A backlash to 'Extreme Couponing'?
Stores are changing policies because too many extreme couponers are clearing the shelves.
You may find the obsessive shoppers in "Extreme Couponing" somewhat entertaining, if over-the-top, but it appears they've inspired so many wannabes that retailers are setting new limits on coupon use.
Some smart shoppers have seen this coming since the TLC show debuted. Karen, in a SavvyDollar forum last month, shared a conversation she'd had with a grocery cashier:
She said, "I wish they'd take that show and shove it!" because apparently they've had a lot of customers come in wanting to save like the shoppers on the show and they try to break the store's coupon policies with the limits, complain when they can't, etc. I really hope this backlash doesn't ruin it for the rest of us . . . sounds like it might be heading that direction.
The show has apparently sparked some illegal activity, according to Lesley Mitchell, who described the backlash in The Salt Lake Tribune: "Managers at several stores where I shop think the 'Extreme Couponing' show has increased the instances of coupon fraud, including the practice of photocopying coupons."
Other people have gotten way too clever with coupon tricks, stripping the entire supply of a discounted product from store shelves. That means stores are getting less generous with coupon deals. Post continues after video.
Among the changes:
- A buy-one-get-one-free coupon can't be used with a BOGO promotion to get both items for free. You can find Rite Aid's coupon policy here (.pdf file).
- "The chain is also limiting the number of coupons a shopper can use per item to four, as long as there is enough stock," CBS MoneyWatch's Farnoosh Torabi said.
- Target no longer accepts online coupons "for free items with no purchase requirements," its coupon policy says.
- A BOGO store coupon can't be combined with a manufacturer's coupon to get both items for free.
- Target is "limiting the number of store coupons that can be printed off its website to two (there used to be no limit)," Mitchell wrote in the Tribune.
- The chain has banned triple stacking and "now formally allows, per item, one manufacturer's coupon and one from either Publix or a competing store," Kelli B. Grant wrote at SmartMoney.
Stores aren't alone in setting limits these days. Grant also wrote, "Procter & Gamble now limits consumers to four of the same coupon per shopping trip, a recommendation that industry group Coupon Information Corporation is preparing to add to its best-practices page for companies issuing manufacturers coupons."
Also, Wal-Mart is headed in the other direction, dumping limits on coupons per transaction, for instance, Grant says. (Here is Wal-Mart's coupon policy.)
Do you feel cheated because some stores have imposed restrictions on coupon use? Or are you glad that extreme couponers won't be able to strip the shelves bare? Did the show set a bad example?
The Coupon Information Corporation thought so. It said:
Professionals in the coupon industry believe this show creates unrealistic expectations about how coupons work and promotes the misuse of coupons. . . . In real life, individuals attempting to use such large quantities of coupons or attempting to use them in violation of the terms stated on the coupons would most likely have their coupons refused at the register or, depending on the circumstances, be investigated by law enforcement.
Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert wrote that the season finale of "Extreme Couponing" recently aired, "and may I be the first to say . . . Good riddance!" He added:
Putting these manic shoppers up as role models for the average person, who has a full-time job, cooks, and takes care of their families, is wrong. If we do want to highlight how to save money on groceries, can we please do it in a way that empowers with realistic tips that won't take 30 to 50 hours a week of one's life?
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Let's face it, stores cannot have shoppers using coupons so that they leave with hundreds of dollars in groceries and do not pay a dime...this will come back to bite everyone when stores raise prices as well as curtail their coupon policies...and honestly these stores NEED to make a profit, or they will go under, putting people out of work, negatively affecting the community by lost tax revenue...
I worked for a grocery store that already had some of the above policies in effect. No more than four coupons with four items per visit, (so you couldn't buy out our shelf) only to the price of the item (say we had it on sale for .49, even though your coupon said .50 we did not give the full value of .50 - just .49) We did not honor competitor's coupons and your catalina coupons had to be used on your next trip. (That resolved when they didn't print them out until the order was finished and paid for.) We did not accept computer coupons for free items, and if the value was for more than a dollar, it had to be checked by a supervisor. There was a fair amount of fraud in computer coupons going on. Small chain of 6 stores, so we were very sensitive to fraud and theft issue, particularly as our prices were/are good.
Personally unless the coupon is for detergent or similar supplies, I usually never use it. I buy what is on sale, regardless of brand, if my family will eat it. Cookies and junk food are rare buys, maybe chips and salsa once a month, if that often. It has to be on sale to be junk in my cart. But even then, if the store brand is cheaper, I don't buy it. For example - Poor Oreos - my family loves them and hates the store brand. But unless the sale price and coupon bring it below the store brand price, we don't buy any sandwich creme cookies. Since I make chocolate chip cookies, that is never an issue.
Stores are reimbursed for the face value of the coupon PLUS a few cents more for processing...this is not hurting their bottom line. I see it as a win-win. I spend approx $1200 a month for groceries and pay with cash and coupons saving me about 80%. The store manager always seems happy to take my money and coupons...
I also get a shudder-worthy amount of inserts every week...because i ask for them. I've been a couponer for over 2 years..I get them from my neighbors, family, friends and other people because they know i use them so they pass them along.
If the people using coupons were doing it legally, and buying what they truly need, i'd have no issue with it! But seeing one buy 200 boxes of pasta when they already have 200 at home, clearing all the shelves, that is ridiculous!! Reminds me of trying to grocery shop after they say *hurricane*, you can forget it..
I use coupons for dog food, cleaning supplies, etc. I use what I get from a sunday paper, magazines. I do not clear shelves, I do not have closet full of crap.
Knew this show was going to cause problems! Good for the stores
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