(Photo Credit – Flickr-itsray)
In October, I started a series of lessons on how to use coupons. These lessons are a revised version of an earlier series written in a pre-extreme couponing world. While this series has taken longer than I intended to finish, I feel it is very important to finish. If you wish to read the previous posts in this series, please visit my Coupons 101 page.
Today I’d like to spend some time talking about a topic I feel pretty strongly about: how to be a responsible couponer. Why does this matter? After all, what you do is just your business right? I’d argue wrong! We have seen many changes over the years that I believe are a direct result of individuals abusing coupons. Coupon fraud is a very real thing that impacts stores, too. I feel that as a coupon blogger, I have a special responsibility to make sure that I’m explaining correct practices. My heart has always been to find a way to bridge the gap between helping people find incredible savings and respecting the stores and manufacturers that are offering them.
Misuse of Coupons
Let’s start by going over a very basic list of what not to do. After that, I’ll venture into some of the grayer areas and etiquette. So let’s go over what I consider to be the big no-no’s of couponing.
- Use coupons as intended. Purchase the products and quantities required on the coupon.
- Respect coupon guidelines. If a coupon states “limit 1 per household per day” honor that.
- Don’t photocopy coupons. This includes printable coupons, too.
- Don’t sell or buy coupons. Contrary to popular belief, buying coupons from eBay or a clipping service violates the terms of the coupon. It’s fraud.
- Don’t use more than one manufacturer’s coupon per item purchased. In many cases, you can “stack” a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon, but you may not “stack” manufacturer’s coupons towards the purchase of the same item. This is true even if you have different kinds of manufacturer’s coupons (insert, printable, etc.)
- Don’t use counterfeit coupons. This can be avoided by getting your coupons from reputable sources. If you have a questionable coupon, don’t use it! You can refer to the Coupon Information Corporation for a list of currently identified counterfeit coupons.
You can count on this blog to only report deals that adhere to the above list. Additionally, this blog has been reviewed and approved by Coupon Integrity for meeting standards of correct coupon usage. I want you to not only get a good deal here, but feel good about how you got that good deal, too! For more information on coupon fraud and correct coupon usage, I would direct you to Coupon Information Corporation. Pretty much anything you read there I am in agreement with.
Be a Nice Couponer
The sad truth is there are bad eggs out there – ask any cashier and she/he probably has a story tell! I’d like to share what my brand of being a nice couponer looks like.
- Take what you need. Do you really need that entire tearpad of 76 coupons? The truth is, more people than ever are using coupons found in the stores, so use them thoughtfully.
- Leave some for others. Extreme Couponing glorified clearing out shelves of mustard and barbecue sauce, but in the real world, this is usually not necessary. Now I am going to caveat here – if a store has three bottles of shampoo left and you need three bottles to do the deal, take the three bottles! At some point, someone has to buy the last item(s) left on a shelf. What I’m referring to is the over-the-top shelf clearing of mass quantities. Should you need large quantities, work with the store to pre-order or pre-buy stock.
- Be organized. While you can’t prepare for every last snafu that might arise at checkout, you can do your part to minimize the chance that something will go wrong. Have your coupons prepped and ready to go, thumb through them and double check you’ve got the right stock and that there are no expireds, group your transactions, have your store card ready.
- Be friendly. Smile and thank your cashier ahead of time for their help. If the cashier has a question about a coupon, be gracious and listen before assuming they are misinformed. (It might just so happen they are right!) Remember that cashiers can be fired for accepting fraudulent coupons; they have a lot at stake. Give them room to do their job. If you do believe you are in the right, politely state so and try to work it out amicably.
- Be gracious to the non-couponing crowd. Ever notice that no matter how awesome you tell folks couponing is, you have that friend or two that won’t “convert?” I used to let this get my goat – after all, I was saving money the BEST way. The longer I’m at this, the more I realize that at the end of the day, people have to do what works for them. I will sometimes have a friend come up to me and ask, “Angela, have you checked out the bulk bins at WinCo yet?” or state, “dude, Grocery Outlet has the most amazing prices on cheese!” I have to smile, because I totally understand where they are coming from! The truth is your friends may be saving money in other awesome ways, too. Have you stopped to listen to what they are doing?
What it all boils down to? Being considerate. Why do I bother sharing this stuff with you? The last thing in the world I want is a rude couponer mentioning my blog to others! Saving your family money should be a positive experience for everyone involved.
I recognize that I might well be preaching to the choir here, but I feel it’s important to articulate these thoughts for new coupon users going through my series. I also have been told in the past that my posts have been forwarded to people with questions about coupon fraud. I also remember a time I shared what I thought was a pretty basic concept (don’t photocopy coupons) only for someone to contact me later that she’d been doing it thinking it was OK. After reading my post, she realized how wrong it was and wasn’t going to do it again. If I can help clarify these important things for a few folks, I’ll be pleased!
I have one final post to wrap up this series and I’m going to try to get it up in the next couple days because I have not one – but TWO series launching in March and it’s going to be a crazy time here at the blog. (But in a crazy AWESOME sort of way.)
I’d love to know your thoughts. What ethics questions do you have? Do you think some of these are more important than others? Any stories you’d like to share?