Manufacturers working to end "selling" of coupons

In April, I wrote an article about how manufacturers and coupon redemption houses are cracking down on "gang-cut coupons" -- coupons that contain identical cuts and identifying marks. I received a lot of feedback on that article from coupon shoppers around the country, and much of it was negative. "It's not fair that they're voiding coupons because they're cut the same, it's my right to cut however I want." "Why do they care if coupons are sold, they print so many of them!" And, with TLC's "Extreme Couponing" glorifying purchasing coupons from clipping services or Ebay, an entire wave of new coupon shoppers have been led to believe that this is an acceptable way to get coupons.

Indeed, though, manufacturers do wish to stop the sale of coupons. One might think that the "Void if Sold" stipulation in the terms of the coupon would be enough to prevent anyone from selling them, yet clipping services and coupon auctions on Ebay abound. At the Association for Coupon Professionals conference that I attended in Atlanta this spring, the Coupon Information Corporation gave a presentation and discussed the resale of coupons. Bud Miller stated that the CIC was trying to put a halt to coupon resale in 2011. In February, the CIC began sending certified letters to numerous Ebay coupon sellers requesting that they both stop selling coupons and also sign and return a Memorandum Of Understanding. This MOU acknowledges that the sale of coupons violates the terms of the coupon's redemption policy of nearly all coupon-issuing manufacturers and also asks the seller to immediately cease all Ebay coupon sales.

After the first round of CIC mailings, about 20% of the targeted Ebay coupon sellers stopped. The CIC stated that they intend to continue working on stopping Ebay reselling this year. But coupon clipping services are still prevalent on the web too, and after hearing about how much the industry wants the resale of coupons stopped completely, I've wondered how long the clipping services would be allowed to continue too.

It appears that the industry is cracking down. Earlier this week, CouponDede and several other large clipping sites posted notices that they were "temporarily unable to offer any new whole inserts." Jennifer Jacobson Carew at posted a notice that one clipping service sent out to its customers. In part, the notice reads:

Apparently Red Plum, Smart Source and P&G are filing suit against eBay for allowing the buying and selling of coupons. They are also in talks regarding the same with TLC. According to them it`s all considered coupon fraud... They are going to do everything possible to make it almost impossible to get coupons without buying the actual newspapers. They are also going to shut down all online sites that sell whole coupon inserts.

While this does not affect me as a coupon shopper (I've long advocated simply buying extra copies of the newspaper to get more coupons) coupon shoppers who depend on clipping services have been voicing their disbelief since the GreenBayConsumer article was posted yesterday. Do I believe changes are coming? Absolutely.

So why do manufacturers care about this?

One argument I often hear from shoppers is "the manufacturer prints all of these coupons, why do they care how many we use?" To answer this, it is important to understand that a manufacturer budgets for a free-standing insert coupon campaign fully expecting only a small percentage of those insert coupons to be redeemed. At the ACP conference I attended, one session referred to this as the "shotgun approach to marketing" -- blast your marketing effort out there and see what campaigns hit the mark.

With this approach, of course, there's a budget to consider as well. With the average coupon redemption typically running at less than 6%, it means that statistically speaking, 94% of the coupons a company issues for a particular campaign will not be redeemed. But, it also means that when a company runs a coupon campaign, their expected payout for the coupons redeemed during that promotion will also likely fall into that same low, expected range of return. (The numbers shared at the conference during this discussion were closer to 3% overall redemption.)

Of course, the company wants as many people to buy its product as possible, but there's a new element in the mix that companies have had to contend with - the extreme couponer. When a manufacturer issues a coupon, it certainly realizes that some customers may buy more than others. But realistically, if they're looking to move 100 products, they would rather have 50 people using two coupons to each buy two of their products rather than one person using 100 coupons to buy all 100.

When a extreme couponer orders large numbers of coupons from Ebay, a clipping service, or even goes dumpster diving for them (and we'll get back to diving in a moment) an "artificial demand" is created for that product. The same shopper that might buy one, two, four or five of a product might now be buying 20, 30, 50 or more of them. And while the shopper certainly can buy however many the store will allow them to, like it or not, a manufacturer isn't too thrilled about the same person redeeming that many coupons for the same item. They want us to buy their products, but when the quantities move into the extreme range, they also know that person is purchasing far more than he or she would normally buy if coupons weren't a factor.

Manufacturers are reacting. Any regular coupon shopper has noticed that for many coupons, the expiration dates are getting shorter, and in some cases, dollar values are going down too. Why? According to some of the manufacturers I spoke with at the conference, the shortened dates and lowered values are being used to combat the resale of coupons. With shortened dates, the window of time that those coupons can end up on the resale market is shortened as well. Another manufacturer's representative was even more candid. The rep said "If we see too many of our coupons on Ebay, we know the dollar value was too high, and the value of the coupons we issue goes down next month." (As this was said in a closed session, I won't disclose the company's name, but if you've ever bought a name-brand of 100% fruit juice, you've likely bought their product at some point.)

Shortly after the premiere of "Extreme Couponing" aired last fall, P&G added the "Limit 4 Like Coupons Per Transaction" wording to its coupons. Colgate has followed suit on some of its coupons, and I think we're just seeing the beginning of this. At the ACP conference, these limits were a popular topic of discussion. What's a good, reasonable limit that a "normal" coupon shopper would buy at one time? Manufacturers were trying to determine at what point "enough to stock up on" turns into "more than one shopper could reasonably want to buy at a time.'

Another issue too is that of reselling. Some extreme couponers also advocate selling stockpile items on their own websites. Regardless of whether or not you feel stockpile resale is right or wrong, clearly, manufacturers do not wish to subsidize home businesses who are reselling product. Per-transaction limits are also designed to "slow the flow" of large quantities of the same product being sold with identical coupons to the same buyer.

An example of how coupon overuse can hurt a company:

Another argument I hear from shoppers at times is "These companies are huge. Who cares how many coupons we redeem, they can take it!"

Let's play with some numbers on a small scale to show just how much an unanticipated over-redemption can affect a company's bottom line.

I decide to launch a new beverage: Jill's Jazzberry Juice. I'll pretend that this is a small, regional product, so I'm only going to issue a coupon for $1.50 off Jill's Jazzberry Juice in the Chicago Tribune's inserts. With the Tribune's circulation currently at 437,000, I'll assume that the insert overrun will number at around 450,000 coupons printed.

My analysts state that we can expect 4% of those coupons to be redeemed. That's 18,000 coupons, or $27,000 that I can expect to pay out to the stores when shoppers redeem these coupons for Jill's Jazzberry Juice.

So, my coupon runs in the paper. A few weeks later, one of our major supermarkets puts Jill's Jazzberry Juice on sale for $1.50 a bottle. People are buying thousands of $1.50 Jill's Jazzberry Juice coupons via Ebay and clipping services. Ultimately, instead of 18,000 coupons being redeemed, 50,000 are redeemed. Now, instead of paying $27,000 for my ad campaign, I have to pay $75,000 - nearly triple what I expected to pay out for that single coupon. My little company, of course, is happy to have so many people trying our new product, but it's also feeling the sting of a campaign that was "too successful."

As I try to decide what to do for my next ad campaign, I see an extreme couponer on the news buying 1,000 bottles of my juice... on my dime. So, the next time Jill's Jazzberry Juice releases a coupon, it's for .50, not $1.50. And it's "Limit 4 Like Coupons Per Transaction."

Now, think of that example on a nationwide scale. An unanticipated over-redemption can quickly add up to millions of dollars.

Disappearing Inserts

If you've been couponing for a few years, you may remember RedPlum pulling their inserts completely from newspapers in selected market areas of Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington D.C. Instead of receiving the RedPlum in the paper, RedPlum decided to direct-mail the inserts to households - one insert per house. Coupon bloggers in these market areas tried to band together, creating a site called, but they were unsuccessful.

While Valassis, the publisher of the RedPlum insert did not disclose exactly why they chose to direct-mail versus putting the insert in every paper, there are many possible reasons. Was it cheaper to send the inserts via postal mail than have them distributed with the newspaper? Or did they want to guarantee each household only received one insert... and only one?

It's true that in some delivery areas, the insert distribution has been scaled back. Locally, we've seen this with the Chicago Tribune's inserts too -- outlying areas toward Rockford, and areas both north and south of the city can still get the paper, but their insert distribution is hit or miss. This isn't due to the Tribune "deciding to take inserts away" from those areas, but instead due to the insert distributors themselves pulling back insert distribution from those areas.

Over the past few months, I've noticed that the number of emails I receive from readers of my newspaper column regarding missing inserts has increased too. Here's an email I received this week:

"I have only been couponing for a few months now and I was doing pretty good until the Lakeland Ledger stopped putting all the inserts in the papers. For a month now I drive all over Polk City and Auburndale looking for more than just SS inserts... I don't think this is fair I think if I'm paying for my paper I should get what I pay for. I get 10 Sunday papers and I feel cheated. I'm not getting the same kind of saving without the other inserts.. Please help me understand. I don't want a subscription and pay $60 a month for 10 papers a week when sometimes they don't have any coupons. I don't even read the paper I just want the coupons."

Another element: Dumpster diving

Newspaper circulation and delivery statistics give the manufacturer an idea of just how many of their coupons are "out there." When dumpster diving comes into the equation, it is possible to have a situation where more coupons were redeemed than were actually delivered in a newspaper in a certain market. In April 2010, Valassis sent letters to Albertson's and other major supermarkets demanding that newspapers stop selling the Sunday paper after the "specified publication day." Again, it goes back to numbers -- once the Sunday sales statistics are reported, they didn't want "extra" coupons out there being made available to inflate those redemption numbers over what potentially was sold on that particular Sunday.

With dumpster diving being glorified on TLC's Extreme Couponing as an acceptable method to get more coupons, look for the coupon distributors like Valassis, SmartSource, P&G and others to further clamp down on what happens to the coupon inserts from unsold newspapers. Many newspapers now have contracts in place that the extra inserts must be "destroyed," not merely recycled.

The Extreme Couponing show doesn't share that information with viewers though -- instead, shoppers are shown happily climbing in dumpsters for inserts. This is spawning copycat behavior, and recycling centers are having to enforce the rules that the inserts become the property of the recycler once they're placed in the dumpster. This week, an Oklahoma news network reported "Oklahoma Parents Using Children To Dumpster Dive For Coupons."

Conclusion... for now

So where does this leave us? Again, as what I'd consider to be a normal, non-extreme coupon shopper, I'm not likely to be affected by these changes. People who depend on large numbers of like coupons or inserts to fuel large-scale shopping trips will feel the heat though if enforcements continue. And again, manufacturers also don't want to redeem any coupons that they feel were sold at any point from the time of distribution to the time they reach a shopper's hands. Whether its by denying gang-cut coupons (again, identical coupons that were stacked and cut together) or by outright discouraging "sold" coupon use, the manufacturers have made their stance very clear.

At the ACP conference, the CIC's session urged all retailers to deny coupons that had any indicators of being sold as well. The print materials provided to retailers (and all attendees) at the conference even read, "If a couponer states that they have purchased coupons from Ebay or any other source, refuse to accept them." While actually getting stores to enforce that is another issue entirely, stores do take notice when the coupons they submit for redemption are denied because the manufacturer suspects that they were obtained through fraudulent means. I spoke with a representative from a supermarket chain in the southern US who told me that they had over $15,000 worth of coupons from one single, cereal manufacturer denied by the clearinghouse in May -- even though they had the product on hand and sold the cereal. Anyone who feels that things aren't going to change has to ask themselves this question: Do you honestly feel that retailers aren't going to react to a $15,000 loss from a single manufacturer in a single month? They are.

I have always said that coupon usage is a privilege, not a right. The manufacturers hold all of the cards, and they're also free to change the game at any time if they don't feel people are playing by their rules.

In April, I attended the Association of Coupon Professionals 2011 Industry Coupon Conference in Atlanta.
This is the third in a series of articles written to share my observations from the conference on topics related to consumer coupon usage.
Previous articles: ""Gang-Cut" Coupons Hurt Stores, Manufacturers and Consumers" | "The Future of Couponing: Digital vs. Paper"

I agree with mariposa502

I think that is a bit ridiculous, I mean whats the difference of buying a paper? Your still paying for the coupons, isnt the Company/Paper doing the same thing as coupon clipping services? Honestly I never buy a paper for the news, I buy them for the coupons..

I totally agree :)

I read the Economist and the Financial Times, the US Edition, so I have my news. I may or may not glance at the local news, but newspapers usually end up in the recycling bin, a.k.a. "benign garbage." I'm not a snob, but our local paper is so bad, the lack of quality and the naiveté of articles so unbearable, that I honestly often cannot read past the first paragraph

No Trading or Giving

I called Oscar Meyer to see what their stance was on "Transferred". They said that they cannot be given, traded or in any way redeemed by anyone but me. That means all giving, trading of coupons is illegal and we all need to be put in jail for coupon fraud. So indeed, it has nothing to do with reproduction and everything to do with never giving it away.


From what I've been told, that isn't true...

Consider the coupons you receive from Vocalpoint or Kraft First Taste - they say right on them "Share this coupon with a friend," and in the terms below on the same coupon. "Void if transferred." Both can't be true.

The reproduction issue is the correct answer, from what I've been told by several experts on the industry side -- I attended an industry conference in April and asked about this there as well. "Transferred" in the legal sense means transferring the coupon from one medium to another (photocopying, scanning/printing), etc.

I asked specifically

For Kraft : I asked specifically about the "for a friend" coupon that I have. I asked specifically about the word "transferred". They said it meant to "give it away". They also said that the for a friend verbage overrides the fine print in that specific instance. Perhaps the customer service people don't understand the legal mumbo jumbo.

I also just called General Mills who said that is to allow the manufacturer to void any coupon that is transferred by any means against their will. They had NO stance on coupon clipping services, as long as it is a valid coupon and redeemed appropriatly. That yes, I can give my coupons away and/or trade them. That person actually called the legal department and then called me back.

I just want answers, but it doesn't help when each company gives me a different answer. Thank you for the relpy above. UGH! I just want to do this coupon thing the right way!

For General Mills

I know for a fact that this is absolutely untrue. I have signed up for one of their consumer services, and they regularly send me products to try and, most importantly, they keep sending me tons of coupons, multiples too, begging me to give them to my friends and family, and then they ask me to fill out survey questionnaires where they ask me specifically how many people I talk to, with how many I share my experiences with the General Mills products, and to how many people I gave the coupons.

Bottom-line: all that stuff about transferring coupons is very vague. There is also misinformation on the part of manufacturers who don't want to lose customers, but they would also prefer to continue making the huge profits they make without changing the current balance. And this is why they don't send out real clarifications and don't train their personnel to give accurate information. It would cost billions to establish a new one. But times are changing, and as I've said before: since time immemorial, the consumer rules. End of story. The whole history of the human race is based on this simple, timeless rule.

Trust me: if the law had been horribly broken, there would have been countless lawsuits filed and going on right now as we speak.

Not only will you get

Not only will you get a different response from different companies but likely you will receive different responses from different people in the same company.

No sunday coupons and hassle at Ultra Foods in Kankakee

What a day. My Chicago Tribune comes with no ads or inserts and calling them does no good as you talk to a call center in India who says the inserts will be there in an hour and of course they are not.

Then I went to Ultra Foods in Kankakee for the last time in my life! My cashier questioned all my coupons and also made me pull all my items from the conveyor belt to prove I bought them. NONE of the coupons had been scanned yet so what was she doing? Then she called a manager over questioning 5 of my coupons and would not let me stack a store and a manufacturer coupon together. I got really peeved then. I spoke loud enough for people around to hear me tell both the cashier and the front end manager that they neither of them knew corporates rules on coupons. I used the buy 4 coke 12 packs for $8.88 coupon and then stacked that with a manufacturers coupon for a free 8 pack of the 8 ounce diet cokes ($3.99 value). She tried to tell me I couldn't use both coupons! I finally spotted a woman who is another FE manager and told her what was going on and that I was no longer shopping with them due to being humiliated. I told her I was calling corporate in the morning and reminded her that Walmart price matches so I will just take their flyer and shop there saving a few miles in gas! I don't care if they have had some coupon fraud! I had to exchange some PB I bought the other day. I had grabbed two low fat and hubby won't eat that so I brought it back to be exchanged. The girl tried giving me back 95 cents on each jar plus tax and I told her I bought them 2 for $4 and just wanted the even exchange. She kept insisting that as they were no longer on sale that they owed me money and I refused it! Now would I scam them on coupons?

Here is a solution:

And I did it once in a similar situation. I told them I was tired of the whole thing, so I was going to Walmart right away. And I left. And all my stuff was left behind with the cashier.

It's that simple. Let them get everything back on the shelves AND lose a customer. I, too, am sick when people do that. I never use coupons wrongly, and yet, there will ALWAYS be delay with coupons. It even happened to me today with a store Catalina, and the cashier was actually extremely polite and said that it was a nuisance since this was a totally legit coupon.

One of these days I will post my thoughts on corporate earnings. And I will back them up with some serious statistics and information coming from some very serious commodities traders I happen to know personally very very well. :) But right now I'm very tired and too busy to do this.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, there is. And the winner will always be the consumer. Because consumer demand ALWAYS drives the market since time immemorial...

Sara, you are so correct...

I should have thought of that and with the full cart I had that would have been a pain for them! I made notes last night and will be calling corporate after lunch to lodge my complaint today.

I have spent the last half hour or more trying to get hold of someone at the Tribune as I never got a replacement pack of ads or a call from a "manager". I spoke to someone in the subscription department which I think is in the Philippines and not India as I thought. I told him if no one contacted me today they can send me a refund. I have only received one Sunday paper without incident since subscribing back in April. I also said I am considering a trip downtown (Chicago, as my family all lives there) to deal directly with someone in the states. This reminds me of that commercial with the guy in Russia who goes by the name of "Peggy" at the CC company. Only difference is that is funny.

Couponing Changes in Rockford

Admittedly, I was excited at first to view TLC's Extreme Couponing show. I have asked my husband to stop DVR-ing it for me, though, since I know that it is not helping, but hurting couponing. I live in Rockford and have one Chicago Trib delivered to my home. Fortunately the inserts are the same as nearer to the city (for now) but I don't get all the ads. (I get more papers delivered to my mom's house in the burbs). I get just enough papers to cover my family's needs and my mom's needs.

Rockford grocery stores are changing policies, though. Hilander (Kroger) limits doubling to two (2) like qs (up to 55cents). Logli (a Schnuck's store) has for quite some time limited the number of doubled qs to three (3) like qs. BUT NOW, there is a limit of three identical qs regardless of value. AND, they will not allow you to split transactions! The cashier said, "if you split the transaction, we know what you are doing." What am I doing? Buying the number of items that I need. Buying the items that my mom needs. I still coupon, but this is very frustrating!!

Printables vs. Paper Coupons

The problem with the coupons in the paper is that the manufacturer's want to control how and where the coupons are redeemed. They would be better off using to limit how many people can print. At least with that once the print limit is reached the promotion is over. I have never see a coupon for sale on eBay.

Won't work

I have seen coupons come via email that are from an online site. No print limit on that and someone is scanning them into a computer to email. Even with people can set up several computers and over ride the 2 per usage.


I can't believe ppl are complaining about COUPONS! I use coupons AND I buy them. So does anyone who buys the Sunday paper. Why do they think the Sunday paper costs more? COUPONS! In this economy we should ALL be using coupons. With using coupons I can stay at home with my newborn now and my husband doesn't have to work 2 jobs just to support us. Also, @ 75% of the stuff we buy goes to charity. Many ppl would never be able to afford soaps, razors, toothbrushes,food, ect. without donations and alot of the donations come from couponers. I don't mind paying someone "Shipping/handling" fee's IF I can help other ppl along the way. Some companies DO take advantage of the couponer and charges an arm and a leg....don't use them. There are other legit ppl just trying to get the product out there. Have you ever cut that many coupons? Its a full time job! Either way, there isn't much they are going to be able to do about this. My advice to the Redplum, SS, ect. companies....if you can't beat them....join them. Make the coupons accessible through YOUR websites. We could just pay them shipping instead of a clipping service.

End of Couponing as We Know It

Kroger, the second largest retailer heavily promoted and appeared in the TLC EC Show. None of the transactions in these shows can be duplicated. IMO Kroger set out to promote this show to RUSH the death of paper coupons and RUSH the onset of KROGER DIGITAL coupons (2010 only 10% utilization). Kroger stands to make a huge profit on the revenue generated from digitals and further customer data-mining with Dunnhumby.

Kroger ended double-triple coupons in Houston in April, and overnight stores limited 1-3 like coupons that will double. Members of Kroger Couponers have reported Kroger ended Perrysburg super double coupons in June and that Kroger plans to eliminate all double-triple coupons in the near future. We have over 1400 members all over the nation that are boycotting Kroger. Even if you do not shop Kroger this will impact you due to Kroger does set standards for the industry.

Customer data is the new currency...Digital-mobile coupons (M-Commerce) is the BIG RACE for retailers and brands to increase revenue and further data-mine customers. This would allow them to collect real-time information about users' locations, shopping habits, spending patterns, and use this to sell ads, coupons, and loyalty programs. Digital coupons target one third of consumers who don't use paper coupons, results in 10-40% more in redemption rates, 25-50% increase in sales with a 5-10% increase in total basket sales. Digitals allow tracking and validation of brands return on advertising investment. Please note their TARGET is AFFLUENT customers and coupons offers will soon be very limited based on shopping history and spend.

Kroger Test Prepares for Mobile Future – Supermarket News “But mobile phones will offer some powerful advantages. Bonner said, highlighting digital coupons, which will + eliminate paper coupons+, control fraud and validate coupons to the GTIN level. Steven Boal, chief executive officer of “We’ve got significant client pressure to drive more and more of their promotions in digital, and out of the Sunday newspaper.”

TLC spokesman Dustin Smith countered that the show was never intended to be a couponing tutorial. “This is a docu-series of behaviors; it's not a how-to program,” he said. - Point Loma Meeting - Protect Your Bottom Line from Counterfeit Coupons and Extreme Couponing: CIC and Target.

Couponing as we know it is changing and not for the good. I only hope the industry is not making a cohesive decision as part of their industry collaborative associations to end affordable groceries. This will impact many families trying to make ends meet with both gas and food prices skyrocketing. More information is available at KROGER COUPONERS group:

My observations on Kroger

My experience with Kroger over the years has been mixed. They target all sorts of consumers, affluent and non-affluent alike. In my old starving student days, my neighborhood Kroger was for the store for the poor, while the Kroger closest to me now (and it's a while away) is not in such a spectacular neighborhood. My conclusion from what they are doing at Houston is that they are trying to scare customers while experimenting with their strategy. If you read their statement, it says exactly that between the lines: "kids, behave, or I'll ground you and will take your TV privileges away."

The solution? Easy. Boycott Kroger. Yes, all of you and ALL your family members, friends, everyone. People, this is still the United States of America, land of absolute capitalism, where competition is free. And the big big profits are not made from the affluent. These usually go to places like Organic Boutiques and Whole Foods and what have you. It's the middle and lower classes, and that's where the money is. Always. Luxury is for the few, and in times of economic crisis it's luxury that is the first to go.

So go elsewhere. They will soon run after you with a new and improved coupon policy, never fear. As I said, it's the US. It's all about capitalism. And competition. Let the big companies whine and go to their competitors. You have cars, stores tend to be grouped together, gas prices are going down, and you got cars...

The coupon clipping services....

The coupon clipping services definitely find a loophole of making money because of the way they use their "handling fees." It doesn't take more effort to clip a $5 off coupon than it does a 50 cents off coupon, so it's pretty ridiculous that you should pay a "handling fee" of $1 for the higher vs. a fee of 15 cents for the lower. Personally, when I see that happen, I believe they're totally in it for the money, and something should be done about it. It's handy to have coupon clipping services, but when their business comes to these terms, they're doing nothing different than selling coupons, which we know is illegal when stated on coupons.

What is the suggestion for

What is the suggestion for someone like myself, who lives in an area with a smaller and poorer population, to get better/more coupons? It's not a matter of I want 50 of XYZ coupon, I just would like to have a Red Plum with more than 7 coupons total in it or Smart Source with more than 11 coupons in it.

What is the right way for me to obtain coupons? Write A LOT of manufacturers repeatedly and hope for the best or just quit couponing altogether?

I understand! I am same situation

I live in a major city in Montana and our coupon inserts contain less than 2% of the total coupons found in most papers. For instance, the first sunday of January, there were 5 total inserts released. We received a total of 2 inserts containing 11 TOTAL coupons in all of the inserts. So, i agree with you. I am also told to just find a major market paper. Well, that would mean i would have to drive 5 hours to Spokane, WA to purchase papers each week. So, because of this, yes, i do order coupons from clipping services and I do ask my family that lives out of state to send me the coupons they are not using.

I personally do not see why i should be punished because of my choice to live in a state that doesn't meet the population requirements for the inserts. My personal opinion, is that the coupons should be straight across the board(same coupons available nationwide) and give those that live in areas that don't have coupons to purchase from major market papers.

Larger city paper?

If you have a larger, city newspaper available to you, it will typically have many more coupons in its inserts than the smaller papers get. Printable coupons are an option too, but the "good" inserts do indeed come in the larger newspapers.

Thank you for your response!

Thank you for your response! I live in the capital and part of the largest metro area of the state, so I'm unfortunately already getting the largest newspaper for several hundred miles.

I wonder if there's anyone who has been able to successfully save money by only using print-at-home coupons. To make it work you'd have to print coupons as soon as they become available and hold on to them until the expiration date as many printable coupons can only be printed a set number of times before they are pulled from the site. Might be an interesting experiment!

Consider this...

Ink and paper cost. I don't print them unless I know I will use them. I hate the ones that print on their own with the rest of the page being a recipe.

If you cant walk the walk, dont talk the talk.

I whole heartily believe that if a company is not prepared to take the loss for the coupon they should not send out as many coupons, or for that much, or not at all. you should expect to take loss for the number of coupons you print. It is a bad gamble and just plain stupid to not expect that, even if only 4% use the coupons. If you cant walk the walk, dont talk the talk.

Dumpster diving

I am a dumpster digger, it is a major resource of coupons for me. However, far from finding that convenience stores destroy coupons in the dumpster, most of my finds are new, uncut inserts from people who conscientiously recycle but "dont have time" to coupon.

The county is starting a home pickup of recycling in partnership with Waste Management, so that will cut down on the trips people make to the county center. However we are a tourist economy, so I expect that the dumpsters near the vacation housing will still yield some interesting stuff.

If I have multiples of a coupon, it is usually no more than 10 or 12. And I get a lot of stares in the process. Always did.

Diving is not a good idea, digging is much safer, with a net or a grabber stick. When my children were younger, we used to go to a cement shed where papers were stockpiled and they had fun with that = but a far cry from lifting a child into an actual dumpster, which is dangerous. Our dumpsters here in FL can also contain bugs, rodents, and snakes, so it is always best to proceed with caution.

Walgreens now holds the extra sunday newspapers and will sell them at full price through the week for couponers, which I think is a fine idea. I have never bought inserts or approved of the practice, because someone is exploiting their access and possibly depriving others of the access. We have had some paper stealing from machines here, and it really is out of whack. Lets hope that more stores do what the local Walgreens is doing and have the papers, and inserts, for legitimate sale during the week which may well cut down on the panic buying and theft.

Damn TLC!!!

This is getting from bad to worse, and it's all TLC fault from screwing up couponing for everyone!!!
What's wrong with clipping services? Do you think everyone has the time to collect cut and clip coupons? This is totally ridiculous, I hope clipping sites do not bow to this kind of ridiculous pressure!!!

"ridiculous pressure?"

The clipping sites are faced with lawsuits and fines right now in excess of $30,000 or more each for obtaining inserts through questionable means. I read on several other sites. If you ran one out of your house against a multimillion dollar company that's all lawyered up and has you in their sights would you still stand up and fight?


Before today I've never heard the term 'gang-cut' & it cracks me up. I have never purchased coupons online (never needed to, I'm happy with my 1-2 Sunday papers or extras from my mom etc) but I do use my scrapbooking paper-trimmer to cut most of my coupons (esp internet ones). Anyways, love the articles and the site.

selling of coupons

I expected this when I saw the first episode of Extreme Couponing. For 32 years I have been the woman with the coupon box. Never before in those 32 years did I see another woman with either a coupon box or a coupon binder. Not one. Coupon wallets and envelopes of coupons, yes, but never anything bigger. Raising 8 children on one income, I mostly stockpiled for my own family, though I cleaned my cupboards once a year for a garage sale which did include extra stockpile. I also fill Christmas baskets full of health and beauty items for my adult children. Now, in the last three months I have seen coupon binders everywhere~ and less friendly cashiers. In the book I am working on I discuss coupon fraud and the history of coupon use. Unfortunately, I see coupons going down the same road as trading stamps, once a very popular promotion of stores. How many trading stamps do you see being used today?

Today's Frugalista Column

In the Money & Real Estate section of today's Chicago Tribune the Frugalista, Carrie Kirby wrote about wrong, questionable and right ways to acquire coupons. She cited clipping services as questionable and quoted Bud Miller of the CIC stating that it was considered fraudulent of the coupon's terms. In my opinion that would move the practice to wrong not questionable. She also lists dumpster diving as questionable. Even though the title of the article says "to be a cut above." Thanks Jill for your commitment to ethical coupon use. Here is the link:


Ok so I'm wondering if manufacturers don't like the idea of others selling the coupon inserts why don't they just let us buy direct form them? I buy 2 or 3 papers a week in my small area it is the same paper. Now everyone knows I do not need to read 2 or 3 of the same paper but I spend 4 to 6 dollars (and I know there are ppl that spend much more) on Sunday papers to get the inserts. I would much rather save the trees and the hassle and just buy the inserts. So if the distributors offered them to us direct couldn't the distributors then offer to give a certain percentage back to the manufacturers to help offset those that are using huge amounts of coupons? I would never want to store those huge stockpiles but to each their own.
I buy a subscription to all you magazine not because I think the articles are so fabulous (not that they are bad it's just usually info I can find on the net) but because I want the coupons. I don't see how having a subscription to the inserts would be all that different. Of course I would not be willing (nor do I think many would)to spend more for inserts then I am all ready spending on the Sunday paper.
Then maybe they could extend the expiration dates on the coupons and perhaps even go to printing once a month there by saving on printing. Like instead of the weekly ones we get now they could print a page of "crest" coupons with 4 coupons on it for the month.
These are just random thoughts running around my head. I also think that probably someone else has all ready thought of this and just decided it would be to much trouble or not efficient enough. But I think that we need a different way to do things without punishing everyone for a select few. It seems like we spend way to much time these days punishing everyone because 2% of the population broke the rules.
I think internet and cell coupons are also a good start. But not everyone has internet or cell (I don't have a cell nor do I want one not even for coupons lol)and many don't want them. Sorry this is so stinking long. I'm not sure of the answers but I do know this, it will take a much bigger brain then mine to figure it out lol.

Inserts in two different papers

I get the Sunday Trib though I don't live in Chicago or the burbs. I am an hour plus south and also get out local daily paper. That paper no longer prints a Sunday paper so we now get a "weekend" paper on Saturday mornings. I have noticed that even though, like this week, there both had the RP and SS inserts, the Trib's were much thicker by far!

I think if the coupon market cuts back any more than it has they will find people buying more generics and going back to Sam's and CostCo. Why do we have to pay for the idiots on that TLC show? Charge them with fraud and let the rest of us attempt to stretch our food dollars wisely!

Aldi's and stores like them are going to be very happy

Their prices are not competitive as compared to product purchased at Jewel with sales/coupons/catalinas, etc. However, take away the options or severely limit the usefulness of coupons and namebrand products and stores like Jewel will ultimately suffer, I believe. There will be no, or very limited, motivation for me to cross their threshhold or purchase the product.

The adage 'couponing is a right, not a privilege' is understood. However, saving money, stretching my dollars, keeping food on the table and a roof over our heads is a NECESSITY, and I will exercise whatever options I can to keep doing it. Stores making money or having a healthy bottom is also not a right, but a privilege. Customers within their stores is a privilege. Customers purchasing manufacturers' products is a privilege.

Mess with my meager rights and you lose the privilege of my business. I'm sick to death of the few ruining it for the many. By the same token, I'm sick to death of stores and mfrs acting like the tax collector - take, take, take with less and less benefit. Before all this major couponing, THEY HAD NO PROBLEM with coupons not being used. Before this recession, of which they are also 'enjoying', they had no problem charging inflated prices to the suckers {cough} customers. Now, shoe's on the other foot and, ruh roh, Astro, time to squash the peasants and get them back in line. The peasants have figured out a way to succeed. And, if they don't start behaving like proper consumers, we'll just take away the inserts, the sales, the coupons. That'll teach 'em!!

I am totally disgusted ... all the way around ...

couponing is a privilege not a right

Don't you mean "couponing is a privilege not a right" and not the other way around?

... Customers using coupons is a privilege.

Coupons are just another form of advertising. They are targeted at specific markets. They spend money on this advertising and coupon selling is corrupting their work.

Very well said!

I love your reply ... very well said! Although I generally agree coupons are a privilege and not a right - I have always had a problem fully supporting that statement. Manufacturers are not running not-for-profit businesses ... they issue coupons because it helps their bottom line (repeat sales, not losing business to a competitor, etc.) I greatly appreciate manufacturer's coupons, however, without them I too will do whatever is necessary to find the best deals, out of necessity, to help MY bottom line. Getting our business is definitely a privilege and I hope companies remember this.

yes ... my apologies

Thanks for the correction. However, I stand by my opinions. Just like Comcast gives you the introductory tv/phone/internet pricing which ultimately expires ... they think they've got you as a customer who will now pay a higher price ... nope, doesn't work. I will search for the products that will give me what I want at the price I think is fair/acceptable. Otherwise, I won't buy that product and may very well go without if a reasonable substitute can't be found.

Now, I realize going without tv/phone/internet is not the same as foregoing food, but I think you get my gist. Coupons are powerful advertising tools. However, if they go away (like in some areas that no longer get inserts), their product is not getting out there. I don't 'read' grocery aisles. If something is not tied to a coupon, chances are very small I will seek it out. Television, to me, is not a profitable or viable advertising campaign. Coupons via the internet will work but I seldom buy a product unless a coupon is attached to the purchase. So, printing 2x will get me 2 items but no more ... if I'm lucky and the stores accept them!!! Even if I like it, I probably will not make the purchase. Those pennies add up and I would consider myself financially foolish to not get the most out of my dollars.

I believe this latest action on the part of manufacturers is too strong arm. I can understand the need to reign in the abusers but when you throw such a big net, you're bound to affect those that should not be caught in the crossfire. And, winning those consumers back could very well be costly and ultimately, ineffectual in the long run.

Good analogy

Couponing IS like a low introductory offer. Once you get hooked on the product they hope you will buy at full price. But that's the point in advertising - to get you to buy their product over another. And the worst marketing technique is to compete based on who can sell for the lowest price - it just doesn't work.

Most people won't go through the time and effort to use coupons but even seeing the ads will put their products in customer minds.

CVS seems to have a good policy of limiting purchases but still allowing coupon matching. However, Walgreens still doesn't have a clue about stocking shelves during sales.

I don't think coupons will go away until a better advertising method is discovered.

What we really need are informed stores & cashiers.


I find your blog to be very informative to us super couponers. Your explanation of Jill's Jazzberry Juice was very helpful in understanding where the manufacturers are coming from. I have noticed much shorted expiration dates lately, and was wondering why that was happening.
Thanks so much for educating us!

Except small companies typically

do not put out high value coupons. It is usually the multi million dollar conglomerates that do. Like Kraft, P&G, etc.
They could afford to take a 'hit' on a couple products because they are selling millions of other products at full price. (Most consumers buy what they want/need whenever and don't even wait for a sale much less a coupon deal)
I'd bet coupon redemption costs to Kraft are a drop in the bucket compared to their revenue. In addition, coupon redemptions can be written off as business expenses.

Small company coupons

They are offering "coupons" now - Groupon, LivingSocial... have a high concentration of small, local businesses.

yes they are

but they also typically limit how many can be purchased - total - and per person. They are also not as good as some other deals - for example the restaurant deals are only about 50% off - not as good as at
As a small business owner, I don't put out more discounts than I can afford - and discounting services is a lot easier (and cost effective) than discounting products. Also I notice on many of these deals the 'original price' seems to be grossly over inflated.

So it's ok to scam someone as

So it's ok to scam someone as long as they are a big company or a rich person?

who mentioned scamming?

the discussion was about companies having to pay for the coupons that are being redeemed. One example was a small company being overwhelmed by too many coupons redeemed.
The discussion is about companies paying for coupons they put out there - legitimate coupons - and how companies gamble on the majority not being redeemed - and how sometimes that is a bad gamble and they have to pay out more than they figured they might have to.
Remember how everyone reacted when all of a sudden K-Mart decided to immediately stop honoring that PDF they sent out? There was also Physician's formula that did the same thing recently - just pulled the coupon.
If a company puts out a million coupons they better be able to back them up if indeed they all get redeemed - or those companies would be perpetrating a 'scam'
There was no mention of anyone using fraudulent coupons - only legitimate coupons from inserts, no one suggested any 'scam'.

I agree with you, especially

I agree with you, especially about Kraft. I think I read somewhere that their biggest revenue comes from China or something ( USA is not even their biggest market). And they don't really offer Qs overseas, I don't think.
And when you think about how all those big companies are connected, all those parent companies, sister, brother, whatever... I swear it seems like there is only like 2-3 companies that run the world, and all other companies belong to them, just different names...

Thanks for the post!

I've just begun reading your blog after getting pretty disgusted at what I've seen posted on a few other coupon matchup blogs. It's fraud, pure and simple. I'm so glad that an ethical blogger like yourself will "call a spade a spade." Just because folks can get away with buying coupons online doesn't make it right. It's kind of like speeding -- just because the cop doesn't catch you or maybe he chooses not to chase you down doesn't mean it's legal for you to go 15 miles over the limit. I hope the industry is successful at shutting down these "clipping" services and ebay sellers.

Selling coupons/inserts

I do not care, and don't understand why anyone cares, if people make a few measly bucks selling inserts & coupons online. The profit margin cannot be that high for the amount of time it takes to process all the coupons and mail them. I assume there is a cost to obtain the coupons as well. Ultimately the customer takes the coupons to the store and buys the products, which is the manufacturer's intent.

I don't consider $5500 a month you?

I have met couponers in grocery stores that sell coupons on ebay. They get hundreds of inserts for free, dropped off at their door every week by their "inside source." They then proceed to sell them on ebay for a profit. A BIG profit. Enough that they have quit their full time jobs, paid off debt, and bought a new car. All in a matter of a month. It's absolutely sickening! Its the supply and demand. Extreme couponers will do whatever they have to to get the deal they want, even if that means spending hundreds of dollars on ebay to buy coupons (which I just think is ridiculous, not to mention illegal!)

Still not convinced, here's an example for yuh: $2/1 Dial Bodywash/Lotion coupons are being sold in 20 ct. quantities on ebay right now for roughly $9.50. Now yeah, $10 bucks probably seems measly to you. But you have to figure in that these people aren't just getting 20 coupons to sell, they're getting 600 of each coupon to sell (and they're getting them at NO COST delivered TO THEIR FRONT DOOR). That means that they're making $285 JUST FROM THE SALE OF THAT SPECIFIC COUPON. That's only one coupon out of those 600 inserts. And that's only one week worth of inserts. Don't you get it?! Even if there's only 5 "hot coupons" per week, that person is making over $1400 dollars! That means they're potentially making over $5500 in a month! This is anything but measly!

Gang Cutting

I just want to say my local news paper has a "coupon special" you can purchase 9 Sunday papers to be delivered to your yard every Sunday of the month. (This is selling coupons because the promotion I was sold was "coupon special promotion".

Now I'm reading on this site if I use my cutting board to cut all 9 coupons at one time it will be considered to be void-fraud! WTF

The underlying problem has nothing to do with buying or selling coupons, nor does it have anything to do with TLC EC (which I have not watched since the first show which was bull!).

The fact of the matter is the real fraud is coming from your local paper, they are charging millions yearly to advertise in their paper. I have actually talked to people taking uncurrculated bundles to my local recycle center and have been told the managers at the news paper tells them "I don't care what you do with them just don't bring them back into the building" This being said if the management at the news paper companies know the papers are not being circulated and they are not making any effort to conpensate the advertisers for the 10+ years of advertisement they paid for and did not get.

I also heard the local "top man" recently found out (got the information in writing) what was going on, no managers lost their job, no paper carriers lost their job, and only about 1% increase of the free paper is being distributed. While on the other hand now the no bodies like myslef can't go inside the recycle center an "coupon" anymore which was a daily event.

From what I can tell is as long as the news media can continue to make millions for sells of advertisement they are going to continue to deny any knowledge of the papers not being circulated, its all about the advertisement.

Most of our local stores even have a 10 coupon per transaction limit, funny how their limit meets the new media "coupon special" plus the one free paper everybody is supposed to get.

I enjoy using coupons and paying $ 32.00 a month for the coupon special my local news paper has I save around $ 100 a month. If GANG cutting is going to have the coupons voided then my respons is the day it happens I will no longer pay $ 32.00 a month for my coupon special, nor will I use any of the coupons in P&G, Red Plum and SmartSource, I will just go back to the store card buy one get one free promotions and start boycotting these coupon manfacturs

It's been appearing on coupons too

Whether or not you agree with it, some coupons do state in the fine print that they are void if gang-cut too. The issue is that you likely won't be "notified" if your coupons aren't accepted due to gang-cutting -- that can happen at the redemption center or clearinghouse too. And at that point, it will be your store that suffers the loss.

you kidding?

Some of the clippers are giant operations. They are businesses. And a lot of them are getting coupons through "questionable" means. I guess you didn't read this at all as the manufacturer's intent is not for people to get them through reseller or clippers or they would not say Void If Sold. Rite Aid does not even accept any coupons they think were gang cut and sold, it's in their coupon policy to tell the customer no if they are cut alike. They are cracking down.

Something I've wondered: is

Something I've wondered: is coupon trading allowed? Example: I have a coupon for juice and you have one for toilet paper. Can we swap? Or is that like selling?