged our request,” said Rose, a student at Stonehill College in Easton.
Rose helped the Pavaos cart 500 food items to Marie’s Place in Fall River, a Catholic Social Services nonprofit that collects donations — from food and clothing to electronics and books — and redistributes them to people in need.
“The staff there was speechless at the amount of food donated by April and three young kids. They were more thankful than they could put into words,” said Rose, who was also shocked at the amount of food they could get for free.
“There are no set rules when it comes to helping others,” said Rose.
At the Church of our Saviour in Somerset, pantry director George Paiva said the donation was greatly appreciated.
“What an effort,” he said.
“We don’t track this type of thing, but this is probably the single-largest donation we’ve ever gotten in terms of food.”
Paiva said the timing and the choice of food were both perfect.
“Before her donation we were short of sauce,” he said, explaining that the pantry was adequately stocked with pasta but that sauce is harder to come by.
“It’s appreciated tremendously here,” Paiva said. And it will be appreciated tremendously by the 220 to 250 families who use the Episcopal church’s Annelle Hagerman Food Pantry each month, he added.
Paiva said that in addition to the direct donations from Pavao, the pantry received food from the Somerset Lions Club and another charity that took in the donated pasta and sauce — making for a double-gift. “We’re a big beneficiary of this woman’s donations,” he said.
One of the pantry’s servers is specifically tasked with writing thank-you notes to everyone who donates, Paiva said, so Pavao will soon be receiving some warm written words for her generosity.
Sure, but what did Shaw’s think of all this?
“Our coupons are intended for our shoppers to use during individual shopping experiences, not an extension of our already robust community outreach plans,” Shaw’s spokesman Mike Siemienas said.
Pavao, meanwhile, said she recently got another Shaw’s circular in the mail.
“The pasta is on sale again,” she said with a laugh. “But I don’t think I’m going to get them this week. I’ll let other people have them.”