TLC's Extreme Couponing returns for a new season... with more counterfeit coupons?
So why are Extreme Coupon shoppers still using it?
Extreme Couponing is back again. If you've missed the past media coverage regarding fraud on the show, to date manufacturers have confirmed that over 230 counterfeit coupons were used on past seasons of Extreme Couponing, including free-product coupons for Tide laundry detergent and Quilted Northern bath tissue.
Earlier this month, Matt Sharp, executive producer of TLC's Extreme Couponing, told the Chicago Tribune that the show did not plan any changes for the new season, despite the continued allegations of coupon fraud.
It appears he's a man of his word.
Tonight, Season 3 of Extreme Couponing premiered on TLC... and two of the shoppers bought large quantities of Quilted Northern. One shopper also used several Hefty coupons currently listed on the Coupon Information Corporation's list of known counterfeit coupons. And again, the coupons used were visible on screen.
Cole Ledford of Lebanon, Ohio, flashed his stack of coupons in preparation for his trip. While the Quilted Northern coupons were only on the screen for a few seconds, the purple-and-green wave design was clearly visible to anyone familiar with this counterfeit coupon:
Cole took eight or nine 12-roll packages of Quilted Northern to the register:
And, his coupons were scanned and accepted:
Cole also used several free coupons for Hefty products:
But the problem is that this Hefty coupon has been on the Coupon Information Center's list of known counterfeits since March of this year. The CIC's alert reads, "Retailers should not accept this coupon under any circumstance."
Yet, the store scanned them anyway...
... and Cole got the Hefty bags free too.
Angelique Campbell of Washington also bought a lot of Quilted Northern in the same episode:
768 rolls -- the equivalent of 64 12-packs of Quilted Northern. Very few of Angelique's coupons were shown clearly as they were scanned, but her end balance at Kmart?
It seems logical to conclude that free Quilted Northern coupons may have been used here too.
How long is TLC going to continue passing "Extreme Couponing" off as a "reality" show?
And where are the shoppers on the show getting counterfeit coupons from? I'd love to know, and so would other viewers. The blogosphere's erupting with posts from other coupon bloggers crying foul about last night's episode. Some bloggers are trying to determine the source of these counterfeits. One received a statement from Georgia-Pacific that read in part, " ...we are trying to determine the source of the coupons. We typically do not print coupons with redemption values that high, and we do not have any coupons of that type currently."
Last night, Angelique Campbell blogged about her Extreme Couponing trip, addressing where her coupons came from. She wrote, "I also for the first time did have to order some coupons from a clipping service (which is something I do not normally do and try to prevent)."
But had she not bought coupons online, she would have completely avoided the risk of ending up with counterfeits.
Kmart is a sponsor of the show this season -- are they comfortable absorbing the loss of any counterfeit coupons that shoppers use during episodes filmed at their stores? As a sponsor, do they allow or condone counterfeit coupon usage on the show? On May 25th, I reached out to Tom Aiello, Sears Holdings' media contact asking these questions -- ironically, prior to the new season's premiere. I have not yet received a response.
I also reached out via Facebook and email tonight to Cole and Angelique, and I would be happy to speak with either of them regarding their Extreme Couponing experiences and where they obtained these coupons.
UPDATE: 10:37AM CST: Angelique responded to my email asking where she obtained her free Quilted Northern coupons. She apologized for not being able to speak on the phone as her baby is due this week.
Her email states, "I am appalled to hear that there is a possibility those coupons could have been counterfeit...I actually never use clipping services except for this episode of Extreme Couponing as I do not like to endorse paying for coupons, however I resorted to it because of my pregnancy! I have contacted someone from "the coupon information center" to find out what the deal is and to help them in anyway find whoever could have produced these counterfeit coupons."
Angelique has continued responding in the comments below this article: "I don't typically buy coupons...and decided to try it out when I realized I just didn't have enough or even the proper coupons I would need to make a trip work since I had been SOOOOO sick through my pregnancy and not really couponed for months!"
UPDATE: 2:45PM CST: Tom Aiello of Sears Holdings (parent company of Kmart) responded to my emails. I wrote asking for a statement about Kmart sponsoring a show that has featured counterfeiting and coupon fraud.
He responded, "We find that so many of our customers are always looking for great deals, and believe Extreme Couponing is another fun way to engage our loyal customers- just one of the many ways we engage our customers everyday with great value."
(Kmart considers sponsoring episodes of a show that promotes counterfeit coupon usage a "fun way to engage loyal customers?" A cut-and-paste feel-good PR statement doesn't exactly apply to a situation where criminal acts are involved.)
Unfamiliar with the counterfeit coupons and coupon fraud on TLC's "Extreme Couponing? Read more here:
- Confirmed: 200 more counterfeit coupons used on TLC's "Extreme Couponing"
- Confirmed: 34 counterfeit coupons used on TLC's "Extreme Couponing"
- Why your shopping trips aren't quite like the ones on "Extreme Couponing"
- Shopper admits committing coupon fraud on "Extreme Couponing"
- Supermarket apologizes for participating in "Extreme Couponing," allowed shopper to misuse coupons for the show
- Store that does not double coupons doubled coupons "just for the show"
In the media:
- Tampa Tribune: TLC show on couponing too good to be true?
- Time.com: Are the Money-Saving Strategies on ‘Extreme Couponing’ Bogus?
- Augusta Chronicle: 'Extreme Couponing' courts controversy
Images from TLC's "Extreme Couponing" used under Creative Commons license.