All You magazine’s been “the magazine with coupons” for many years — it focuses on a frugal lifestyle, living well on less, and of course, couponing. All You has transitioned through many changes over the years — in years past, it was loaded nearly cover-to-cover with coupons. Recent years have brought more editorial content and fewer coupons, but it’s still been a fun magazine to read with many money-saving tips. And, full disclosure — I and my couponing methods have also been featured in the magazine and in videos on their website over the past few years.
All You’s new April 2015 issue has an article encouraging readers to buy coupons on Ebay — it’s on page 84:
“SCOUR EBAY: The online auction site’s Home and Garden section is an overlooked gold mine for paper grocery coupons (search for “organic”). Sellers often offer multiple coupons for one price. A recent check turned up a set of 20 coupons for Horizon dairy products (ranging from .55 to $1 off) for just $2.50.” — April 2015 All You, page 84
I’m absolutely in shock to see this as All You has always promoted correct coupon usage in the past. I also know how tirelessly the industry works to discourage coupon resale and prosecute those who engage in it. I cannot believe All You would advocate this practice considering that they’re also simultaneously offering manufacturer coupons in each issue. They’re selling ad space to manufacturers whose coupons state that they’re not valid if sold. Is this not an enormous conflict of interest?
As soon as I read this article last night, I wrote an email to All You’s publisher expressing my concerns. The email bounced back. That’s when I learned that my longtime contact at All You, Suzanne Quint, recently lost her job. On January 12th of this year, she was praising All You’s 2014 reader growth. By January 23rd, she lost her job due to cutbacks. I sincerely hope Suzanne lands on her feet — she was very proud of the work she did at All You. Now, with someone else at the helm, it’s apparent that the direction of the magazine may be changing too.
I’ve made a decision to stop promoting All You to my blog readers and workshop attendees. As an All You affiliate, I earn commissions from promoting subscriptions to the magazine whenever they run offers. However, I cannot in good faith continue to profit off something that doesn’t represent my beliefs or the industry’s position on coupon resale.
My regular readers know that I’ve consistently promoted ethical couponing to consumers since I began working in this space in 2008. As all of this has taken place within the last few hours, I have not yet decided whether or not I will continue to include All You magazine’s coupons in my weekly grocery matchups. For people who currently have subscriptions (subscriptions I may have encouraged you to get) I don’t know that it would be fair to drop mentions of these coupons completely, and I would be open to simply including the coupons mentioned within if they are relevant to a particular week’s sale.
I’d like to hear from you in the comments below if you feel this would be an acceptable way to handle this situation. If you agree that I should stop referencing All You completely, even in matchups, I’d like to know that too. Moving forward, I will not be posting new links to subscription offers for All You. As I was writing this, I had some additional thoughts on blog advertising that I’d like to share with you too.
The FTC requires bloggers to disclose any sponsored content, and you’ll see a notice to this effect at the top and bottom of any posts I write that contain advertising or sponsored (paid) links. It’s no secret that blogs like mine are supported by advertisers — it’s what keeps my blog free for you to read and enjoy. I’ve always been selective about the advertisers I work with, as it’s important to me that the advertising is balanced and features brands that will be of interest to my readers. I always ask myself, “is this something I would want to know about?”
Every day, I receive emails from brands, retailers, and potential advertisers. I’m in a perpetual state of pondering over ad requests, insertion orders and sales pitches. I would estimate that I decline upwards of 90% of the offers that come across my desk each week. I know my audience well, and if I don’t think an offer would be interesting to any of you, I’m not going to publish it. This means that I often turn down campaigns that pay well, because they’re not something I wish to promote or attach my name to.
For example, in February, a nationally-known brand pitched a high-value advertising campaign for a bedwetting solution. The campaign required me to film a video of myself reciting a poem about bedwetting, then upload and share the video with readers. I looked at that and felt that no amount of money (and it was a lot of money — the kind of sum that could have paid the house payment that month) was worth the potential embarrassment for my children if their friends viewed and shared a video of their mother doing something so ridiculous. I thought it was an extremely poorly-conceived campaign.
Turning down offers like these means turning down money, often good money — but I always have to remain true to who I am.
Another example: Everyone who knows me well knows that I love Coca-Cola. My love for Coke bubbles through many of my blog posts, and I celebrate Kosher Coca-Cola time each year the way one looks forward to their own birthday coming up. I love Coke. I drink Coca-Cola every week. I plan to be one of those people who lives to a ripe old age and credits health, happiness, and their favorite soft drink as the secret.
A few months ago, Pepsi wanted to run a banner ad campaign. I accepted, because even though I don’t drink Pepsi cola, my readers do — and I do enjoy other Pepsi non-cola products. With that campaign, I didn’t feel it was a conflict of interest. I’m passionate about my love for Coke, but that’s just who I am. Other people may love Pepsi, and hopefully the Pepsi lovers enjoyed the promotion that the brand was advertising at that time. I blog about Coke sales, and I blog about Pepsi sales.
Many brands also run ambassador campaigns, where a blogger is paid to promote and represent a brand for an extended period of time. These relationships can be very beneficial to brands and bloggers, as brands engage readers with longer-term content being written by a blogger the readers trust and enjoy. And, honestly, some brand ambassador campaigns can be very lucrative.
Recently, a blogger friend of mine became an ambassador for a well-known automobile manufacturer. For the next year, she’s driving a brand-new vehicle provided by the automaker. She’ll share her family’s road trips and adventures in their new car over the next year, and in turn, its hers to keep after the campaign is over. I’m excited for her — a blogger landing a partnership with such a well-known brand is a testament to her blog’s large reach and her trusted writing style.
My first thought, though? If I were approached with the same campaign on the same terms, I’d have to turn it down. Unhesitatingly. You see, her new car is not a Chevrolet. I’m a Chevrolet girl. Always have been, always will be. I buy a lot of different brands of a lot of other things, but I’m fiercely brand-loyal to Chevy to the point that I would turn down a brand-new car from anyone other than General Motors. Many of you will think I’m crazy, but I assure you that I’m quite serious.
Why? I was born and raised by Chevrolet-loving parents. They have always owned Chevrolets. When I tried to trace the Chevy lineage of our family and asked Dad why we drive them, he curtly said “My dad drove Chevrolets,” as if there was no more to say on the topic. Chevy’s ad campaign, “Chevy Runs Deep,” could have been about our family. My firstborn son’s middle name is Louis! Taking my boy for his first ride in our classic 1970 Chevy was a rite of passage that was recorded in his baby book, right up there with first words and first lost tooth. I believe my dear father might disown me if I purchased anything other than a Chevrolet.
Every car I have ever owned has been a Chevrolet. I encouraged my husband to sell his Toyota pickup truck when we got together (!) and we shared my old Chevy Cavalier as a one-car household until we could afford a second Chevy. We are extremely passionate about our Chevrolets. Call it silly, call it crazy, but I’d rather buy a new Chevrolet than sign onto a blogging campaign that offered me a completely-free vehicle from another automaker. I could not proudly drive anything else. I consider my vehicle to be a representation of myself, my personality and who I am.
I absolutely love the experience of getting into my Chevy every day and driving my car. I love packing it full of camping gear and taking the kids and the dog out on a road trip. I love stepping on the gas and feeling the engine roar to life and take me where I want to go. (We really do “see the USA in our Chevrolet!”) All of this would make me a great ambassador for Chevrolet, but it would also make me a poor one for a competing brand.
I hope that gives you a little better understanding of how much I stand behind my words and personal convictions and why I’ve decided to disassociate myself with All You magazine. Letting go of their advertising dollars was not a difficult decision. All You is a brand I previously trusted and no longer feel I can. Thank you to Josie K. for sharing the image of this story in All You with me, as I’m unable to photograph my own issue today. Coca-Cola logo from Coca-Cola Media Center. Chevrolet bowtie logo from Media.GM.com.
3/24/15 UPDATE: All You has responded with a statement on their website:
Since we started ALL YOU more than 10 years ago, our mission has remained the same: researching and writing reliable stories that will save you money, whether you’re buying groceries, planning a family vacation or starting a retirement fund. In our April issue, we offered expert-proven tips for saving on organic and other healthy food. But as some longtime readers have pointed out, we weren’t clear about one strategy: purchasing coupons on eBay. Although there are coupons for sale on eBay, most manufacturers’ coupons are void if transferred or sold. So it’s critical to check the terms and conditions of the coupon, as well as of any site that offers them. There are plenty of free coupons, or ones you can get with a purchase, and that remains the best way to collect them. Never ignore the fine print, or the legal and ethical aspects of obtaining and using coupons—including multiple redemptions and other “extreme” practices. As always, thanks for reading ALL YOU so faithfully and suggesting ways we can continue to provide the well-researched and trusted information you value as much as we do each of you.
I feel that All You’s response is unsettling at best. It says “Although there are coupons for sale on eBay, most manufacturers’ coupons are void if transferred or sold.” The article in All You’s April 2015 issue specifically directed purchasers to look for Horizon coupons on Ebay, even pointing out that readers should “search for organic.”
Horizon coupons state “Void where regulated, prohibited, or if altered, reproduced, sold, purchased, transferred or exchanged. Any other use constitutes fraud.” I am holding a Horizon coupon in my hand as I write this — that’s verbatim from the fine print. (Print one yourself and take a look.) So, All You is now reminding readers manufacturer coupons are void if sold — yet it still told its readers to purchase coupons on Ebay that specifically state they are void if sold. Nowhere in their new statement do they tell readers not to buy coupons.
All You’s web post seems like a rather weak attempt at damage control after calling Ebay a “gold mine for paper grocery coupons”. I think an outright apology and a “we made a mistake” statement would have gone much further with readers (and their advertisers, who run coupons in the magazine!) rather than trying to spin the responsibility of checking Ebay coupons’ terms back to the consumer.