Until recently, I had listed four services on GoodStewardess.com to provide readers with an option of purchasing coupons (individual or whole inserts) instead of having to buy a newspaper.
Several factors have led me to change my position and remove the clipping services from my site.
The Coupon Information Corporation’s Position on Selling Coupons
“The sale or transfer of coupons is a violation of virtually all manufacturers’ coupon redemption policies. These policies are generally printed on the coupons or are available from the manufacturer upon request. Any sale or transfer voids the coupon.”
Paying for a “Service” not a “Product”
I can’t in good conscience support this philosophy. You’re not paying for a service. If you purchased the newspaper yourself, then gave it to a third party and paid them to clip the coupons for you, that would be a service. You’re buying the coupons, plain and simple.
Another quote from the CIC:
“Such obviously invalid disclaimers merely serve to prove that the seller/auctioneer knows that their illicit coupon sales are inappropriate, wrong, and subject to civil and/or criminal penalties, depending on the situation.”
A Recent Increase in Newspaper Thefts
This includes theft from home delivery boxes, from coin-operated newspaper stands, and theft of coupon inserts from in-store newsstands (stealing the coupons while leaving the newspaper itself behind). In most cases, “dumpster diving” for coupons is also stealing; once items are deposited into the bins, they become the property of the recycler – not trash, free for the taking.
Coupon clipping services somehow get thousands of coupon inserts each week. I’m not accusing them of stealing; I don’t know where they get their inserts. But even if they’re actually purchasing all those newspapers, they’re still not allowed to resell the coupons.
A Significant Number of Coupon Policy Changes within the last Six Months
We are seeing these changes nationwide. Certain Kroger stores have stopped doubling coupons altogether, while others (like our own Perrysburg, Ohio Kroger) reduced the value that they would double and/or changed the coupon limit. Rite Aid changed their coupon policy to be more restrictive on Buy One, Get One Free promotions.
Many manufacturers are also setting limits that are printed directly on the coupon, e.g. “Limit of 4 like coupons in same shopping trip” (notice it doesn’t say “transaction” but “shopping trip”).
Supporters of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” will say the changes had nothing to do with the show, which is known for encouraging questionable shopping tactics. They maintain that these changes were just a natural evolution of the coupon process. But I find the timing to be an interesting coincidence.
The Bottom Line
Coupon shopping is a privilege, not a right. I cringe when I hear of coupon shoppers arguing with cashiers and store managers, or of completing a dozen separate transactions in a single shopping trip just to make a coupon deal “work” to their advantage.
As shoppers continue to manipulate and abuse the coupon policies set forth by both retailers and manufacturers, we can expect to see more restrictions on coupon usage. I prefer to make the decision myself to follow the rules now, rather than face even more limitations in the future.