Extreme Couponing Creates Extreme Mess For Bargain Hunters

During what has been said to be one of the worst economic crises to hit America, those affected by downsizing and layoffs have resorted to drastic measures to put food on the table and keep on top of their mortgage payments.  This required tightening of the belt leaves little room for error.

One mistake can cost families their homes, their vehicles, and their sense of security.  That’s why in today’s economy, every purchase is evaluated and every dollar scrutinized.  Gone are the days of frivolous spending.  In the year 2011, thrift is in.

TLC’s Extreme Couponing couldn’t have aired at a better time.  People looking for ways to save a buck or two could watch the popular television series and pick up pointers from savvy shoppers like Jennifer Freeman, Joe and Kelly Charles, and Tammilee Tillison.  Those that have never clipped a coupon in their life could finally see the benefit of doing so by watching the show and apparently they learned something.

People are using coupons now more than ever before.  In fact, according to transaction settlement provider Inmar, “2010 coupon redemption held steady compared to 2009 levels. After years of decline, coupon usage began to rise markedly in October of 2008, coinciding with the U.S. financial crisis. That led to a 27 percent increase in redemption in 2009. For 2010, redemption remained at 3.3 billion consumer packaged goods coupons.”

Retailers Go to Extremes to Close Loopholes and Update Policies

Perhaps, more shoppers have started to take couponing seriously because of the economic situation while others paid more attention to what they were spending because of TLC’s show.  On the surface, it appears harmless to roll up to the checkout and pay pennies on the dollar for everything in your shopping cart.  The reality of this is that it takes one bad apple to spoil it for the bunch.

Extreme couponing tactics are apparently too extreme.  If stores had lax policies regarding the use of coupons, they don’t now.  Stacking coupons is now frowned upon by many retailers.  Others limit the number of items a person can buy on sale.  CVS and Walgreens clearly state the imposed limit on their store coupons.  Other retailers like them note that items are limited and rainchecks won’t be issued.  This gives consumers the heads up they need before stepping foot in the store.

Rite Aid, Target, and Publix revised their coupon policies so that they would limit the amount of store and manufacturer’s coupons accepted for one item and per shopping trip.  Years of dealing with “extreme couponers” forced them to rewrite policies and change the way they handle diehard bargain shoppers.  Apparently, free items do cost  something.  Large families that counted on stockpiling groceries and household necessities as a way of stretching their dollars complain about all of the changes.

Extreme Gluttons or Savage Savers?

One extreme couponer, J’aime Kirlew, was accused of fraud after her appearance on Extreme Couponing.  Mommy bloggers and personal finance experts question the integrity of this super saver.  Her tactics for obtaining free merchandise has been called “unethical”.  The NY Post reported that “Super-Couponing” instructor Jill Cataldo reported the evidence she gathered against Kirlew on her blog.  You can read all about it here.

Apparently, America loves to save money but its citizens do not appreciate standing behind a couponer in line.  They also feel a bit unhinged when they go to buy a product and find entire shelves emptied because a manufacturer’s coupon made it free.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love a bargain but I wouldn’t feel good stockpiling hundreds of sticks of deodorant in my garage when it takes me weeks to use just one.

TLC has unearthed a problem that went unnoticed for years.  Without limitations, how far will extreme couponers go to save?

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About the Author: Charissa Arsaoui is a freelance writer with a love for thrift. She contributes to many different personal finance blogs.

9 comments
CeciliaJHill
CeciliaJHill

I heard that they sure give you a lot of discounts. But others, like me, just don't have the time to spend hours and hours of finding and clipping those coupons. And sometimes, they make you buy on impulse, which is not really saving you anything.

jeancox
jeancox

I use coupons from time to time because they give me discounts. I clip coupons from magazines or online but I do not make living out of it. I bring them to the store and when they work, then that would be awesome. If not, then that’s cool too. Just make sure you bring money with you though.

Betty
Betty

To Bonnie and Randi: My older brother has been in the grocery industry for 27 years. According to him the stores have to prove they have sold an item before they can get money for the coupons they collect. They have to match the coupon to the item on their cash register receipts at the end of the day. If the coupon does not match EXACTLY to the item, then they don't get their money.

So if you use a coupon that isn't for the SPECIFIC item(s) it calls for then the store loses money. Even if the coupons scan without a problem they still have to match at the end of the day. A lot of manufacturers put their products into groups so that's why a coupon may scan for several similar items even though the coupon is only good for a specific one.

Another issue with the extreme couponers is clearing the shelves which leaves your average shopper upset, usally at the store, that an item they needed is cleared out. Do this often enough people begin to shop at other places.

Randi
Randi

First of all, to Betty, retailers are being reimbursed for the coupon value plus handling so how is anyone losing a job over it? Second, to Nancy, the television show you mentioned merely highlights the cheap/free stuff. Believe me, what is shown on tv isn't all people buy. And lastly, stockpiling is not hoarding, it is buying things ahead of when you need them so that one doesn't have to pay full price when the need arises.

Nancy
Nancy

Watching the show "Extreme Couponing", I've made a couple of observations:

There's not one healthy item, such as a fruit or a vegetable to be seen.

Most items will like over the counter medicines and some of the foods bought have an expiration date that will come up quickly.

This excessive buying is almost leading to the next show known as Hoarders.

Betty
Betty

You need to think about the store employees as well. If all of us went in obtaining thousands of dollars in product free, the store won't make any money in order to employee peope. Just what we need more unemployment. Think about your local grocery store just before a holiday weekend, it's crazy right. Now think about the same store with less employees!
Yes we all need to watch the pennies but I don't want to be the cause of someone loosing their job.

Bonnie
Bonnie

Betty, I don't think you understand how coupons work. The store gets reimbursed by the manufacturer for the exact value of the coupon. So, they're not losing money, except in the sense that it takes extra time to bundle up the coupons and mail them out to the manufacturers and wait to be reimbursed.

Sandy @ yesiamcheap
Sandy @ yesiamcheap

I am not surprised at all an I even warned people that this would come. It only takes a few bad and illegal actions for things to change. I've seen a story about a woman that was arrested for paying for one newspaper and then stealing all of the coupons out of the other papers. It's a crime people! You can not do everything shown on these shows and not pay the consequences.

Brett
Brett

Tightening up coupon policies is exactly what needs to happen. While consumers may be doing things that were unintended, the fact is that manufacturers and retailers have created the promotional environment to let this happen and set the rules that permit or deny this. The pendulum was in the store/manufacturer's benefit when they created the system, transparency and the internet have made this in the benefit of the consumer. I think we will next see couponing 2.0 from the store that creates a system that prevents the unexpected freebies or payouts and provides incentives to some shoppers not to coupon (e.g. make consumers know they are getting a coupon without having to work for it)

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