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:
- Buy inserts.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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!