OK, folks. It's time for me to speak up. Something's been really weighing on me and I need to get it out.
As you all know, I love a good deal and I love using coupons. Coupons can save you lots of money. So can store sales, rebate programs, and a host of other promotions and offers. However, lately I've been doing a little research and finding deals that are just flat out wrong and unethical.
In order to do my job promoting ethical usage of coupons, I feel like I need to spend some time informing of you of some of the various misuses of coupons that are out there – and learning more about them myself in the process. One of the biggies I'm seeing lately is called coupon barcode decoding.
In short, the barcode on a coupon can help determine what the coupon's value will be and what category of products it will work for. So let's say you have a coupon that reads "$1 off any brand X, 10-ounce sized product." After analyzing the barcode, you realize that the coupon will actually scan and work for the 5-ounce variety, too. So you find a good sale on the 5-ounce and use your coupon and no "beeps" at checkout. Well guess what my friend? This is a form of coupon fraud.
Here's why. When you redeem the coupon, the offer is what is stated and pictured…and in many cases, the fine print will clearly state "only to be redeemed on the product mentioned/pictured above." What's more, there's no assurance that the retailer will receive credit from the manufacturer for that coupon, either. So please do not kid yourself thinking "if it scans, they'll get their money." This is not necessarily the case.
I encourage you all to read this excellent post over at Moms Need to Know that discusses coupon barcode decoding at length. She also has a series of other wonderfully written posts on coupon ethics on her site and you should read them when you get the chance. And Hot Coupon World, a site who maintains top integrity on these issues, strictly prohibits discussion of this topic in their forums. They have informatively answered a series of FAQs about decoding here.
I understand that there are sometimes coupons where the "offer" is unclear. What do you do in this case? I'd personally call the store or manufacturer who issued the coupon and ask. Simple as that.
On a final note, if you are currently a coupon blogger, I ask you – please take a stand. Do not condone coupon decoding in any form. Do not share deals that encourage the usage of a coupon other than its intended usage. Do not share with your readers how they can "decode coupon barcodes" to gain greater savings. In doing so, you are putting yourself and your blog at risk.
If you haven't already, I invite you to read my personal coupon ethics. And please give me room to grow. Remember, I'm still learning here too. As I discover things, I reserve the right to change my opinion on what I see as ethical and the deals I share.
Thank you for reading and letting me get that off my chest. I feel much better now, and can go to bed!
Photo credit Ayhan Yildiz