A backlash to 'Extreme Couponing'?

Stores are changing policies because too many extreme couponers are clearing the shelves.

By Karen Datko Jun 28, 2011 4:20PM

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:


Rite Aid

  • 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."


Contrary to rumor, Catalinas will continue to be printed out at checkout along with your receipt. However, some stores have changed their policy for using Catalinas.


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.

And, as Mitchell points out, there are still plenty of coupons online if you know where to look.


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?

More on MSN Money:


Jun 29, 2011 1:19PM
I watched a couple episodes of that show, hoping to maybe pick up some tips on saving money.  They're HOARDERS!  Seriously, just because it's all neatly stacked doesn't mean anyone need 20 bottles of coke or laundry detergent for 3-4 people.  Not only are these people spending obscene amounts of time clipping coupons, organizing them, planning grocery trips then shopping, they're buying crap.  I rarely use coupons because I don't feed my family a lot of processed food nor do they drink soda.  All these people are hoarders, they're just tidy about it.  They're behavior is abhorrently selfish when they take the entire stock of 100 bottles of ketchup.  I'm appalled and revolted.
Jun 29, 2011 11:12AM

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...

Jun 29, 2011 10:06PM

4 - those who have a coupon /expiration date & want a rain check. I had 1 customer awhile back who had coupon that expired end of May and we were out of product.  She wanted a RC.  No problem.  She asked if when we got the product in, if she could use the coupon. Very nicely I told her as long as it was before the expiration date, she would  be fine. She came in a few days ago and tried to use the RC and coupon. Guess what? It's nearly the end of June. The system no longer takes the coupon. She threw such a fit that I can't even describe it here politely. I will say that she told the manager that we refused to help her, when we were politely doing our best to explain to her that a raincheck only covers our store sales cost, not the manf. coupon.

All of this might not sound like too much to the average reader but, consider the clerk who has to deal with this type of scenario not once, but more like 3 to 5 times in one shift, multiple days of the week.

Consider the manager who keeps running to calm people down while trying to make sure what we are accepting is within the law, all while trying to calm down the district managers who are now wondering why the complaints have quadrupled and why cashiers are suddenly running out the door or to the bathroom because undisciplined, rude, and hostile customers have nearly jumped across the counter in anger at them. Imagine some customers behaving so badly that other customers just drop their items and run out the door. Or..blowing their tops to the extreme that managers are calling the cops to escort them out or threatening to.

All because of some dumb show that has shown managers in some stores using their key to over ride something that wasn't correct but did it anyhow so the customer could save a $1. All because these nuts see these people on tv cramming their garages full of deodorant and pop and shoving multiiple cereal boxes under their kids' bed in an effor to get free whatever.

The people on the show are tame when compared to those who come in to the stores. People who think because they watch the show or go to all of these websites that they are all more intelligent than the managers and clerks and who must be getting some kind of high off of this craziness. They assume that the store will automatically get their 8 cents or whatever from the manufacturer no matter what - when that is NOT always the case. They assume they can come in and get exactly what they want for what they want when it is a retail store, not a yard sale.

Don't get me wrong, I think coupons are great when used with respect and honesty. Maybe I'll go ahead and create a show about how to train customers to shop - with respect and honesty and intelligence and preparation ahead of time.

When it is all said and done, the store employees are people, the other customers are people and there should be a lot more respect and politeness going around than what has been just over the sake of a darn .50 cent coupon.

Maybe all high school students should be required to work behind a register for an entire summer, that way everyone would get a taste of what it is like and perhaps think twice before they go on these darned coupon addiction trips to their local store.

Or maybe we should go around filming the extreme nutcases and feature them on an extreme nutcase shopper show. Now that sounds like more fun than my job has been lately,

Good riddance extreme couponers!!!

Jun 29, 2011 12:22PM
I shuddered when I saw the blonde woman, from Florida, I think, be so evasive when asked where she got 75 to 100 copies of the same Sunday coupon flyers.  Her answer was that God provided them.  Now, if she spent the money for 75 to 100 weekly subscriptions to the paper to get them legitimately, that would be fine -- but that would have been the obvious answer to the question.  She could NOT have legitimately gotten those, so she was crediting God with what is most likely fraud and deception.  The Bible defines wrongfully gotten gain as "filthy lucre."
Jun 30, 2011 8:37AM

My teenage son works at a grocery store and was just talking about this the other day. He said the store owner had just spent 15 minutes trying to nicely explain to a woman that just because Walmart honored all coupons doesn't mean the local store could. The woman went nuts, screaming and swearing.


I think extreme couponers are mostly just hoarders. Seriously, who needs 74 boxes of Fruit Loops unless you're going to donate them to a shelter or food shelf? These people have a room just to showcase what they've collected. It's not about saving money on things they need, it's about bragging rights.

Jun 29, 2011 7:22PM
my first impression when i saw the previews for the show was, "there goes the savings for those of us who aren't piggies..."  I use coupons to help pay my everyday bills - i don't buy tons and tons of stuff that i can't use, i don't clean off the shelves so no one else can buy anything, and i don't cheat on any coupons.  I don't care what anyone else buys - but i do care that because of their greed and ridiculous need to get all they possibly can through extreme couponing ... it is spoiling things for the rest of us.   everything in moderation....
Jun 29, 2011 11:54AM
Agreed, the "Thousand dollars of groceries for 20 bucks" is pretty much fantasy.  But an hour or two of organization and being methodical about shopping and stocking when the sales are good reaps rewards in the 30-50% range regularly, and these days, every little bit helps. . .
Dec 10, 2011 10:04AM

I tried watching that show once and shut it off after 2 minutes. When I see a woman empty a shelf for herself and a customer walks up and wants just one of the item, which the couponer wouldn't let the him have since they were ALL in her cart already. Her attitude of telling the guy "you should have gotten here first" was so selfish and greedy I never watched the show since.


These couponer scumbag, POS's are starting to ruin it for the rest of us whom really use the values to save money putting food on the table for our families. I have to agree, they are greedy and selfish hoarders with no respect for other shoppers, only thinking of themselves.  

Jun 29, 2011 3:53PM

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 storesTongue out

Dec 8, 2011 12:55PM
I have been a couponer (in moderation) for over a year now.  I don't watch EC, people always say they "saw it on TV and it made me think of you!"...but I turned it on once, and it was aweful! That is just NOT how you are supposed to do it! Spending $2 on 400 toothbrushes is a waste of your $2.  Esspecially when you get them at the dentist for free! I still don't understand how they get so many newspaper inserts.  And it is SO unfair  and discourteous to the rest of us, who just want to buy what we actually need! These people show up at the store when it opens and totally clear the shelves.  When normal people, who have to work and can't spend 60 hours a week clipping, show up with our small little stack of Q's and want to buy 2 items...we have to get rain checks.  And the item may or may not be back in stock by the time our coupon expires. Not to mention the people who go to the gas station at 6 am on Sunday and buy every single newspaper (or steal the inserts and leave the papers).  I honestly don't understand it.  I think it's some kind of competition they have with other shoppers, not to mention a hoarding problem, and a lack of common courtesy for other people who share the store with you.  I wish they would get rid of the show because it is so unrealistic, they should replace it with a show about smart shopping in general with strategies us normal folks can use!!
Jun 30, 2011 8:49AM
The people on the show Extreme Couponing are hoarders.
Jun 29, 2011 8:52PM
I thought this would be an informative show on how to save with coupons.  I was wrong.  Some of these people just pull up to a shelf and clear it out because it's "free"!  Guess what happens when they move on?  REAL people trying to feed their families for a reasonable amount of money go up to the shelf and can't get the deal!  This isn't Extreme Couponing, it's Food Hoarding.  And don't try to tell me it isn't, nobody needs 70 bottles of mustard unless you have 15 kids or you're running a catering business. 
Jun 29, 2011 5:40PM
There is always a minority of people that will abuse a good thing until it hurts the majority....

Jun 29, 2011 3:53PM
I agree with those who say many of the people on the show are selfish.  In fact they have a problem akin to not only hoarding but gambling.  They get a "high" by seeing how much they can "save."  Seeing their stockpiles so large and then going out to get more shows me that they have a problem.  I don't think they realize their selfishness.  They wipe out the store of a product and have no problem doing so.  If they take all of the toilet paper and there is none for everyone else... well you get the picture.
Jun 29, 2011 5:25PM

You watch the show and some people do it for the good of humanity and donate it all to the local food banks and churches, this I have no problem with coupon until your brain falls out. 


I have no respect for the guy and his wife I saw last week that had so much crap in their home that he cannot put a car in the garage and has stuff sitting against the walls.    Sorry, but for people like this it has nothing to do with couponing it is a disease called hoarding.  Expect to see many of these folks profiled on that show on A&E soon.    If these people were not hoarding food, they would  have 800 cats in their house. 


Who in their right mind needs 80lbs of chicken, 500 sticks of Right Guard and enough spaghetti sauce to put Ragu and Prego out of business.   

Jun 29, 2011 6:22PM
I support limits.  Where I live, there are a few people who will clean off a shelf without batting an eye.  One lady got hold of 100's of Oust coupons once, and bought every can of Oust in the town.  Then when I went to use mine, that I clipped from the paper I subscribe to, I couldn't find it and eventually it expired, unused.  I saw her at one of the local flea markets selling those cans.  But I blame the retailers too for that.  They should have put limits, and someone going through a line with 100 of a product should raise red flags all over the place.  No one will use THAT many cans of spray.  I know from working at a grocery store that the management CAN impose limits if they think the person buying the items is a reseller.  Many sale fliers state that sales are not valid for resellers.  I remember the Assistant manager telling this one man who had filled two carts with Gatoraid (and the guy had told me that he was buying them for his store) that he would not allow him to clean off his shelves.
Jun 29, 2011 3:47PM
This is one show that I watched once and never again.  It is disgusting how people just stock pile thousands of dollars worth of groceries when local food banks are always asking for donations of food to help the hungry.  You would think that some of these disgusting extreme coupon people would be kind enough to donate to their local food banks, after all, they got most of their stuff for FREE!!!
Jun 29, 2011 6:50PM
just another form of hoarding.  really, who needs 1,000 tubes of toothpaste.Thinking
Jun 30, 2011 8:55AM

We planted a large garden this year with tomatos, corn, peppers, green beans.  We are planning to can spaghetti sauce, salsa, tomato juice, beans.  We are also going to do applesauce from the neighbors tree.  We figure this will save us on some items this winter.

Jun 29, 2011 4:04PM

please explain how a store is losing money, having to layoff people, raise prices, etc..for accepting coupons? Is it the same for accepting WIC and food stamps? Since stores get their money plus about 7 cents for each one they process, I'm not seeing where it would cause any layoffs. I'm assuming the state picks up the tab for the WIC and food stamp customers. Surely the grocery stores are not stuck for that. 

I would guess there are very few "extreme" couponers irl. And grocery stores have the right to limit or accept coupons at their discretion.

I'll save my disgust for the folks using foodstamps but driving an escalade or the mom with her 3rd WIC baby.

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