A View from Christopher Mims
AnyLeaf Wants to Make "Extreme Couponing" Socially Acceptable
Americans throw away $57 billion worth of coupons every year; AnyLeaf aims to take them from the newspaper to your smartphone.
AnyLeaf was founded by three “frugal Midwestern boys [who] grew up in households where coupon clipping and buying what’s on sale was the norm,” the startup’s founder recently told food writer Danielle Gould. The startup’s stated goal is organizing the world’s grocery circulars into a website and mobile app that will bring hunting for deals on soap and tinned meat into the 21st century – sort of like Groupon, only the deals are already out there, waiting to be sucked up into the Internet’s maw.
If AnyLeaf succeeds, one side effect is that it will either put the world’s extreme couponers out of business or mainstream their obsession with using their time to get free stuff rather than make money the old fashioned way. In case you weren’t aware, extreme couponers are people who will go to any lengths to save money by collecting and using coupons.
Here’s one dumpster diving for weekly newspaper circulars thrown out by others. Watch all the way to the end and you get to see her milquetoast husband clarify that his wife has just spent hours in a trash bin with their adolescent son and pregnant friend:
Presently, if you want to fill your house with tons of free stuff you might or might not need, you need time, energy and a filing system. With AnyLeaf, all you need is their free app and a Bay Area address.(The service is still just getting its sea legs and has yet to expand.)
The upside for AnyLeaf is that it may have just found a defensible niche from which it can plausibly get a little piece of Groupon’s gigantic business and valuation, without simply being wiped out by Groupon. The downside for grocery stores, which usually only make tiny margins on their goods to begin with, is that if AnyLeaf enables significantly more shoppers to become extreme, or even part-time, couponers, it could cut into their profits enough that they’ll be forced to offer fewer bargains. It’s called the Groupon effect.