Is it OK to buy or sell coupons?

As some of you know, I take a pretty conservative stance when it comes to couponing practices.

I won’t suggest you stack a manufacturer’s coupon and an e-coupon. Nor will I recommend you input zip codes other than your own to obtain coupons. I also don’t agree with stacking a manufacturer’s “buy one, get one free” coupon with a manufacturer’s “cents-off” coupon.

Some of you have asked before what my feeling is on purchasing coupons from a clipping service. And admittedly? It’s not one of those issues I feel as strongly about as say, copying coupons or barcode decoding. But today I read this reader question post at Money Saving Mom and thought it’s a topic that’s worth starting a conversation around.

Buying coupons from clipping services or ebay

Many couponers swear by purchasing coupons from clipping services or eBay. They may either:

  1. Buy inserts.
  2. Buy specific coupons.

This enables them to buy just the coupons they need or want. It also helps when you live in an area that does not get coupons or only gets limited coupons. It is understandable why this could be an attractive option.

So, what is the problem?

The problem is this. According to the fine print of most coupons, selling coupons is strictly prohibited. To illustrate, I grabbed a coupon from a recent Sunday insert. Here is what it read:

Consumer: Coupon may not be transferred, sold, auctioned, altered, or reproduced. Limit one coupon per purchase as specified above. Any other use is fraudulent. Counterfeits will not be honored.

The common response from sellers on ebay and clipping services is “you are buying our time and service for clipping the coupons, and therefore not buying the coupon directly.”

On one hand, it seems a plausible enough reason. But if I stop and think about it, if I’m truly buying your “time,” how come I can select quantities of specific coupons on eBay? Seems to me like I’m expecting something very specific in exchange for my money. If I were truly paying for your time, maybe I shouldn’t be too concerned about which coupons you decide to send me. In this regard, I suppose I’m more sympathetic to services that provide entire inserts versus specific coupons.

What do others have to say about this?

The Coupon Information Corporation, a site committed to stamping out coupon fraud has this to say:

Never [pay] money for coupons. This includes buying coupons from companies/individual who “sell the service of clipping coupons” instead of the coupons themselves. (Think about it, you really ARE BUYING the coupons, yet the business will insist you’re not. Does that make any sense? Does it inspire your trust? Do you really want to provide them with your financial information?)

This would suggest to me that some coupon sellers may be involved in additional, fraudulent activity. By supporting them, this could hurt couponing as a whole. Please do NOT hear me say that all sellers are fraudsters or part of the Mob. DO hear me say that the Coupon Information Corporation may be watching some coupon sellers.

Jill Cataldo of Super Couponing offers a slightly different stance:

How do people get away with selling coupons? Online coupon clipping services aren’t low profile. Type “coupon clipping services” into any Internet search engine and you’ll find plenty of places to buy coupons. Technically, however, you’re not buying them. Disclaimers typically note that the site does not actually sell the coupons. Rather, the fees involved reflect payment for the time someone employed by the Web site spends to clip and mail the coupons. So, clipping services charge for a service. Yes, this distinction is a loophole, but it’s legal.

As you can see, this is a complex issue that not everyone will agree on.

What do I think?

After much reading, I personally do not feel comfortable purchasing from a clipping service or eBay. Nor do I feel comfortable suggesting you do it, either. So you won’t ever see me linking to or affiliating with coupon sellers on eBay or clipping services.

That being said, I can understand why some would think it’s OK and I will not judge you if you feel differently than me!

Here is what I would suggest, if you are considering buying coupons:

  1. When buying coupons from eBay, please read and adhere to their guidelines regarding buying and selling coupons. I do not believe eBay monitors this activity, so please do the honorable thing and follow stated policy.
  2. Be leary of buying “free” coupons, pdf coupons, or coupons that were probably taken in an unethical way (such as someone selling 3,000 Safeway coupon booklets).
  3. Do some reading, and go with your gut. In all things, I encourage you to think for yourself, do some research, and in the words of Mr. Jiminy Cricket, “always let your conscience be your guide.”

For more about my personal coupon stance, see my Coupon Ethics Policy.

At this point, I’d love to open the conversation. Have you purchased from eBay or a clipping service? Or, do you feel uncomfortable doing so? Feel free to share your opinion as firmly as you wish, I only request that you keep it civil and nice (which I know you will!). Share away!


Comments

  1. Monica says

    Love that you address these tough ethical questions. I have one that has been bugging me a little and wanted to get additional opinions.

    About a month ago I had to reinstall or upgrade the coupon printing software on my computer. Normally I just accept the licensing agreement without reading it but this time I decided to scroll through it just to see what it did say. Now I don’t have the exact wording since I did read it several weeks ago.

    What I remember the license stating something like you were allowed to have one working copy of the software on one computer per household. So this would limit you to two prints of a coupon.

    In the past I’ve printed two copies from multiple computers (something that seems common in the coupon community and also promoted once in a while on various sites) but now looking at the licensing agreement it appears that this is not ethical either.

    Has anyone else read this in the licensing agreement?
    Any other thoughts?

    • arussell says

      Wow I have not read that, but I appreciate you sharing. That sounds like another topic for another post entirely. ;)

      I will tell you this. I try to only provide scenarios that involve no more than (2) prints of any coupon. I do not encourage you to seek out other computers to print more. I know people do it, and again, that’s on them, but as a coupon blogger? I feel I have an EXTRA obligation to present deals in a way everyone can feel good about AND that most people could reasonably do.

      • Carolyn says

        I really appreciate that about you Angela. I got burnt out on coupon bloggers that suggest accessing additional computers and that admit doing it themselves. To me it is a clear abuse of the manufactures wishes and I hate it when I go to print a good coupon and it says “print limit has been reached”.

    • Shannon says

      I havnt read the agreement but I think the bottom line is that so few people actually hardcore EXTREME coupon that it’s just not enforced. Unlike what happened to Napster where tons of people were downloading music

  2. Amanda says

    Thank you so much for opening this conversation! Several weeks ago I was tempted to purchase coupons from ebay. However, I felt this little nagging feeling that questioned the coupon seller. I wondered where they got so many of the same coupons? Did they really purchase 20 Sunday papers in order to get 20 of the same coupons? According to my instincts, it just felt wrong. I have absolutely no reason to believe anything negatively about the coupon seller, it just felt kind of shady. I thought I was weird, but I am glad to see that it wasn’t just me. Thank you! I follow several frugal blogs, but today you officially became my favorite! I LOVE a good deal but not at the expense of my character.

    • arussell says

      Holy cow, thank you!! Flattered!

      You know, my goal here isn’t to make anyone feel bad or judge anyone. My goal is to simply challenge people to pay attention to those feelings like you had. Or to feel OK in proceeding once they’ve weighed the issues. Sometimes it’s difficult to open conversations like these, but I think it’s IMPORTANT to do. ;)

      Thanks again for your comment.

  3. says

    Honestly, I just can’t work up any problem with being able to buy coupons (or being able to pay for a clipping service in order to get specific coupons). That doesn’t make it right, but it seems so ridiculous for the manufacturers to decide that, for example, a $2/1 Snuggle coupon should only be distributed in certain parts of the country so I never even get it unless I (a) know someone who lives there and will send me hers, (b) buy a big-city paper if they’re sold locally for $3.50 or more, or (c) use a clipping service. If all the coupons were available all across the country, I might be more likely to see a problem with selling a clipping service, maybe. But mostly I find myself questioning why the manufacturer cares in the first place if I buy a coupon from Susie Clipper. Maybe that should be a follow-up post – how does it really hurt the manufacturer if I buy a coupon from someone? If I buy a Sunday paper strictly to get the coupon inserts in it, I already feel like I’m paying for those coupons. I dunno, I guess I think it’s a huge gray area and don’t really have a lot of problems with it. But I totally understand that other people do see a problem with it, and everyone should just coupon at his/her own comfort level :) — my 2 cents

    • arussell says

      You bring up some very good questions. I have a vague understanding of why certain coupons are offered in certain areas. I will have to bookmark that topic for another post if I can get the proper answers.

      And yes, as stated in my post, I can totally understand why clipping services would be an attractive option for some. ;)

      Thank you.

  4. Sarah says

    I am personally against buying coupons…for one big reason: the prices go UP when it becomes a *hot* coupon (example: last week’s Quaker sale). And, coupon prices vary depending on their value. You can call it a “clipping service” all day long…they are selling coupons, and it’s coupon fraud. Thank you for such an ethical site to follow! I really appreciate all you do!

    • Christina says

      That’s exactly the part that makes me wonder how they can get away with saying they’re selling the service when one coupon costs more than another. If they were truly selling their time then all of the coupons would cost the same amount per coupon.

  5. Sarah B. says

    I just purchased some dog food coupons off of Ebay. My problem is – I don’t get the Redplum in the weekly paper so I don’t have the option of purchasing multiple papers to get this coupon. I get one copy of it when it comes in the mail and that’s it.

  6. mindy says

    I personally have only purchased coupons one time and it was when I very first started 4 years ago. Since then I have not found it necessary…really who needs 40 of one thing?

    I do have a recommendation though for people who may like the idea of purchasing. Have you ever considered trading forums? I have had a great deal of success when you post ISO….. there are many people in the coupon world who will be willing to trade something they have for something you have. It’s a win win. I also on many occasions have asked my Mom to print coupons for me because we use different things, we trade insert coupons as well. Every Sunday we go through inserts together and mail each other a big fat envelope on Monday. It makes getting the mail fun. :)

    There are honest ways to go about getting multiple copies of coupons. You just have to think outside the box a bit. Maybe you have pets and a friend of yours has babies and you could trade…think of obtaining extras as another scenario you have to plan out and you might be surprised at what you come up with.

    • Sarah K. says

      I wonder ig trading coupons would fall into the may not be “transferred”? What do you think? I’m torn on the whole thing.

  7. MrsTyree says

    Our public library has a coupon box where you leave and take coupons. It’s supposed to be an equal amount. It’s not very organized. This would be a good opportunity for a teen who needs volunteer hours for school.

  8. mindy says

    Also, just curious as to why you shouldn’t (in your opinion) stack a BOGO coupon and a cen’ts off? I have always understood it to be OK because the cents off applies to the one you are actually purchasing and the BOGO applies to the second ‘free’ one. Always willing to learn differently. Thanks so much for everything you do!

    • arussell says

      Here’s how I see it. The B1G1 is no different than a $1/2 in that it “attaches” itself to both items you’re purchasing. This is why some stores, such as Albertsons, will get “beeps” at the registers when you try to then put a cents-off coupon through on top of it. It will say “too many coupons” or something similar.

      Again, this isn’t something everyone will see eye to eye on, but it’s how I’ve come to believe the way coupons work & should be used.

      • SS says

        Thanks for this thread. You are actually the first person I have heard even discuss the B1G1 and cents off coupon issue (and I read lots of blogs where some readers LOVE to prove the blogger wrong:)). I know that just because it is common practice, does not mean it is always right. However, wouldn’t stores crack down on this if they were not getting reimbursed for both. And if they are getting reimbursed for both then doesn’t it mean that the coupon company sees this as a valid use of the coupons? The only time I can remember having an issue with this was at Albertsons, however, I used 3 B1G1 coupons and it accepted 1 of my cents off coupons but not the other 2. So if it allowed one, it should have allowed all 3. Anyways, when I asked customer service about it they said it was an acceptable use and it should have accepted them and pushed it through. I get beeps with other coupons at times even when they are being used correctly. And I really can’t remember any other times where I have had a B1G1 and a cents off beep.
        Well, Just wanted to add my thoughts…and thanks for the discussion.

        • Cally says

          I have tried to do the B1G1 and cents off a couple of times and EVERY time I have tried it, I was denied. I have tried at several stores and some that claim they let you do this deal. I give up on the idea, obviously there is a reason why it wont work. I don’t like the hassle or feeling like I’m trying to get away with something. I would rather just have my coupons scan with out extra problems to add to the mix. I also no longer try to combine a WAGS coupon with the WAGS monthly coupon (and a manufacture coupon) as I have always had problems with that as well. Even though some web sites say you can do this deal. I feel my time is worth money. Having to stay at a register for an extra half hour for only a $1.00 is not worth it to me…just my opinion though.

          • arussell says

            This is another reason why you’ll often notice deals on my site edge on the conservative site. My goal is to have the majority of deals I post work for the majority of folks.

            This is another one of those gray areas, which means others may feel differently. That is A-OK!

  9. says

    Angela – I think you and I see eye to eye on most of the coupon ethics questions. (BOGO coupons, zip code entry, etc). You have given me something to think about on this one. I have bought coupons off of Ebay (and even suggested it to my readers – GASP!).

    Let’s say for arguments sake though, aren’t we technically paying for the coupons by buying multiple copies of the newspaper?

    • Sarah K. says

      You’re paying for the newspaper publisher providing the service of inserting the coupons and ads into their newspaper. (o;

      • says

        Sarah – I totally understand that we pay the newspaper publisher, but technically all we really need is just one copy of the paper. Those additional papers we are buying are “just for the coupons”.

        You stated we are “paying the newspaper publisher providing the service of inserting the coupons and ads into their newspapers”. Wouldn’t that be similar to others providing the service of sending coupons to us?

        I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I am just throwing the question out there. Thanks for your response! There really seems to be so much grey area when it comes to coupons.

    • arussell says

      This is a VERY fair & valid point and a reader made it on my Facebook wall as well. Which is exactly why I’ve not stated this post as strongly as some of my previous posts on ethical issues. It’s surely a gray area, isn’t it? And there are many, many complex issues surrounding it. (Which I think is why I’ve hesitated for a long time on if I could even write a post on the topic! LOL!!)

      I suppose I do see buying the newspaper subscription differently. That seems to me the most commonly acceptable way of obtaining insert coupons and how the manufacturers intend to get them in the hands of consumers in a given market. Here’s what the CIC says about using coupons: “It’s easy to use coupons. Simply cut them out of the newspaper or other source, such as a coupon printed on a box, and present them to the cashier when you purchase the product specified on the coupon.”

      Bottom line, the subscription is in my name, from my local newspaper, and I’m not buying them from a middle man or third party.

      Do others have thoughts one way or the other on this?

      • Sarah K. says

        As I said in my other post– I have a subscription to my local paper, but it no longer includes the coupons. So if I’m not going to the store and essentially buying another paper for the coupons (only to recycle the paper, so what am I paying for?), then it’s not as simple as the CIC says.

        So… I guess I feel like that does up the “grey area” ante on this.

        • Laura says

          I wish there was a way to buy the coupon inserts each Sunday without getting the rest of the paper. Yes, I buy extra papers JUST for the inserts, not the articles. It seems like such a waste of paper.

          Just so you know, I was filling up my recyle bin with newspaper each pick-up, so I figured out a new way of using the extra paper. I use it in the yard! Instead of using landscape fabric or plastic under the bark in my beds, I lay down paper and put the bark on top. This has prevented weeds now for years, depending on how thick I layer it. After a few years, old landscape fabric or plastic comes up. Newspaper justs composts away!

          • Sarah K. says

            We do this in our garden– I lay down newspaper 2 sheets thick, and we spread grass clippings over it. almost NO WEEDS. it’s wonderful!

            • arussell says

              WOW! I just may have to do that myself!!!

              EDITED: meant this in response to using newspapers for garden mulch. ;)

          • Cathy says

            We use our papers for firestarter. We have a very small local paper, and it practically takes a whole paper to get it going every day. So, I have a use for a lot of papers! We save them all summer! LOL. Maybe I should be buying more of the the big papers and getting more coupons, too. I don’t think I would have anything to feel guilty about.

  10. Sarah K. says

    I have done it, but I struggle with the BOGO and cents off thing, too. I mean… you can’t use the BOGO coupon without buying BOTH items, so doesn’t it apply to both? I don’t know. I think some of the newer P&G BOGOs have different wording on them that really excludes using a second cents off coupon: “Limit one coupon per purchase of PRODUCTS AND QUANTITIES STATED.”

    I participate in a coupon train, occasionally buy multiple coupons on Ebay, and have recently been looking into a clipping service. My motivation for seeking out the service?– the company that puts out the SS inserts has decided to just stop providing their inserts to my local paper as of the beginning of this year. Yes, I can get in the car, drive to the grocery store and buy a non-local paper… if they have any left when I get there, but it’s a PITA.

    So that recent issue has me really torn about “buying” coupons, clipping services, etc… because while I’m not sure it’s 100% legit, I also don’t think it’s OK that SS/RP can just stop providing the inserts to small/local papers without offering those of us in rural areas any other way of getting them. It’s frustrating.

    • Twila says

      I agree. My newspaper also stopped carrying the SS since the first of the year, and it made me quite upset. The newspaper said they have no control over it. It’s the first time I ever “bought” coupons. I ordered the whole inserts. Then I discovered that a neighboring city still carries it in their paper, so now one of my friends buys one for me when she gets her own. So that’s probably what I’ll do from now on. It is quite a grey area, and I’m not sure as yet how I feel about everything.

  11. Cindy says

    I’m all for coupon ethics. I’m not a shelf clearer, I don’t take 20 free books at Albertson’s/Safeway, I have issues with companies giving away free products and reading the comments that people not only scored them for themselves but everyone they know too, etc.

    The region in which I live does not carry coupon inserts in the paper any longer. I decided to purchase inserts online for this reason. The business I get my coupon inserts from indicated to me that he purchases them directly from SmartSource, RedPlum, and P&G. He is paying for them, and they are charging for them. I have to believe the Manufacturer’s are aware that these coupon insert companies are selling them to the Newspapers (this is why my local paper stopped carrying them –costs increased) and others. One could argue that the insert companies are enabling the fraud or sale of coupons by selling them to companies that are not newspapers as the Manufacturer’s probably intend.

    For me, purchasing whole inserts online is really the only way I can feasibly get coupons. I don’t feel that I am committing coupon fraud because ultimately I buy the Manufacturer products, and they make money off me.

    • Jen says

      From Cindy:
      “For me, purchasing whole inserts online is really the only way I can feasibly get coupons. I don’t feel that I am committing coupon fraud because ultimately I buy the Manufacturer products, and they make money off me.”

      I could not agree more. Manufacturers are completely aware of the number of coupons ($$) that they put into circulation every week. How many thousands of dollars in coupons go into recycling bins every week? Manufacturers anticipate (hope) that those coupons will get used, it equates to sales!

      Wonderful topic, btw!!

  12. says

    My take on the BOGO situation with a cents-off mfr Q. The Buy One/Get One is telling me that if I buy one, the manufacturer will give me another one. When I buy one all by itself, I can use a coupon on it, so I’m still buying the first one but at a reduced price. However, I don’t usually do that when both coupons are the manufacturer’s coupons because it usually causes beepage at the register.

    However, my more frustrating issue comes with stacking and BOGOs — say Target (a store that allows stacking of its coupons with manufacturer coupons) is having a BOGO sale on 20-oz bottles of Coke product. I also happen to have a Free 20-oz mfr coupon from MyCokeRewards. I see no reason in the world why I can’t get both those 20-oz bottles at no oop cost to me. I am still *buying* one, but I’m handing over the mfr Free coupon as payment instead of a $1 bill from my wallet. Target will still get the $1 payment for that first Coke by turning in the free coupon to the Coke company for reimbursement. As far as I know, both CVS and Rite Aid are okay with this scenario and I think RA even says it’s okay right in their coupon policy, but Target will not budge (so I don’t try anymore).

    • Sarah K. says

      I think that might just be your Target (and probably others somewhere, too, because I know some Targets are just not coupon friendly)…. but I’m fairly confident my Target would be OK with that scenario. I recently bought three packages of pacifers at Target (B2G1 free sale), and I used three manufacturer coupons… one for each package I was buying. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just getting three for the price of 2, so I’m still paying for all three of them. I imagine that might be a grey area as well.

  13. Shannon says

    I have used a clipping service, though not ebay. I view it as they are providing me with a professional service for something I would like. As with a lot of things in life, there are many things you can do by yourself but requesting professional assistance may be your best option. I don’t subscribe to the paper and only buy it occassionally. I am very selective about what coupons I use. I cook primarily from scratch. I totally understand the ethics involved and have strong ethics on other coupon related issues. I tend to shop the sales, with or without coupons.

    Angela, I have always appreciated the time and effort you put into your site. And thanks for providing a forum to discuss this issue.

    • arussell says

      You bet! ;) And as I’ve stated, this is just one of those areas I don’t feel as strongly about.

      Exploring this topic certainly DOES bring up other related issues as many readers have aptly done here.

      For instance:

      - what about buying multiple newspaper subscriptions?
      - what about trading or swapping coupons with a friend?
      - what about getting coupons from neighbors?

      It’s a big topic and I have appreciated everyone’s perspective. Honestly, I learn so much from considering and hearing others’ opinions. I am being really challenged today in thinking on this issue and LOVE it!

  14. Laura says

    I wish there was a way to buy the coupon inserts each Sunday without getting the rest of the paper. Yes, I buy extra papers JUST for the inserts, not the articles. It seems like such a waste of paper.

  15. Jessica says

    I guess I started reading this and agreed with you and many other peoples opinions. I am somewhat new to couponing and have made mistakes before because I either didn’t read the coupon or I wasn’t familiar with couponing “lingo”. But then I started thinking, my neighbors give me their inserts they get in the mail since they don’t use it. Also I have someone that gives me theirs from their newspaper subscription. In addition I buy 3 Sunday papers. I don’t need 40 of something, but like the oatmeal our family uses and I bought 15 the last awhile until they go on sale again. I got extra coupons from a clipping service. So that got me thinking, isn’t in “transferring” when someone gives me their coupons? Are the manufacturers saying essentially “if its not mailed to you, or you did not purchase the paper, you cant have it?” I know how much time it does take to cut coupons (my least favorite part) It got me thinking also how frustrating the lingo on coupons is, especially when you are new or for a cashier who isn’t familiar also. Just my 2 cents also.

  16. Jen says

    Great topic. We should all regularly check in with Jiminy Cricket.

    Some “food” for thought:

    I share cookies and other baked goods with my neighbors/friends in exchange for their inserts. How is it different? They paid for the paper, and often times deliver the inserts to my front door. As a thank you, I bake them treats. I do not feel that this exchange is unethical. But I am paying for a “service”.

  17. says

    I NEVER suggest to my readers that they “buy” coupons from any kind of coupon clipping service, mainly because I have a “gray area” feeling about it as well. I just can’t put my finger on it, but it doesn’t feel right to me, so I don’t do it. The reason I won’t suggest to my readers to do it is because I can’t honestly tell them if it’s right or wrong. I do not want to put someone in the position where they have to make a decision that will compromise what they feel is right.

    That being said, I have zero judgement against people who do buy. I have just found that I can get more than enough for our family (and to donate) by the two Sunday papers I get and other sources of coupons (free samples, in-store coupon booklets). I have never felt discouraged by not having enough coupons. I always know there will be another sale.

    One thing to note about our family is that we have ZERO dietary restrictions or food allergies, so we do not HAVE to buy any certain kind of food. I could certainly understand someone having to take different measures if they (or a family member) could only eat certain kinds of food. We all need to be able to lower our grocery budget whatever way we can.

    More thoughts:
    I just can’t get past the “you’re paying for my time” line. To me, that is just the way they get around the fact that coupons are not supposed to be sold. It’s so transparent, but enough of a loophole that it is not illegal. I just have a hard time “paying” someone to clip coupons for me. :)

    There seems to be some seriously shady things going on on eBay right now. A friend pointed out to me that someone is selling their ShopAtHome link for 90 cents, advertising it in a way that the buyer thinks they are getting this fabulous discount for online shopping. Ugh. Because of these practices, I have a hard time sorting through what is legit and what isn’t (nor do I care to put the time into it) so I just stay away from the WHOLE shebang.

    Thanks for bringing this up! My response has just made me feel more muddled about the whole situation, but it was nice to have a forum to sort through it. :)

    • arussell says

      Melody, we are seriously two peas in a pod on this topic. While I have personal doubts on the issue, I would NOT judge someone for feeling/acting differently. And can I say, my head hurts SOOOO much right now from thinking and rethinking this topic & the surrounding ones?

      I think I need to find a deal on aspirin right about now! LOL!

  18. Chip says

    I don’t have a problem “paying for the service”. I agree with most of the other comments on here regarding manufacturers knowing about the clipping services. For those of you familar with Napster; the music industry quickly sued to stop (and won) activity they said was illegal. I think if the manufacturers had an issue with clipping services, they would quickly file suit. If and when they do, AND WIN, I will stop using the service.

    • Shannon says

      To me your last sentence says right there that you know it’s wrong. If you keep banging your head agaisnt the wall because it doesnt hurt should you STILL keep doing it?

      • Chip says

        On the contrary, I’m saying I don’t think it is wrong…but…if any court said it was…then I would defer to that LEGAL opinion.

  19. Marie says

    I subscribe to a coupon clipping service. Our local Sunday paper is $2.50 each & does not carry all the inserts available. For $10.50 a week I’m able to get 10 sets of inserts delivered to my home. Myself & 4 friends split the cost each only paying a little over $2.50 for 2 full sets each. It saves us all time & money & any coupons that we don’t use we drop off at our local senior center. It’s a service that works well for us & really the only option we have in our small rural area. It costs the clipping service $4.95 just to ship it, not to mention the time it takes them to sort the inserts, stuff the envelopes & get them to the post office, so there really not making a whole lot. We feel comfortable paying for there time to do so.

  20. lacey says

    It such a great topic. Thanks for posting it Angela. I appreciate all your hard work.
    I was out of country for two months and it didnt make sense to me to keep my newspaper service on so i put it on a vacation hault.. Now I am back and guess what my coupon binder is in ruins…… I get one sunday newspaper as we are just two people in family and a dog. Also I cook from scratch and you wont find any frozen food in my house other than Peas/ corn/ icecream.

    I have been thinking about the coupon service from past two weeks as I need some coupons but I dont want to subscribe to 4 newspaper just because I need more coupons of one product. I donate about 85% of my coupon at Fred meyers coupon Exchange basket.

    From 2 weeks I am doing my reserach about coupon clipping services but I am not sure if i am doing the right thing ethically. Thats the sole reason i haven’t ordered anything so far.

    I looked up for coupon exchange prog in my area but couldnt find anything other than that Fredys basket. Its indeed a grey topic and I really dont know what to do about it. I am still thinking after reading so many comments…

  21. Janice says

    If we’re Godly women, there should not be a doubt in your mind about things like this. We want to live a Godly life and a giving life. The main reason I coupon is that I can have more money, not for myself but so I can GIVE.
    But I am not going to be overly greedy and do unethical things for it. There should be boundaries, we need to be honest. God will question us when time comes.

  22. Shannon says

    Im new to couponing but even I knew that buying coupons from ebay or another site is illegal (no matter what way you word it to make a loophole for yourself). I just wonder if our economy has finally gotten bad enough that this will become a bigger issue so that all those people out there who dont cheat the system will suffer from those who do.

  23. DEH says

    This is probably just a semantics thing, but I do think it’s important to note that buying or selling coupons is not illegal as far as (to my knowledge) there are no laws on any books saying that doing so is considered fraud and is thus a legally punishable action. So there is no legal loophole to jump through, and you will not be arrested for buying or selling coupons.

    The real issue is whether this is how the coupon issuer intends the coupons to be used. If you use a coupon in a non-issuer-approved way, the coupon can be considered void by the issuer and not subject to redemption. By using coupons, you are essentially entering into an agreement with the store and the manufacturer to use coupons correctly.

    According to P&G at least, their coupons should not even be placed in swap boxes or given to a friend. That seems to be going a bit overboard in my mind. But that’s essentially what they say here (note especially the sixth point):
    http://www.pg.com/en_US/downloads/partners_suppliers/PG_Coupon_Terms_of_Proper_Redemption.pdf

    My mom buys extra papers every Sunday just because she likes to give me the coupons. I in turn buy products for her using the coupons because she doesn’t have the time to find the match ups or go shopping herself. Would a P&G representative really tell me this was against their policy and that they want me to stop? It seems like that would be bad business to me because my response would be to just not buy their products any more, which can hardly be their goal. But I don’t know.

    My biggest reason for wanting to buy coupons online is that many are just not available to me in my local newspaper. At least the P&G ads are the same everywhere, so while their policy is strict, their distribution is wide enough that it doesn’t really matter to me.

  24. Jade says

    I have a question. I feel wasteful throwing out my coupons when they expire. I heard that they can be donated to soldiers over seas. Do you know how to do that? Where selling / buying coupons is a gray area. Is this ethical?

    • arussell says

      I’m so glad you brought this up! YES, you CAN do this and it is entirely ethical! Overseas military bases are permitted to use coupons for up to 6 months past expiry dates. Here is a link for more information: http://www.ocpnet.org/

      • SSmith says

        If it is okay to give them away to military, isn’t this technically transferring the coupon? Most coupons prohibit giving them to another person, which I don’t really understand. I just read P&G’s policy noted in the above DEH post, and it does say that you can’t even give P&G coupons to another person. I used to coupon and am considering getting back into it. It is a commitment of time and energy, so I am just pondering right now, but all the unclear rules makes me want to just forget coupons and look for sales. I have a huge conscience, and all these unclear rules make it difficult for the consumer to know what is right and what is wrong. I have looked on numerous sites today for coupon ethics, and found varying responses.

  25. Carol says

    Angela,
    You set such a great tone, of respect for yourself and for others, that it makes this blog a really special place. Thank you so much for giving everyone a place where they can feel heard and welcome.

    • arussell says

      You are so sweet!

      I was just telling my husband how much I loved this thread today. I felt everyone was respectful and I love it when we can discuss and even debate these issues and keep things civil! I was certainly challenged in my thinking today, and I am left with several questions. There may be follow up posts in the future. ;)

      Thanks, Carol!

  26. Cally says

    I just don’t see the point in paying for something I already get plenty of. Yes it would be nice to have 5 extra coupons when there is a killer deal…but then I become that person who clears shelves, and does not leave some for others. Not to mention the cost of your coupon goes down when you pay for it. Pointless in my book when there are a ton of ways to get free coupons.

  27. JJ says

    Okay, I think I am going to “step in it” as the only one to respond as a SELLER. I do post whole inserts on the web for sale (ebay). I coupon and donate a LOT to our local food bank and about 5 different non-profits to include my daughter’s school. (FYI, I special order when I purchase large quantities and shop very late to avoid holding up lines). I never pay anything for my inserts, not even on a paper subscription. Any papers that are not distributed are dumped at a local paper recyclers. I take the papers, go through them for the inserts, and replace the “paper” into the recycling bin. They have been in a paper only box for probably about 4 hours when I pull the inserts out. I then keep 10 each week for myself and I sell the rest in 5pks on ebay. Some weeks I have TONS and other weeks I don’t even have enough to sell one pack. I sell them to recover my costs involved with the donation process. Gas, tax paid on non-food items, delivery of those items, and sorting all the STUFF. I know several people that do it to make it possible for them to stay at home and raise their kids without daycare, and even one Dad does it because he wanted to stay home after his wife died and the kids were very young. (they’re not all mobsters)
    Do I make money…HARDLY! I am sure there are some people that do, but I have another objective. I see it as re-using the paper in a way. If I didn’t do this, I couldn’t provide what I do for the shelters in my area. If that makes me a bad person than I guess I will wait for God’s judgment. In the mean time, I would hope that HE is proud that I not only provide much needed goods to people who would never be able to afford them, but I also teach the gift of giving to my children.

    • arussell says

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective! Just so we’re clear, I don’t think you’re a bad person or a mobster. ;) I have my personal feelings as you do yours, but I CAN truly see both sides of the issue. I’m also glad you commented here b/c I’ve always personally wondered how sellers might obtain such large quantities of coupons and inserts in the first place.

      As a fellow couponer, I understand the desire to help others while supporting your family at the same time. That’s exactly what I’m attempting to do with this blog. ;)

      If others are interested in working at home, I would encourage them to check out the Work at Home Series I did back in August for additional ideas.

      • JJ says

        That was just my attempt at another view and not a rant…really. I think it’s great your talking about it! Keep up the good work Angela!

  28. Amanda says

    You have some very valid points, but I don’t see anything wrong with buying a service from someone who clips coupons. I myself have recently started posting coupons on Ebay. I add the disclaimer that “I am charging for my time to find, clip, and organized listed coupons.” It’s a very time consuming process to clip as many coupons as I do. So people are buying my time in a sense. I put them into groups with the same brand because that would be more beneficial than posting a pile of various coupons. I enjoy doing this and it’s a great way to make some extra money. :)

    • arussell says

      Let me ask you this question, then. How come “in demand” coupons may suddenly jump up in price on Ebay? I heard this was the case with the Quaker coupons during the sale. Hmmm. Sure seems like those coupons suddenly had more value, didn’t it? Or, was it all of a sudden the seller decided their time was more valuable? The argument just doesn’t seem to hold up 100% to me.

      If it’s truly about your time, it shouldn’t really matter which coupons you send the buyer, right? They are buying your time after all! ;)

      • Amanda says

        That may be the case with others, but that’s not the way I do things. I start the auction at 10% of the group’s value. I have a few watchers and a couple bidders. The ones that have a 10% value that’s over $0.99 I keep at 99 cents. On occasion for coupons on high value items (such as Nicorette, Brita, etc) I will start at a little under 10% of their total value (which may be 2-3 dollars). I have a system and I’m sticking with it. I don’t think it’s right for people to bump up the price just because there’s a good sale going on..

  29. says

    Angela,

    I have also been on the fence about this. I have ordered coupons only twice now in the past almost year. I figure if I can’t get the coupon online, then it’s not worth my time. I may not get as great of deals as a lot of people, but I do try my hardest to work around having only 2 coupons instead of 20 of the same ones.

    I agree with you on how they jack up the price of a coupon because it’s worth more. If you want to take 10% out of the coupon amount, go ahead, but do not charge me an extra 10% because the coupon is HOT. Just not fair and morally wrong. I’m glad you won’t judge others who take part in this until the official “rules” are released. I only give someone a link to a coupon seller if they ask.

    I have coupons mailed to me that state “Do not transfer, sell, etc.” then in the letter they tell me to hand whatever I don’t want out to my friends and family. Way to state your stance, manufacturer, lol. There is too much of a gray area and I really do try my hardest to be as ethical as I think I should be. I still find other things with coupons totally off that you think is okay – it really is just a matter of personal belief until “rules” come out. :)

    So for now – do I think it’s wrong? I’m going to say no. *dont hate me!* ;)

  30. says

    I totally agreee with you! I can honestly say that I’ve never thought about the BOGO coupon cents off issue. I’ve always tried my best to follow the rules as best as I thought I could. You do an amamzing job and I really respect you.

  31. says

    I’ve never purchased coupons from a service and I don’t think I ever will. But it’s not really an ethical issue. I just figure if I can’t print the coupon or get it in my Sunday paper, well then I just don’t get that coupon! I don’t think there’s any sale or discount that’s worth that much effort on my part.

    Having said that, I do understand why it’s attractive for a lot of people and I think for the person who’s buying a few coupons here or there so they can take advantage of a deal, I don’t really see a problem with that. Where I DO see a problem are people who are buying 50 of the same coupon so they can go wipe out an entire section of a grocery store in one afternoon.

    I talk a lot about the “spirit” of couponing and I don’t think getting a high off 50 boxes of free pasta is really part of that spirit. So that’s when I think you really do get into questionable ethics. Sure, it’s impressive when you see the hauls people leave a store with sometimes. But what did that person have to do to get the coupons necessary for that kind of a shopping trip? That right there is the problem and I think it’s great you’re questioning it. More people should!

    • arussell says

      Since writing this post, I actually had a conversation with a couple people who are in the corporate division of a grocery store. They told me recently that the manufacturer that put out the Propel coupon saw that it was being sold on eBay and was calling those coupons not legitimate. The store nearly took a loss of a couple thousand dollars on those coupons alone, but in the end the manu took the loss. So….seems like an ethical issue to me, once you start to dig in a bit. I think sometimes that as couponers, we make assumptions. How many of us have really asked the stores or manufacturers about things like that? I hope to spend more time having these conversations and sharing what I learn. I think sometimes we just don’t have the full set of facts.

      And I totally agree with you on the clearing shelves. I absolutely believe in stocking up, though I also believe in working with the store – call them for extra stock, see what they can do. I believe in building positive, long-term relationships with the stores you frequent.

      Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a great comment!

  32. Jennifer Atkins says

    Oh boy! I started reading this to figure out what was going on. In light of the TLC Extreme Couponing, I want to move myself out of the “crazy lady” status of couponing and remain in the I am helping my family, friends, church and community save money. So much information! Thanks to everyone for your thoughts – even those who played ‘Devil’s Advocate’.

  33. Lynn says

    Ebay most certainly goes bby their rules & enforces them. Ebay openly allows selling coupons on their site. For coupon sellers like myself we are not selling fraudulant coupons or trying to scam anyone. Many of us are trying to put food on the table & pay for our gas or heating oil. I obtain many coupon inserts as I am a newspaper delivery person, I often have numerous newspapers left over after delivery & they are then my property as I’m an independant contractor so no stealing from anyone’s paper involved. I have had many consumers purchase coupons from me as I sell for a very low price & they buy way below what they would save at the store, not to mention obtaining coupons not avail. in their area as the same coupon insert may have different coupons in different states, my customers feel this is helping them financially which it is, especially in today’s economy. I use what I profit towards my grocery bill. Why don’t I use the coupons myself? – I do. Remembr I have numerous, plus most of what I sell are for products I don’t use or cannot afford. No ripoff involved if they’re buying for way under what they’ll save, we’re talking about over $100 in savings if the individual uses all the coupons sold which many do & they may pay anything from 99 cents to however high they bid but never high enough to where they lose money. Do the math. I also sell coupons with a legitimate coupon for a free item included, more savings, free item coupons come directly from the manufacturer & many do not have notations about not selling them. Many today have to decide whether to buy gas or groceries, this helps them & it helps me. I have been able to buy groceries by selling them, I’ve been able to buy clothing for my son, etc & yes I do work-7 days a week. Honestly in today’s economy if our biggest worry is coupons then we need to re-evaluate our priorities in life.

  34. Lynn says

    Plus it is against ebay’s policy to sell coupon & say people are paying for your time to cut coupons, it’s not allowed, it’s written clearly in ebay’s policies which can be easily found at the site. We are not allowed to sell more than 100 coupons, not allowed to sell more than 2 free item coupons in one listing & there’s a limit on selling internet printed coupons. Selling rebate coupons, in my opinion, is misleading & NOT grocery coupns if listed as such. My listings are to the point, you are bidding on COUPONS not my time to clip them, if I listed the latter my listing would be pulled though some fall through the cracks on that one & slip by.

    • arussell says

      Can you guarantee that the manufacturers will reimburse the retailers for the coupons you’re selling? If so, what assurance can you provide?

  35. Kim says

    Hello, I just came accross your website randomly, found these comments interesting. Many people have made a lot of great points. It is a very gray area for sure. I personally have bought and sold coupons on ebay. I will continue to as well, as I see nothing ethically wrong with it. I liked what one person said; basically some people are purchasing newspapers to get the coupons, so the newspapers are selling the coupons in the same way as perhaps on ebay. Sometimes they will actually have an ad on the front of the newspaper; so many $$$ of savings inside! to help sell it. But in any case; if the manufacturers feel that too many of the coupons are being used; they can simply decrease the
    quantity of those printed. Put more limits on them, such as they do with printed ones online before they ‘run out’ of prints. I do think people go to extremes though. I like the fact that stores like CVS and Rite Aid have limits as to how much can be bought with a savings card. I think we’ll start seeing more limits at the grocery stores with savings card too, of certain items. Some people do go overboard and buy far much more than they need to last them years. When buying items myself, I have never stocked up that way and always leave some for the next person.

  36. Maryanne says

    I’m so glad I found your blog, I love it! I’m not sure how I feel about clipping services- lots of gray area that has been mentioned, however I do get upset with the selling of coupons on ebay that were obtained by taking whole quantities from tear pads, blinkies and coupon books put out by stores. For instance, Safeway has two coupon books that were intended to be put out and used by their customers in a reasonable manner. Those booklets disappear within moments of being put out in displays and end up on ebay in huge lots. That irritates me. People purchasing from them just encourages this practice of stealing. I also am not sure how I feel about people clearing shelves and then saying it’s ok because they are donating it. While donating to those in need is a worthy endeavor, it’s annoying when the 2 items I want for my family are not there. Just my two cents as well! I will continue to read through your blog and educate myself :)

  37. Amber says

    I received my first ever bought coupons off of ebay. I bought one set with 50 coupons. And that’s because my newspaper only occasionally gets inserts every other weekend. And sometimes some are missing, just a few Sunday’s my red plum looked like a rat took a bite out of the corner of my insert ruining a few of my coupons. And a few is alot considering you don’t get many in the first place especially when you set aside the coupons you won’t use. Now when comparing the coupons I recieved to the ones I normally get…. And now i’m going to let you know I buy one sunday paper, and that’s it. I dont get coupons from friends, the trash can, and once or twice I’ve looked in the Fred Myer’s coupon bin, and grabbed a coupon or two, and thats where it ends. I was coming to the the conslusion that I was bummed out.. I couldnt save enough for my brother’s.. we are on foodstamps.. I’m not trying to get anything free just stretch foodstamps, and make sure we have milk all month long. I looked at my coupons and got rid of the ones I dont use like alot of health products.. etc and realized how much more valued coupons were across the states…some coupons said 1.00 off 1 relish?? I was amazed. I never have seen a relish coupon before. Maybe if manufactures were more fair with their inserts, and pricing of coupons families wouldnt have to feel like they are getting the low end of the stick, and look else where. I dont think its fair that suzy homemaker can stockpile and save $500 dollars a month when I can barely get the milk to last all month, and i’m stressed out, and nagging about drinking milk throughout the day yelling “the milk is for breakfast only” I dont want a stockpile in our two little apartments I dont want free items.. I just want the food stamps to stretch more.. I just want saving’s off items I will purchase anyways. So do I think its wrong? Honestly, in a sense everyone is bending the coupon policy to fit their lifestyles I just want it to fit inside mine once a month or so. No, I dont think its wrong I think there is worse things going on then me paying for coupons (hopefully someone already payed for) Im giving them their money back 1.25 for coupons? and buying coupons they didnt want that I do want..so I cant get my relish for 1.50 instead of 3.00.. sounds good to me. Its not like im saving my foodstamps to use on a vacation cruise. No scamming.. im not stockpiling so I can be rich, and comfortable in other aspects of my life.. NOPE only trying to make sure there is dinner on the table every night for all my family.

    • Linda says

      I think it’s so funny you keep saying…”I’m not trying to get anything free…I’m just trying to stretch food stamps,” when you obviously get every food item for free with food stamps.

  38. BrianLL says

    Ebay does indeed state in their terms and conditions for selling coupons that you are , in fact, selling the coupons themselves, irregardless of what other reason you state in your ad (ie, selling your time). As you said, the act of selling, transfering or auctioning voids the coupon.
    Now, when the seller mails you those VOIDED coupons that you PAID for, that is fraud. They do not say in their lisitings that you are purchasing a voided item that according to the redemption rules, cannot be redeemed legitimately. They were voided when sold, auctioned or transfered.
    The act of using the US Mail to send a useless product that has no value (it is voided) but for which you paid, is fraud. Mail fraud.

    In time, this is how they will shut down the sellers.

    • arussell says

      I appreciate your thoughts here – I think you are right on. Since writing this post, my feelings have grown even stronger on this issue. It’s wrong, pure and simple.

      • jenn says

        So would it be wrong to trade coupons with others or is it that there is money involved?

        I am super new to couponing and have gotten coupons on eBay to help build my stockpile I guess faster than the few coupons I would get in buying just 1 or 2 local papers.

        But then I found your blog when questioning changing the zip code on the printing sites and now I am questioning everything :)

  39. says

    First and foremost I appologize for not reading the above comments but I do have a question to ask. There is a lady in our area that is selling “her time” to get coupons. They are ALL FOR FREE products. SHe has even started a facebook account and is also a manager in a local bank. Either she is very stupid or this legal. Which would you say is the truth? My daughter has been buying from her and I am afraid this is not legal as I have searched the internet and found many sites to say it is not! I have also searched in images and many, almost all of the coupons come up as fraud! How can this woman be getting away with this. I do not want my daughter to get into trouble but I see that there are tons of people in our area BUYING from her????

  40. Cidalia says

    Personally I won’t buy coupons from Ebay nor coupon clipping services, and it has nothing to do with coupon jargon or technicalities. It would be one thing if people were selling off coupons they acquired honestly and wanted to get rid of that someone else needed. The problem is that there is the very real risk (and it’s happening already) of encouraging some not-so-ethical behaviour from a certain subset of sellers — people who will stoop to stealing newspaper inserts and entire tear pads so that they can sell them. It would be ironic that these same people who could take an entire tear pad leaving nothing for the next couponer could then sell the same coupons to that couponer. I hate to encourage greed.

  41. Nicole says

    I personally have started selling coupons on Ebay just a few months ago. Unlike popular belief, some us have legitimate ways of obtaining a large quantity of newspapers. Every week I visit our local paper and buy 60 papers for the week at vendor pricing because the owner saw consistent business and decided to offer it permanently. I am young and had to find something to bring a little extra money in on top of my two jobs to pay for college and being out on my own. The price of a coupon does not go up just because there is a good sale out there – that just doesn’t make sense to me. I understand that coupon language and what it means can be a grey area at times and we all have our own thoughts and opinions and I have much respect for those who both agree and disagree.

    • Angela Russell says

      I just don’t see any legitimate way of selling coupons – I’m not saying this to be mean, I’m saying it because there could come a time you’re faced with a hefty fine. For me, it’s more than about agreeing to disagree, it’s about speaking out about something I believe is harmful for all parties involved. Thanks for your input and thanks for considering my POV.

      References:

      “Can I sell my extra coupons?

      No, there is no legitimate way to sell your unwanted coupons.

      The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies. These policies are generally printed on the coupons or are available from the manufacturer upon request. Any sale or transfer voids the coupon.”

      http://couponinformationcenter.com/faq.php?st=1fe91#extracoupons
      http://jillcataldo.com/no_more_selling_coupons

      • Cynthia says

        Actually, I think you should add a qualifier to your use of the term “coupons.” I stumbled onto this site because I am preparing a booklet of deals and offers (in the form of coupons) to promote rural businesses to a larger market in the middle of our county. The costs for the space must be low; they are rural advertisers. To effect that, I’m considering having nonprofit groups sell them for $1 each and to keep the sale amount. So, I’ll be selling coupons and it’s not only legal but it also results in a 3-way win. I suspect you are not referring to this type of coupon but because you have not limited your term with a qualifier, you appear to be talking about all coupons.

        • Angela Russell says

          No – not referring to that at all. Specifically referring to manufacturer’s coupons, such as those you’d clip from a Sunday paper insert or find at Coupons.com.

          • Cynthia says

            Exactly…and that’s why the term “coupon” needs a limiting word in front of it…manufacturers’ coupons is a good start. I’d hate to have others read this and begin claiming that merchant coupons cannot be sold.

            • Angela Russell says

              I highly doubt others would be confused about this – this is an older post and I’ve NEVER seen this come up. Are you newer to my site and what I talk about here?

              • Cynthia says

                I understand now. As you “highly doubt” that the conclusion that I came to is one that no one else would come to, I’m gone. I attempted to give you feedback and you have instead responded by insisting that my thinking is abnormal. Good conclusion. I recall teaching university courses in media writing that included the importance of limiting language as it is quite rare that ‘all’ is accurate. This is one of the rare situations where “all” is in fact accurate. Good luck.

  42. R G says

    If it belongs to me then I have the right to sell it for a penny or for a million dollars. If someone is willing to pay for it then no one has a right to stop me from exercising my right to sell something that belongs to me. Companies jam our mailboxes with coupons and if we sell one to our neighbor somehow that becomes a problem? Isn’t corporate dictation of our rights getting a little out of hand.
    And what is worse is that some common people actually side with corporations. If you buy a magazine and it says not to be resold, by what right do they make such a claim? We should not tolerate such economic arrogance. Property can be sold and any attempt to control our right to profit from any purchase we make with our finances, goes against the natural rights of a consumer.

    • Angela Russell says

      I’d argue it’s not always the “property” of the coupon seller in the first place.

    • Cynthia says

      Actually, you do not have a legal right for resale. Copyright laws give you usage rights for that publication/printed piece but not ownership rights. Try doing what you suggest with art or photographs that are produced by someone other than yourself. You may pay for those photos but you don’t own them — unless you have paid for ownership and have a written document transferring full copyright to you.

  43. R G says

    IT IS NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT THE PROFITS OF CORPORATIONS!

    If people weren’t so stupid such a fact would be self evident.

    By the way, next time you want to pick on coupon-clippers consider this; most billion dollar companies pay less than one percent of their revenue to taxes. What percentage do you pay?

    • Angela Russell says

      I’m guessing by your calmly stated comments that you own a coupon clipping site?

      The good news for you, RG, is that many many sites out there will get behind what you’re doing. Go find them!

  44. says

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    Anyhow, just wanted to say great blog!

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