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Extreme Couponing: Now Extremely Prohibited

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Companies are cracking down on extreme couponing techniques that allow shoppers to leave with baskets full of free items.

Rite Aid, Target and Publix have all revised coupon policies in recent weeks (see details below) to limit the number of store and manufacturers’ coupons they accept per item or per shopping trip. Procter & Gamble now limits consumers to four of the same coupon per shopping trip, a recommendation that industry group Coupon Information Corporation is preparing to add to its best-practices page for companies issuing manufacturers coupons. Stores are also moving to a more sophisticated barcode system to prevent shoppers from using coupons meant for other items.

“It’s unfortunate that there have to be limits like this, but I think you’re going to see the whole industry moving this way,” says Bud Miller, the executive director of the Coupon Information Corporation. Previously, lenient policies let savvy shoppers stack multiple coupons and stockpile big quantities for pennies on the dollar. “These shoppers come in and clear out every last item, and there’s nothing left for the other consumers,” he says. “That’s not what coupons are for, and hopefully these new policies will help prevent some of that abuse.”

Rite Aid and Target both amended their policies to allow just one buy one, get one free (BOGO) coupon or sale per pair of items purchased. (Previously, shoppers could combine BOGO offers to get both items in a pair free.) Rite Aid also now limits shoppers to four of the same coupon, and gives managers the right to further restrict quantities if the store is running low. “We designed our policies so that all our customers can take advantage of the deals we offer,” a spokesman says. Target says it didn’t have a set policy on multiple-coupon use before, and added the details to clarify things for shoppers.

Publix let its individual stores set policy before May 23, a spokeswoman said, but now formally allows, per item, one manufacturer’s coupon and one from either Publix or a competing store. Previously, some locations had allowed “triple stacking” – i.e., one manufacturer’s coupon, one Publix coupon and one competitor’s coupon. “At the end of the day, it helps when you have extreme couponers who understand the policy,” a spokeswoman says.

The policy changes won’t hurt most shoppers — and are more likely to benefit them as extreme couponers are forced to buy just four of something instead of 40, says Teri Gault, the founder of The Grocery Game. “Being tighter about coupon redemption is fine for the average shopper buying two or three of something,” she says. “You can still save a ton of money using coupons.”

But will the new restrictions stop extreme couponers? “Not in any way, shape or form,” says J’aime Kirlew, the avid couponer hit with allegations of fraud after her experience on the TLC series Extreme Couponing. Couponers often call out deals as YMMV — which stands for “your miles may vary” — to point out that deals aren’t always available at your local store and may require some legwork. The restrictions will just make that term more common, she says. “I’ll take more trips to more stores more frequently,” Kirlew says. “It’s always worth it for me to drive for a deal.”

Her likely next stop: Wal-Mart, which is bucking the trend with its new broader policy on matching competitors’ prices. The chain also recently eliminated per-transaction coupon limits and even offers a credit if the coupon value eclipses the item price.

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    • Try extremecouponing101.webs.com

    • So many people talk about coupons like it is their right to have them. Coupons are a marketing scheme. If tomorrow kroger or walmart didn’t want to put out coupons, then coupons for that store will be gone and you will have no right to complain because it is there store, if you don’t like it, shop somewhere else. The issue is not people that like to use coupons, the issue is people who hoard tons of shit that they can’t use/ don’t need. It is unethical to take 100 boxes of pasta that you don’t need, I don’t care if they are free, why should you get 100 boxes instead of 100 people getting one box each? So many sad selfish people on this board seem to feel entitled to getting free food. Sitting on your ass cutting out squares of paper for no benefit to anyone but yourself is NOT ethical and it is certainly NOT A JOB. I spend a lot of time on my computer because I enjoy it but since it has no benefit to society, I don’t feel that I should benefit from society. Those coupons are to help ALL members of our society and someone cutting out squares of paper all day is just taking away resources that they don’t deserve.

    • If you think nothing is wrong with extreme couponing and that people are just being “savvy”, you should consider the idea that these actions will cause companies to have NO coupons. They are offering a discount and when people take advantage of it they will either remove that discount or change it. Couponing is not a job, it is something that is supposed to benefit everyone. I do not benefit from someone coming into a store and taking every last box of mac and cheese because it is on sale. I deserve to get my box and so does the person after me. To suggest that these people are beneficial to charities is laughable. Where do you think walmart takes it’s excess food? Even local bagel shops donate their excess food. Extreme couponers almost ALWAYS have a stockpile in their house of shit they really don’t need. This is not how responsible members of society act.

    • I see absolutely nothing wrong with “extreme couponing” especially since food is being donated to food pantries!!!!!!
      Of course the stores and manufacturers are upset because they were betting that 75% of consumers would not take the time to clip and use coupons so they were making killer profits ,now the consumer has gotten smart and learned how to save and afford to feed their families.

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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 quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.

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