At times I hear feedback from coupon users asking why it’s wrong to buy coupons online. I continue to stand with the industry’s position that coupon and insert resale is wrong. The publishers of the coupon inserts have tight controls in place from the time the inserts are printed until they are delivered to the newspapers for distribution. Somewhere along the way, inserts are ending up in resellers’ hands, and the sad reality is that many of these coupon inserts are stolen.
Last year, authorities in South Carolina busted coupon insert thieves who were entering a newspaper distribution center and stealing coupon inserts by the pallet. Two of the thieves were sentenced in March. One was jailed for two years, and the other is serving a three-year sentence. Investigators also arrested two people who were obtaining their inserts from these thieves. While these two weren’t the people who originally stole the inserts, they’ve since been arrested and charged as accessories to burglary and larceny.
A few days ago, another man was arrested for stealing coupon inserts from a Rhode Island newspaper. Unfortunately, this insert thief was a police officer himself – a 19-year veteran of the Providence police force. From the Providence Journal:
A 19-year veteran Providence police officer is accused of breaking into a distribution center and stealing bundles of coupon fliers for The Providence Journal. Patrolman Jesse Ferrell was arrested Friday morning shortly after he forced open a door at the distribution building at 135 Harris Ave., said Deputy Chief Thomas F. Oates III.
Officers from the department’s internal affairs bureau had him under surveillance, and they arrested him as he drove away. Ferrell was arraigned Friday afternoon by a bail commissioner at the Public Safety Complex on a felony charge of breaking and entering, and larceny, a misdemeanor. He was released on $10,000 personal recognizance for a pretrial date of July 15, Oates said. Ferrell is suspended without pay, Oates said.
Ferrell came under investigation about two weeks ago, when Distribution Services of Rhode Island, an independent contractor for home delivery of The Journal, contacted the internal affairs bureau, Oates said. The business noticed that bundles of fliers prepared for the Sunday newspaper were disappearing from the building, Oates said. He declined comment on how many were taken or what was happening to them, citing the ongoing investigation. “There is a market for them,” the deputy chief said.
In the comments under the article, one reader noted:
“They sell for .35 an insert on IG. He was making a lot of money selling them. Between him and his wife they were making close to $2000 a week. Their name was 401inserts on IG. His wife has since shut down her IG page”
Indeed, Google’s cache of the 401inserts Instagram feed reveals a Paypal address that includes the officer’s wife’s name (“Kha Ferrell” — her name is known from an unrelated 2014 news article about the officer.)
This account was hashtagging their coupon sales #earlyinserts and #bulkinserts, noting these coupons were being sold before they even ran in the paper and that they had large quantities of them.
If you’ve ever wondered how coupon insert resellers get their coupon inserts days and weeks ahead of time, now you know. Remember, in the case of the South Carolina insert thieves, the investigation has expanded, and people who received the stolen inserts have also been arrested and been charged as accessories. Is buying coupons online really worth the risk?