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Extreme Couponers’ New Tactic: Stealing Newspapers

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It’s the latest departure for some extreme couponers: In recent weeks, there have been a growing number of newspaper reports of shoppers getting arrested for allegedly stealing papers in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Utah from grocery stores, newspaper vending machines and even their neighbors’ driveways. As Pay Dirt previously reported, stores are already restricting coupon conditions.

Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores in Alexandria, Va., says he finds it “odd” that people are allegedly stealing newspapers given they can get so much news online. “It’s obviously an increased demand for the discounts that the newspapers hold,” he says.

With more media attention given to couponing, and its rising popularity, he says newspaper theft is a new departure from the usual grocery store targets that are easily re-sold. Lenard says baby formula, cigarettes and razors used to be prime targets for organized theft. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is extreme couponing involved in the theft of newspapers,” he says.

So how should you go about seeking out extra coupons? J’aime Kirlew, founder of J’aimeKirlewCouponing.com and arguably the most famous contestant on TLC’s reality TV show “Extreme Couponing,” and Jill Cataldo, founder of SuperCouponing.com and critic of Kirlew’s own use of coupons, recommend asking friends and neighbors. They say stealing hurts genuine coupon-clippers and manufacturers.

TLC spokesman Dustin Smith says this kind of behavior has nothing to do with reality TV show. “The series Extreme Couponing documents the behaviors of individuals who are passionate about saving money, and we’re happy to see an increased interest in using coupons,” he tells Pay Dirt. “Of course, TLC doesn’t endorse any illegal practices.”

Kirlew, who believes she was used as “scapegoat” by the coupon-clipping community for her use of coupons featured on “Extreme Couponing,” says people who steal newspapers are taking couponing to a different level.  “Not one of us featured on the show would ever consider stealing newspapers for extra coupons,” she says.

She no longer recycles papers given to her by her newspaper carrier and instead scans recycle-bins, asks her neighbors, buys 10 newspapers at a time and checks sites like Craglists for online offers. “I have always said at my workshops that couponers could single-handedly save the newspaper industry by supporting the sale of the printed papers,” Kirlew says.

Cataldo recommends asking family/friends for unused coupons. “I’m dismayed by all of the reports hitting the media about people stealing newspapers to acquire more coupons,” she says. “With the average Sunday paper containing $200 worth of coupons, it’s already a great value to simply buy it for a dollar or two.”

Jeanette Pavini, household savings expert with Coupons.com, says coupons are like “free money” and advocates signing up to the social networking sites of manufacturers and stores. “The purpose is to develop brand loyalty and help consumers,” she says. “You never want to advantage because then everybody pays the price.”

How far would you go for coupons?

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    • One group of people hurt by those who steal papers and not mentioned are the independent contractors who stock the newsracks. We have to pay for every paper we order (based on previous weeks sales) and only get paid on those that sell. If some steals a paper, we not only don’t get paid, but have to take money from our pocket to pay the publisher. We have a family to support and these people are not stealing from some unseen wealthy newspaper owner, they’re stealing from their neighbor and their neighbor’s children.

    • No, of course Kirlew doesn’t condone the stealing of newspapers… she prefers to steal through fraudulent use of coupons.

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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