As I began writing this post, it became extremely long! I am going to break it up into a series! I am not sure how many posts in the series at this time. If you have questions about the ethics of couponing, please send them to me, so I can include them in my series of posts!
I do not watch Television. However, as a coupon/deal blogger, I have been hearing about all the hype of TLC’s newest reality show “Extreme Couponing.” I have also been getting lots of comments asking if I am going to try to get a spot on the show. While it would be nice to have the possible extra income, it is not worth it to exploit my family at this time and be grouped with the people who are portrayed in this show. You may think I am being a little tough since I have never seen an entire episode. However, I am not. In the few clips I have watched, it is obvious to me these “Extreme Couponers” are not following the same ethics of couponing which I and most other coupon bloggers have chosen to follow. I am going to share with you some other articles and videos as well as some questions I have been asked with regards to couponing. Many people may disagree with me and the way I feel about what I am going to share. Therefore, you will have to decide what is right for you!
Is it okay to use a coupon for a product for which it is not specified to use?
Scenario 1: So you get to the check out with a huge buggy (cart) full of groceries. You have 40 boxes of cereal consisting of Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Kix (3 General Mills cereals). You have 40 coupons for $0.75 off Fiber One Cereal to use for three different types of cereal you purchased. They ring up fine and the cashier never notices the difference! You get a great deal on cereal and no one knows you ever used any different coupons.
The scenario above is COUPON FRAUD! It is NOT okay to use a coupon for an item different than what you purchased! The manufacturer CAN AND WILL refuse to reimburse the store for the item! Thus, the store where you got “your great deal” will have to “eat” the cost of our great deal! The terms of the coupon were NOT followed!
You can read an article with more detail “Was Coupon Fraud Shown on TLC’s Extreme Couponing?” for more information.
Scenario 2: So you get to the check out with a huge buggy (cart) full of groceries. You have 40 boxes of cereal consisting of Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Kix (3 General Mills cereals). You have 40 coupons for $0.75 off ANY General Mills Cereal (with Fiber One pictured) to use for the 40 boxes of cereal you purchased. Everything rings up fine, and there are no questions asked. You got a great deal and are ready to go tell everyone you know!
Scenario 2 is much more acceptable. If a coupon states ANY, then it means ANY no matter what the picture displays. For most companies, it would not be possible to picture all of their items on ONE coupon even if it is good for all of their coupons!
Is it okay to clear the shelves with the coupons I have?
Scenario 1: You are in Kroger where Mahatma Rice is on sale for $1 per one pound bag. You have twenty coupons for $0.50 off each bag which will double to $1 off making the rice “FREE!” There are exactly 20 bags on the shelf. You get all of them and put them in your buggy! You checkout and have 20 FREE bags of rice. Another person comes along with two coupons for the rice, but there is no rice on the shelf.
Scenario 2: You are in Kroger and they have on closeout/clearance Mahatma Rice for $1 per bag. You have twenty coupons for $0.50 off each bag which will double to $1 off making the rice “FREE!” There are exactly 20 bags on the shelf. You get all of them and put them in your buggy! You checkout and have 20 FREE bags of rice. Another person comes along with two coupons for the rice, but there is no rice on the shelf.
Scenario 3: You are in Kroger on Saturday night near the end of a great sale on Mahatma Rice for $1 per one pound bag. Most Kroger sales go from Sunday to Saturday. You have twenty coupons for $0.50 off each bag which will double to $1 off making the rice “FREE!” There are exactly 20 bags on the shelf. You get all of them and put them in your buggy! You checkout and have 20 FREE bags of rice. Another person comes along with two coupons for the rice, but there is no rice on the shelf.
This question can be controversial in the world of couponing. However, there are a few standards most regular couponers hold. One of those being, you should always be considerate of your fellow couponers and shoppers. While, you should not always clear the shelf, there are a few instances when it is okay.
The first scenario, it is NOT okay to clear the shelf! Get what is reasonable for your family and leave some for the rest of us.
The second scenario regards clearanced items. Clearance is considered “fair game: for clearing shelves. It is the last of the products for whatever reason! It could be close to expiring, the packaging could be changing, the company will no longer be producing them, or the store may no longer be carrying them. Whatever the reason, it is all there is going to be.
The third scenario regards the last day of the sale. The only time you should clear the shelf is if it is the last day of the sale and getting close to the time for the store to close. Also, you should get permission from the store manager to use a lot of coupons. You do not have to be greedy or a hoarder! Sales and coupons go in cycles and they will more than likely both come around again!
Is it okay to copy my coupons?
NO! It is never okay to copy your coupons! It is illegal no matter the situation. Do not do it! It is coupon fraud! Each internet printable coupon have a set of security codes on them which are ALL different! It is possible you will get caught eventually! Remember some of the internet printable coupons sometimes have your name, email address and other information which can help them track you down!
Is it okay to use expired coupons?
There are some stores which do accept expired coupons. However, there is a certain time frame as to when they will accept them. Military commissaries do accept expired coupons, but most stores out side of the commissaries do not accept them. You should not purposely try to use an expired coupon! Have I ever used an expired coupon? Knowingly or without permission, no I have not. There have been times I thought it was not expired only to get to the checkout and the cashier point out the coupon expired the day before (there are some weeks number days are difficult to track!). I will kindly apologize and either ask to have the item deducted or just go ahead and purchase. This instance has happened only a few times! I have also asked if I can use a store coupon at different stores when it had expired the day before. Sometimes the manager gives permission other times he/she does not. I just say thank you and either go ahead and get the item, or just wait until another day! No big deal! The store was not at fault because I missed using the coupon in the allotted time. However, it never hurts to ask because some stores do have a grace period for their own coupons! Most of these stores are locally owned and NOT chain stores!
- READ! Read the coupon! Make sure you know what the rules are for using the coupons!
- Check the expiration date!
- If you have a question about the validity of the coupon, ask the store or if you have time before you go to the store, contact the manufacturer!
- Please stick with the rules of the coupon! Those of us who are trying to follow the rules are being punished by the unlawful use of coupons! TLC’s show has caused many stores such as Kroger to change their coupon policies!
- Be considerate of other consumers, the store, and the manufacturer!
Stay tuned to the next series where I will address the following:
- Stacking coupons
- Trading coupons
- Buying and selling coupons
The following clip from ABC news demonstrates some of the things which I have discussed!