SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers. Strikes Back At Extreme Couponing

The Chattering Classes On … Extreme Couponing: The television critics have been less-than-kind, but TLC’s Extreme Couponing tied for the top-watched ad-supported cable show on Wednesday night. It follows obsessive coupon collectors and bargain-hunters, mostly women, who can knock over 90% off their thousand-dollar grocery bills even if it does mean vast stockpiles of bottles of mustard.


One of the least surprising critics: Steven Boal, CEO of, which limits many of its online coupons to two prints per person. Boal is not a fan of those who go shopping armed with hundreds of coupons. “Not only am I not a fan,” he tells Pay Dirt, “think about the shopping experience. Could you imagine being stuck behind someone like that in the checkout line?”

“It’s not good for stores, manufacturers or consumers,” he says. “It’s good for entertainment television.” As a provider of coupons online, what really caught Boal’s attention was how stores market products to you: “I’m less interested in the quirks of consumers and more interested in the background, how products are laid out and the operations of the store.”

Many of those on Twitter were baffled. “It’s beyond me why anyone needs 35 bottles of Maalox,” FugitiveAlien wrote. Atlanta-based bargain hunter and columnist Lauren Davidson says the coupon-clippers give consumers who use coupons more selectively a bad name, and will force stores and manufacturers to clamp down on how many coupons cash-strapped customers can use.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Knowles called them desperate housewives: “The show’s natural climax comes at the cash register, where a hapless check-out worker must spend hours scanning a single extreme couponer’s staggering amount of groceries and sorting through the corresponding discounts and coupons as bemused shoppers and store managers look on with the a mixture awe and repulsion.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker was slightly kinder. “Are they weird, selfish people or thrifty smarties?” he asks. Tucker lays some of the blame on the weak economy. “If, while gawping at the people who spend their lives scouring trash cans for newspaper coupon supplements, a viewer learns how to reduce his or her grocery bill for the family, what’s the harm?”

Are you a fan?


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 9)

View all Comments »
    • to start learning about couponing, is a good free site to check out. I’m not an extreme couponer, but have gotten a few things free & donated most of to our food pantry.

    • I am not an extreme couponer, however, I do use alot of coupons. I will never buy 35 bottles of mustard at once, but I do not see a problem in stocking up on items. My grandparents did this for years. A good buy came along and grandpa would buy 12 boxes of rice, macaroni, etc. There is NOTHING wrong with stocking up. Hoarding is not exactly the word I would use. Hoarding is a problem where items are kept, mainly worthless. I would say being ignorant of fellow shoppers and being stingy. I also see nothing wrong with handing over 200 coupons, IF you have bought the correct items, you know the limit your store sets, you go at times that aren’t as busy. Many stores are open 24 hours, go at night, it is possible. There is nothing wrong with getting items for free if you follow the above rules. People do not have to stand behind couponers. Most stores I see are not equipped with self checkouts, or have 4-8 lines open. I have seen several of the shows where the items were donated. Infact, one man donated everything he had, he was in the Pittsburgh area. I personally would love to get as much savings as possible and be able to stock up for 5 months or so. That way if something happened to our jobs, we could have things we needed.

    • i love the idea of saving and getting stuff for FREE im going to try it cause we have a famliy of 8 people but dnt know where to start from????

    • Why not cut to the chase? Retailers, stop spending all of the $$ on coupons, mailings, inserts, etc. and have the low price each and everyday. No abuse, no long lines w/coupoers w/a bag of coupons. One, two, three low rices and less overhead for the retialers should mean even lower prices.
      Along with this is manufacturers keeping their prices steady – no specials to any retailers. More possiblities for lower prices when manufactures keep prices steady.
      Sorry to all those who print & mail copons, coupon designers, etc, etc. Of course the printshops and coupon companies too.
      If ya want lower prices, this is how ya do it. No gimicks, no games.

    • I’ve seen a few episodes and while I admire their desire to provide for their families, I have a big problem with a few things. First, the coupon fraud. The way they are misusing coupons is going to ruin couponing for everyone else. Second, the hoarding. While TLC claims they donate products, on the recent show I didn’t see one person stopping by their local food bank to donate. I would like to see on future shows, them helping others.


About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.