When you were browsing through your new coupon inserts this weekend, did you happen to notice the fine print at the top of the RedPlum inserts? Both inserts have identical warnings at the top:
“AVOID COUPON FRAUD: The coupons in this booklet are void under the manufacturer’s rules if they are bought or sold. These booklets are intended for individual home or newspaper distribution. If you are buying or selling these booklets in bulk, you are likely trafficking in stolen property, which is illegal under state and federal law.”
Publishers have been exploring ways to cut down on fraudulent insert distribution and curb coupon insert resellers. Coupon insert theft was in the news off and on last year, including one notable bust where a police officer was stealing coupon inserts from a newspaper distribution center for resale.
Recent efforts to curtail both insert theft and resale have focused on a southern California newspaper distribution center. In December, Procter & Gamble stopped offering its Brandsaver coupon insert to this distribution center, which resulted in many coupon resellers announcing to their audiences that P&G simply didn’t issue a December insert, or was going “digital” that month. Not true — it seems that P&G simply got tired of their inserts falling into the wrong hands.
Of course, when a publisher pulls out of a certain market, it meant that many southern Californians went without their Brandsaver last month, not just those looking to commit coupon fraud. I’m sure it was frustrating for the households that were suddenly cut off from their expected P&G coupons, and this is a sad after-effect of coupon resale. In the long run, the resellers’ efforts hurt everyone.
This month, Valassis has followed suit by pulling its RedPlum inserts, and once again, Southern California is affected. From Coupons In The News:
Valassis, the publisher of the RedPlum inserts, is doubling down on its recent efforts to thwart coupon insert sellers. A month after yanking Procter & Gamble’s brandSAVER from a suspected insert-theft problem area, it’s now done the same with its own inserts. And other coupon inserts, in other parts of the country, could be next.
It’s all happening right now in Southern California, an area where coupon inserts are in high demand among buyers, sellers – and thieves. Large-scale sellers who peddle thousands of inserts online each week have discovered that RedPlum inserts from that region are now particularly hard to find. Their realization comes a month after the December edition of the P&G insert also became scarce.
That’s because Valassis distributes P&G’s inserts in Southern California. And last month, it declined to deliver them to a particular distribution center whose security was determined to be suspect. The reaction from many insert sellers, who suddenly found that they could no longer get their regular supply of brandSAVERs from the Los Angeles area, seemed to confirm P&G’s and Valassis’ suspicions – enough so, that Valassis now appears to be withholding its RedPlum inserts from the same facility.
Two years ago, I heard from quite a few of my Florida readers complaining that RedPlum coupon inserts were no longer available in the Tampa area, and this too was due to coupon reseller fraud.
With the apparent extent of the fraud going on at this particular southern California newspaper distribution center, it does make me wonder what else is going on behind the scenes. Many coupon users have long been calling for the end to coupon insert resale, and each person arrested for coupon insert theft elicits collective cheers from the ethical couponing community.
However, pulling the inserts out of an entire region punishes the honest couponers who simply want to receive their coupons in the paper. (Arguably, these readers are already being punished if the inserts they’re supposed to receive each week are being stolen from the warehouse and aren’t reaching all of the paper’s subscribers.)
One would think that the newspaper would have more incentive to stop the source that is removing inserts from the distribution center in the first place — tens of thousands of inserts are finding their ways into multiple resellers’ hands every week. If you or I stole tens of thousands of products from a business, week after week, we’d face some sort of prosecution! The fact that this level of theft has continued unchecked is disturbing.
If thieves kept robbing the same bank, week after week, wouldn’t that bank investigate, arrest and prosecute the people involved? Instead, it’s as if they’ve concluded that a better solution is to stop keeping money in the bank so there’s nothing to steal.