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.
Credit card statements and cellphone bills aren’t the only documents you need to review line by line for inflated charges these days. More errors are popping up on your grocery receipt, too.
Recent Department of Consumer Affairs inspections of New York City supermarkets found that just 33% are properly pricing items, leading the city to “deputize” consumers last week to act as secret shoppers on its behalf and report problems like nonworking scales or items without price tags. In February, Ralphs Grocery Co. pled no contest to allegations that it overcharged shoppers in Los Angeles stores for pre-weighed products by including ice and the packaging in the price. (The chain was fined $16,900 in 2008 and 2009 for similar problems.) Michigan also revised its so-called scanner law this spring. Effective Sept. 1, stores must display prices at the items’ shelf locations.
With frozen dinners, party balloons, shampoo and more priced at $1, the dollar store can seem like a great place for bargains. But that’s not quite true — and savvy shoppers are catching on.
Cash-strapped consumers have flocked to dollar stores — many of which defy their names by selling higher-priced items — since the recession hit, but now those stores are starting to see a slowdown, reports The Wall Street Journal. Several of the big chains said in quarterly earnings reports that they failed to meet expectations because customers are buying more low-profit items like food and cleaning supplies, and fewer high-profit ones such as clothes and home goods.
But coupon experts suspect at least part of the shift can be explained by the so-called “extreme couponing” trend that teaches shoppers to stack stores sales, coupons and other discounts to pay just pennies on the dollar for their purchases. “People are getting smarter,” says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. “Sales with coupons will almost always beat prices at dollar stores.” A shopper could get a 12-count box of Nature’s Valley granola bars for $0.79 at the grocery store with a sale and coupon, for example. On a per-bar cost, that’s 80% less than the dollar store price of $1 for a pack of four.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @SMPayDirt.