Zip codes & printable coupons: my chat with Red Plum

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about attending BlogHer is getting to meet the people behind the companies I blog about often.

So you can imagine my pure giddiness when I got to chat coupons over breakfast this morning with the Editorial Director of Red Plum. Red Plum was one of the sponsors of a frugal blogger breakfast I was fortunate enough to attend today.

During our conversation, I had the opportunity to pose a burning question on my mind – and many of yours as well:

Is it OK to enter zip codes other than yours to obtain printable coupons?

Short answer:

It’s not a good idea. Manufacturers don’t like it and stores may not get reimbursed.

Long answer:

Not all coupons are national, and some manufacturers may want to test a certain coupon for a certain market. There could be many possible reasons for this, some of which may not be readily apparent to the eager couponer. Kate shared with me that her preference would be bloggers not share what zip codes to use to obtain coupons that are not nationally based. (OK, to be exact, the practice annoys her and she wishes bloggers would stop doing this. Quite frankly, it annoys me too.)

She also shared with me that even if you are able to PRINT a coupon for a zip code you don’t live in, it MAY NOT WORK. In other words, it could beep.

At which point I had to ask this question:

If it beeps, but the cashier pushes the coupon through anyway, will the store get reimbursed?

NOT necessarily. There may not be a clear answer to this question, so please do not make this assumption. And whatever you do, don’t try to convince your cashier otherwise.

Incidentally, I’ve posed the zip code ethics question many, many times via email to different parties and quite honestly, I’ve never been entirely satisfied with the answers I’ve received. I’ve been told it’s OK and I’ve been told it’s downright fraud. Today, I feel like I’ve gotten the resolution I needed on this topic. (So Kate, if you’re reading this…THANK YOU.)

Bottom line: I hold to my original position. You can count on me to NOT share what zip codes to enter to obtain certain coupons. I want you to know I care very much about coupon ethics on this site and it’s my goal to empower you as couponers with information and not just opinion.

Photo credit Sundeip Arora


Comments

  1. Karen says

    I figured there must be a reason for some cpns to be in certain zips and not others so I always just use my zipcode only. I had written to one cpn place a long time ago about this and they never answered my email.

    There have been several times I have heard about a good cpn that wasnt in my zipcode that ended up showing in my zip code the following month so they might time them in different areas at different times. I figure it all works out in the end.

    Funny you should bring this up as another popular blog on the web is debating this very issue and the majority of posters there do not think it is unethical to use another zipcode. I didnt want to get to get into the fray so I kept my mouth shut as I hate conflict.

    Another popular blog owner was going on about how it is OK to take peelies off of products that you weren’t purchasing. And several blogs/forums in my feed reader were posting UPC codes and cheat win pages for instant win games.

    Thanks for blogging with integrity. :-)

    • arussell says

      You are welcome! Not everyone agrees with me, and that’s OK. I feel not only as a couponer, but a coupon blogger, I have an obligation to share how to do deals in the way that I know to be honest & correct.

      Incidentally, email me the link to that post you’re referring to. I have no problem getting “into the fray.” ;) thecouponproject at hotmail dot com.

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

  2. says

    Angela-Thank you for asking this question! I’ve always felt that this was not ethical, so I haven’t ever posted specific zipcodes myself within my posts. But I had never had confirmation one way or the other. So glad you got a clear answer from Red Plum.

  3. says

    THank you so much for sharing this info! Do you mind if I post some of this on my blog and link back to your post? Email me at your convenience at jskell911 at gmail

    Thanks!
    Kristen

  4. Rita Collins says

    I understand the statement, but it still doesn’t make complete sense to me. Here’s an example. Say I am on temporary assignment for work in another state. I print coupons and get the newspaper coupons while I am there. I honestly use the coupons as intended while I am there. But, then I go back to my home area. Does anyone expect me to throw out the coupons I have printed and gotten from the newspaper because they were not intended to be used in my area? I would not. I would use the coupons. This is (regardless to what anyone says) the same as using a zip code someone gives you, or, as I have written previously, having my grandma send me coupons from her paper.

    Also, if they really had a problem with it, they should require, not suggest, you to put your zip code in to print coupons.

    • arussell says

      If you don’t put in your zip code, you’ll be getting national coupons. By entering your zip code, you may receive additional coupons. I’m not sure why they should require it.

      I didn’t get the impression this was a huge violation…but something that obviously the manufacturers (and stores) would prefer you not do. That’s enough for me to not do it. Especially since I’m an affiliate of SmartSource, Coupons.com, and Red Plum. ;)

      Again, not everyone will agree with me, and that’s fine. I understand and accept that fully. Many bloggers will probably continue this practice despite what I’ve had to say. That’s their own decision to make, just as it’s yours to choose whether or not you want to continue to print and use those coupons.

      That being said, you know you can count on this blogger to not post alternate zip codes. (And guess what? There still are many, many great coupons available to everyone!!)

      Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  5. Juli says

    Thank you so much for posting these questions and answers. I really can’t say how much I appreciate being able to trust a bargain/coupon blog to do things with integrity. There are so many I have given up on reading because of these types of issues. Several of them are listed in blog rolls I like to click through and good grief it is hard to resist! So hard!!! Thanks for all you do and I hope your trip is awesome!

  6. says

    Angela,

    Thank you so much for posting this! This has been one of my pet peeves for a long time. It’s not far-fetched to see that coupon sites intend for users to enter their zip code, not just any ol’ zip code. They have their reasons for targeting certain geographic locations. Red Plum could probably do a better job of being more explicit on their site though….I would like to see a tag line to the effect of “Enter your zip code to see what coupons are available in your area”. I do not like to see bloggers post zip codes to use to get specific coupons…this is just one more practice that could hurt all coupon users down the pike and it’s not worth it.

  7. Miss Jay says

    I hadn’t been using other zip codes while researching this very topic. I was excited this week to receive the following email:

    “Thank you for visiting Coupons.com . The zip code box is used for retailers and manufacturers to place geo-targeted offers, however there are no restrictions on what zip code you can enter as a consumer. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please reply to this message so that we may further assist you.”

    But it sounds like the answer you got was more thorough and more official.

  8. Kelly K says

    I personally do feel it is ok to print coupons from other Zipcodes and here is my stance. I live in the North East, we do not get RedPlum or P&G coupons in the newspaper, we get them in the mail, and some do not even get that because they live in towns that don’t deliver mail so they need PO Boxes to receive their mail and dont get coupons because of that. We also more often than not in my area, get lower than normal amounts on coupons. So Someone in SC or NC will have a coupon worth $2 on say Pledge, we get like .75 cents and our stuff probably costs more.

    I do not feel its fair, that I need to use a clipping service, ebay, or those other places that sell entire coupon inserts, when everyone else gets to purchase as many newspapers as they need (for way less in most cases then the isert places charge, which by the way is allegedly against the law to sell, transfer ect coupons, but nobody frowns on that because your paying for their “time”. Not sure why the transfer part is not looked at there.

    I can’t go out to the recycle places to look for redplum or P&G…I get 1 thats it one of each, unless I pay someone to send me more. And most of my friends and relitives live in area’s that require PO Boxes so they get none, no way for me to get more there either.

    I am quite sure you won’t agree with me probably as much as I don’t agree with the way RedPlum and P&G distribute their coupons, and I certainly will continue to get coupons from other zipcodes, because thats the only way I can get them without paying someone.

  9. Morgan says

    IMO, using a different zip code is no different than using a coupon clipping service or buying coupons off Ebay. I subscribe to the Tacoma News Tribune, but I don’t live in Tacoma (I live in Kitsap Co). That paper has far better coupons than my local paper…I wonder if that would be considered “fruad”?

  10. Karen says

    Thank you for this post. I love my neighborhood stores, and they know me by name, and take very good care of me. I would hate to think that I was basically stealing by using coupons they would no be reimbursed for.

    Thank you again,
    Karen

  11. Lana says

    I would like the stores where I use my coupons to get reimbursed, so that I am not cheating the stores. I feel the coupon websites should provide clear explanations for consumers, retailers, and whichever other parties. Too much time has been wasted over confusions/misinterpretations. (All this ends up on consumers bearing the costs anyway, so maybe that’s why they dont actually bother??)

    If I often shop in neighboring towns, should I enter my zipcode, or the store’s zipcode? If a coupon is limited for certain zipcodes, with consequences as bad as the store not getting reimbursed, then I wish the coupon would specify like “for purchase in xxxxx zipcode only”.

  12. Kelly says

    I agree with Morgan. If you use a coupon clipping service located back east, you get access to coupons they have in a different region if you’re on the west coast, so why is using a zip code out of region on coupons.com/redplum, any different? There are so many gray areas here, I guess it just comes down to what you as a couponer feel is ok, but personally I don’t feel like my ethics are being compromised when I use a different zip code.

  13. Deb says

    I just read Redplum, SmartSource, and Coupons.com Policy, and see no such thing. Also, the person you spoke to, used word like, “It’s not a good idea. Manufacturers don’t like it and stores may not get reimbursed.” “May” is not an absolute. I can see you not feeling comfortable with it…but to say it is policy is a strong statement. I feel if it were wrong, the coupon clipping services , ebay, coupon trains, traveling while using coupons would be wrong. Not to mention, using no zip code is really just holding on to a privacy thing, which in their agreement says you have the right to do. :(

    • arussell says

      Deb, I didn’t use the word “policy” in this post. And I worded the post in such a way to show you that there is no absolute….either way. I am curious to know which statement you’re referring to at this point? If you’re referring to the linked statement about it being fraud, that came from the CIC, not me. I used that statement to illustrate the varied responses I’ve gotten. It’s not necessarily my opinion.

      As a blogger and an affiliate of Red Plum, I feel I owe it to err on the side of caution on these matters. There are many, many other bloggers that feel differently on this topic. That’s OK. I just want to feel good about what I’m doing at the end of the day. If you don’t put in a zip, you’ll be given the same national offers everyone else will. No harm there.

      BTW. There are some that would question clipping services and ebay too. I won’t get into that though.

      • Deb says

        Well, you refer to “coupon ethics” as being your main goal. If it were policy – I can see you stating it as such. It is also ethical to give out zip codes. It states at the bottom of Smartsource.com that all coupons are intended for the United States. When I have readers siting your blog as “the law” I have a serious problem with that. It is not the law, otherwise it would say so #1 on the coupon itself, (as it does at times) – and/ or on the RedPlum.com, Smartsource.com, and coupons.com’s website. Which I took over an hour to read it completely and thoroughly. For you to state for you and your blog “you stand on ethics” sounds to me as though the rest of us are not about ethics. I think a better way to state it would be for you and your conscience at this time, from all the information you have gathered, you will not be posting zip codes and this is why. That I can appreciate…

        You write;
        “I want you to know I care very much about coupon ethics on this site and it’s my goal to empower you as couponers with information and not just opinion. _ Your information is OPINION… you are contradicting yourself. ”

        I am not upset, or anything. I just want you to understand the kind of statement you are putting out there…

        Deb

        • arussell says

          Deb, I care deeply about ethics and have given great thought to this issue and how I’ve worded things. Given the tone of your last post though, I think it’s best that we agree to disagree at this point.

          If you wish to discuss this further, please email me directly. Thank you.

  14. FFJIAW says

    area schmerea, stuff is expensive and coupons should be national. why should one area get better deals than another. reminds me of when you go to the mall in the chi chi neighborhood and the stores have TONS of free stuff, fashion shows, 2 fers etc etc etc. PURE D DISCRIMINATION if u ask me.

  15. Stella says

    In my book it’s okay to use other zips, but I do greatly respect that you stick to your guns on the issue and try to do what you believe is right.

  16. Kaara says

    I really appreciate you addressing these ethical topics. I’ve always been thrifty (I always look for valid codes before buying online, shop sales, etc) and couponing was the next logical step for me. My daughter is 8, and she’s learning right alongside me, and my 5 year old son likes to help from time to time. I’m stressing to them that we want to save money by being smart, diligent, and honest, rather than cheating the system. I’m so glad to have a resource that will help me learn how to save my family money, while still holding to a moral standard I feel comfortable with.

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