Tag Archives: coupon

Extreme changes to eBay coupon policy limiting resale

The controversy over extreme couponing practices continues. This time, eBay is the target of the anger. For years, couponers have sold their surplus coupons on eBay, but the website is making changes to its policy that will make it harder to make money. Just like when a grocer changes its coupon policy, there is outrage.

Under the new policy, sellers will be restricted to a monthly maximum of coupons valued up to $100 or 25 valid, unexpired, original coupons. The limit you reach first will be the one that is enforced. Previously, couponers sold multiple coupons under one listing. You’ll still be limited to 25 coupons even if they are all sold in bulk under one listing.

If you have a coupon for a free product or a buy one get one free (BOGO) offer, you can’t sell it. Those are some of couponers favorite coupons.

The changes start September 1, and any listing that violates the new policy will be removed. Also, the seller could have their buying and selling privileges restricted or suspended.

Couponers are sounding off on eBay’s community forum saying their business will shut down and they’ll lose money. It’s a big reversal in policy, but it’s one some advocates say is long overdue because the rules have been bent for years.

Most coupons say they are void if sold or transferred. To get around the fine print, eBay sellers put a disclaimer on their postings. It often said the coupon price was not for the value of the coupons but for the seller’s time spent clipping the coupons. The disclaimer outraged ethical couponers. For a story I did on this issue in 2011, the Coupon Information Corporation said, “The CIC said disclaimers “prove that the seller / auctioneer knows that their illicit coupon sales are inapropriate, wrong.”

There’s always been a push for eBay to police the coupon selling, but it never happened until now.

What do you think of the changes? Join the conversation by commenting below. 

 

 

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Are sales a thing of the past?

shoppingWhat drove you to choose the stores you did for holiday shopping? Did sales or promotions influence your decision to shop at a particular store? Sales drive a lot of sales, but some analysts are predicting sales may become a thing of the past.

The website, Coupons in the News, had access to an industry report from retail consultant AMG Strategic Advisors on this issue. Coupons in the News reports that AMG predicts that within three years everyday low pricing will replace sales and promotions.

According to the report, 65% of shoppers said they “expect certain products to be on sale and, if they are not, they will wait until they are on sale to purchase.” Some items are on sale at frequent intervals making it easy to stock up during the sales, and wait until the next one.

walmart dollar stationCoupons in the News points out the failure JCPenney experienced trying to wean consumers off these predictable sales, but points out the grocery business is different. Walmart already has an everyday low price model, and it’s been successful with it.

While Walmart is king, it’s worried like everyone else. The grocer is attacking regional grocery giants in retail markets across the country. Since when is Walmart concerned with Giant Eagle? Marketing experts say it shows every retailer is fighting to preserve the bottom line.

My previous reports for NewsChannel 5, have also shown a huge surge dollar stores. There are now more of these type stores than McDonald’s. Many are creating stand-alone stores rather than putting them in strip malls. The stand-alone stores offer more grocery items like frozen and perishable items. It makes you feel like you’re in a real grocer.

Even Walmart and Target are offering dollar bins in prominent parts of their store to compete with the dollar stores.

Save-A-Lot and Aldi have also been successful brands in this new type of environment. They’re not known for their sales, but their low prices.

Of course the economy has helped spur these stores along, but it also shows you can have low prices without sales.

Grocers already experimenting
Coupons in the News said nationally grocers are already testing these low price models including Ralphs, Food Lion, and Kroger.

Locally, Giant Eagle is experimenting with a similar policy. The grocery giant in our region froze prices through the holidays on more than 300 items. This week, the grocer extended the price lock through the winter. While some would argue Giant Eagle’s prices are not the lowest around, I think this is a strategic strategy and marketing technique to make you think it offers low prices. The technique makes you think you’re getting a bargain.

The retailer also is branching off with it’s sister grocer, ValuKing. The store’s motto is “to count on low prices every time you shop.” They don’t run sales, because their prices are low every day.

During a recent store visit for a NewsChannel 5 story, Valu King Senior Vice President John Tedesco said, “We don’t run weekly specials. And we don’t play the high-low game, so this is an everyday low price. This is our everyday price on bananas 28 cents a pound.”

The store keeps prices low by cutting one of its biggest costs — labor. You bag your own groceries and items are displayed on crates and boxes rather than store shelves.

Executives said that while they buy most items including organic, deli, and fine cheeses they won’t buy a few items like diapers because they can’t get bulk prices on them.

What is the future?
While eliminating sales may seem like a drastic move, Coupons in the News said AMG pointed out that 60% of brand-name products are sold at regular prices without sales. Many products don’t go on sale, so would consumers really miss them?

Coupons in the News didn’t seem as optimistic that sales will disappear in three years as predicted, and I agree that it won’t be mainstream in three years. Sales will always be important because they strongly influence consumer behavior.  However, I think we’ll continue to see changes and a new environment will emerge that makes us less dependent on sales to save money.

It makes sense that a retailer like Giant Eagle has two different brands that employ the various marketing techniques. It’s a safe bet as I’m not sure one marketing strategy is proven to be lead to more or less success.

As more stores emerge that offer everyday low prices, consumers will change their behavior that makes them less reliant on sales.

The one thing that appears definitive — stores are experimenting and consumers need to be prepared. Look beyond the sales and look at the unit price so you know how much you’re really paying for the product you’re buying.

What do you think? Click comment below.

Toss the paper coupons and pick up your smartphone

Mobile coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond

Mobile coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond

I have a refrigerator full of coupons from Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond. It seems these stores send the most coupons, and I hate to be in the store without a discount of some sort. However, it seems that always happens. Whenever I need a coupon, I don’t have one that’s not expired or I forget the savings at home. That’s why I’ve turned to paperless coupons. Now, I just pick up my smartphone and check my text messages to save.

The next time you are at the store, look near the register. Most will tell you to text an odd combination of numbers (5 or 6) to sign up for text message alerts that notify you of savings.

With Bed Bath & Beyond, you get a text message with a link to the latest 20% off coupon. The other benefit is that you can use it more than once. With the paper coupons, they take them. There is still a limit of one coupon per order or purchase, but you still have it for next time.

Some stores also alert you when the coupon expires so you can plan your purchases better to coincide with a deal.

If you get annoyed by the text messages, you can stop the alerts. I don’t think the stores abuse their privilege of having your phone number. I don’t get that many messages and I haven’t seen an increase in my spam texts.

AT&T is teaming up with several retailers to offer a similar service, only you’ll be notified when you are in the area of a store offering a discount. You need to be an AT&T customer, but it’s another sign that paper coupons will soon be replaced by digital ones.

After all, we never leave home without our smartphone. We do leave home without those coupons. Soon, we won’t have to worry about that.

Free coffee including popular pumpkin spice latte

Courtesy: Starbucks

If you’re a coffee lover, you are in luck this week. There are two ways to get a free latte including the fall favorite – pumpkin spice.

Starbucks is offering free Caffe’ Latte drinks to promote its new do it yourself latte machine. It’s called the Verismo System. The in home brewing machine makes espresso, lattes and brewed coffee. You can taste these home brews at Starbucks Monday, October 15th, from 4 PM to 6 PM. Click here to find a participating store near you. Thanks to Women Get it Free for finding this deal.

The Verismo system retails for $199 and the pods are sold in boxes of 12 for $9.98 and up. The majority appear to retail for around $1 each. The milk pods are slightly cheaper at about 81-cents. To make a latte, you need a milk and espresso pod. So, you’ll still pay a high price for your latte. However, it will be half what you pay at your local Starbucks. The question is – does it taste the same? Go to Starbucks Monday and find out.

When Keurig first came out with its pods, they were pricey as well. Now, you can get them for fifty to sixty cents. You can save even more if brew coffee grounds in the Keurig filter. I expect the Starbucks Verismo pods will come down in price over time, but I don’t expect they’ll be as cheap as the Keurig anytime soon. After all, the Verismo drinks are higher end.

Courtesy: Starbucks

Mobile coupon for pumpkin spice latte
The second offers requires you to sign up for a mobile coupon from Target. If you buy one Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte or Frappuccino you get another one for free. The coupon expires October 26th. Thanks to Coupons-Saving for finding this deal.

Mobile coupons are becoming popular. I’ve signed up for them to save instantly at the cash register. I also like the ones from Bed Bath & Beyond because you can save money even if you forget your paper coupons at home. You’re more likely to have your phone so you can save without planning a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond.

As you know from my blog, I am a proponent of maintaining your privacy. With mobile coupons, you are giving away your cell phone number. However, I haven’t had any problems with spam or excessive text messages from retailers that offer mobile coupons. Plus, you can always unsubscribe if you want to stop receiving text messages.

I think mobile coupons are the future and you might as well start saving with them now.

Homemade pumpkin spice latte
If you want to maintain your privacy and still save money on coffee, how about making it yourself? For a NewsChannel 5 story, a student at Polaris Career Center showed me a recipe to make your own pumpkin spice latte at home with common household ingredients.

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin spice (to make your own use equal parts cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg)
  • 1.5 tablespoon pumpkin puree unsweetened
  • ¾ cup milk

Whisk all the ingredients together. Microwave until the milk is frothy. Then, add the coffee and stir everything together.

Related links you may like:
Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cups
Snapple to offer K-Cups
Starbucks offer K-Cups 

Military can use expired and unwanted coupons

 

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What do you do with your expired or unwanted coupons? Your trash may be someone else’s treasure. Military servicemen and women can use expired coupons for up to six months at overseas commissaries or food stores.

On NewsChannel 5 we showcased an Elyria post of the American Legion Ladies Auxillary. The women are spending 6-thousand hours a year clipping coupons. They collect them from friends and neighbors and then clip and count them. All to give back to members of the military.

To make a coupon donation:

In Northeast Ohio:
Mail or Drop-off:
The American Legion Post 12
393 Ohio Street
Elyria, OH 44035-5146
Attention: ALA Unit 12

Drop-off only:
The Grafton-Midview Public Library
983 Main Street
Grafton, OH 44044

National coupon donations:
Send active coupons to:
CouponCabin.com
Attn: Active Coupons for Troops
PO BOX 231
Whiting, IN 46394-0231

Send expired coupons to:
CouponCabin.com
Attn: Expired Coupons for Troops
PO BOX 430
Whiting, IN 46394-0430

 

Is Walmart worried?

Walmart continues to up the ante with its series of commercials about it offering low prices. First, it was steaks. Then, groceries and back to school items. Now, it’s cell phones and even a campaign to send in your receipt to see the price differences for yourself.

Business and marketing analysts say Walmart is no longer considered the cheapest retailer, and they’re worried about their stake. It’s an interesting situation for the world’s largest retailer.

Quality is an issue for the retail giant, so they began running ads comparing their steaks to Kansas City steaks. They did a blind taste test to see if people could really tell the difference between a KC steak and a Walmart cut.

Then, they began local ads that compared their grocery prices to the giant in that area. In our case, it was Giant Eagle. While Giant Eagle had the highest prices in a comparison I did for NewsChannel 5, Walmart’s prices were not the cheapest. Also, couponers are loyal to Giant Eagle because they say prices are cheapest when they use coupons and shop the sales. Giant Eagle doubles coupons. Walmart does not.

Now, Giant Eagle is trying to get you thinking about purchasing their $45 a month cell phone plans. It’s working. It got my husband’s attention. He said, “Can you really get a cell phone plan with unlimited everything for $45 a month?” The answer is yes, but how good is the service?  The coverage map shows good coverage for the non-Android market, but far less coverage for the Android market. There’s very little Straight Talk coverage in the western half of the United States.

While the coverage map looks spotty, I talked to an IT professional who uses Straight Talk and loves it. I’ll talk more about that option Thursday.

In select markets, Walmart is now asking you to send in a copy of a competitor’s receipt to see how much you could have saved if you shopped at the retail giant. In  Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Chicago area, you can take a picture of a receipt and within 24 – 48 hrs., Walmart will let you know how much you would have saved if you shopped for similar products at Walmart.

The receipt can’t be more than seven days old. Comparisons will only be for similar grocery, health and wellness, beauty and consumable items.  If you buy private label or items like produce or meats that vary by weight, they will not be included in the comparison.

While Walmart is not including coupons and loyalty cards in their in your face advertising campaign for groceries, loyalty cards and special deals and pricing will be considered in the receipt comparison. Coupons will still not be considered because Walmart says it’s hard to decipher on a receipt if the coupon is a manufacturer or retailer coupon, and receipts don’t always make it clear which item they were used to discount.

The giant retailer is also offering dollar deals to compete with dollar stores. Marketing experts say that’s cutting into their profits as well. Dollar stores are expanding and growing. Some now offer groceries. Walmart wants you to think it offers products at an affordable price.  That’s an interesting move considering quality is something the retailer is trying to stress with its steak commercials.

What do you think about Walmart’s ads and push to sell you on its products and quality? Click comment below.

Coupon industry warns stores participating in “Extreme Couponing” show

Coupons became a controversial word in 2011 after the television show, “Extreme Couponing” hit the airwaves. There are questions about how coupons are redeemed on the show. Plus, people are still reacting in in extreme ways. Now, the not-for-profit group that fights coupon redemption issues and fraud for product manufacturers is issuing an extreme warning for grocery stores thinking about participating in this show that highlights extreme behaviors.

The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) began fighting coupon fraud in 1986. It’s been raising concerns about the TLC Show, “Extreme Couponing” since it started airing. CIC said some of the consumers in the show used counterfeit coupons violating state or federal laws, manufacturer redemption policies, and / or retailers coupon policies.

The focus to this point has been on consumer behavior and the show. The CIC even issued a “Considerate Couponing” policy this fall to encourage shoppers to think about their fellow shoppers and limit their shelf clearing. In that policy, CIC reminded consumers that a store doesn’t have to accept coupons and it’s a risk because the retailer assumes the value and handling costs until it is reimbursed. That’s why some stores don’t accept Internet coupons. It’s too risky because too many are counterfeit.

Now, the CIC is focusing on the retailers who participate in the show. The group warned retailers that taping opens a retailer to potential legal issues, financial loss from coupons that can’t be reimbursed, and potentially negative publicity. Consumers often get upset when they see on television what appear to be actions that bend the rules of couponing or the store coupon policy, and often take their concerns straight to the store that participated.

For a NewsChannel 5 story I did on this issue last June, TLC told me the show focuses on extreme behaviors and the network is happy with the show’s performance.

Reward for counterfeit coupon abuse
The CIC has always been interested in counterfeit coupons, but just below this warning for retailers is a link to information about $100,000 award for counterfeit coupons unrelated to the TLC show. The placement is interesting. In my opinion, it shows product manufacturers are turning up the heat on this industry issue.

A $100,000 reward is offered for anyone who can lead the CIC to the identity and prosecution of the individuals who produced and distributed counterfeit coupons online. The reward ends with the following warning in large, bold type: “Individuals and internet sites attempting to redeem, transmit, auction, post, reproduce, transfer, barter or sell counterfeit coupons may be subject to criminal prosecution and/or civil act.”

I credit the CIC for trying to police this issue. Many coupon issues have come to the forefront in the last year. Some are more extreme and raise more questions than others. For example, people are also selling their coupons online and making big bucks even though most coupons prohibit this activity. To get around it, couponers who engage in this activity say you’re paying for their time and not clipping coupons.

Other couponers resell all the extra goods they purchased with coupons. This is called a stockpile sale. To deal with this issue, some manufacturers are adding language to the coupons that says you can’t buy an item with a coupon with the intention of reselling that product.

Neither practice is illegal, but is it ethical?

Bottom line – the controversy and extreme behavior is not going away.  All this attention is simply making it harder to legitimately use coupons to save a few bucks for your family.

Related stories you may like:

Giant Eagle responds to coupon policy changes
Coupon industry responds to coupon to problems
Extreme couponers sell their deals at yard sales
Making money with coupons – some trends generate controversy 
Who coupons? It may not be who you think

$400 food deal for $40 – eat it up or pass?

If you like to dine out, there’s a deal that can save you money while you enjoy great food. How about a $400 Restaurant.com e-Gift card for just $40? More than 9-thousand people bought the deal from Deal Chicken saving 90%.

While it sounds like an incredible deal, think before you buy it. You can often get Restaurant.com gift certificates for $1-5 if you have a promotional code. These offers are common at the end of the month when they’re trying to clear the inventory.

If you don’t have a promotional code, you’ll often find $25 gift certificates on Restaurant.com for $10. That would get you access to 40 different restaurants with this $400 deal. That’s a lot, but before you buy make sure there are 40 restaurants worth trying.

I like Restaurant.com, but in my opinion the selection of eateries is mediocre. The high-end restaurants and most sought after ones, are not on the list. In Cleveland, I like being a foodie. I’ve never ate so well in my life. I’ll try new places with Restaurant.com gift certificates, but I looked through the list for my area and didn’t find 40 restaurants I’d like to try. I didn’t even find 20 I’d like to try.

I felt like if I bought the certificate, I’d be eating at places just because I had a coupon. That brings me to my next point — how much are you going to spend at 40 different restaurants? The minimum order at most places is at least $35. Some put an even higher minimum. At most places, I’ll bet you spend more than $35. Studies show people who use these coupons spend more at the restaurant. They get a drink or an appetizer when they otherwise wouldn’t. We typically never spend $35 when we eat out with a coupon or without one. It’s my guess you’ll spend more than $35 when you use your coupon.

Plus, you can’t use most of these certificates on Friday or Saturday. There are often alcohol exclusions too. With Groupon and LivingSocial deals, you can usually use them on the weekend and for alcohol.

This deal is great, but really only if you eat out a lot and are open to trying lots of new restaurants. I mean lots! $400 will go a long way on Restaurant.com. Just remember, you’re still spending a lot. That’s fine if you would spend that much if you had a coupon or not. Just make sure you’re not spending more just because you have a coupon?

After doing the math, I’m not going to buy this offer. I’ll stick to buying the occasional Restaurant.com offer when I can get it for $1-5. That way I’m not overbuying and not overspending just because I saw a good deal.

If you want to take advantage of the offer, it’s valid through April 3rd. You are supporting a charity when you buy the offer. Ten percent of the proceeds benefit the Dan Marino Foundation.

Coupon website offers access to high value coupons

Want to get access to high value coupons before everyone else? Coupons.com is offering free access to the offers through their Savings Club. The club normally costs a fee, but it’s being offered for free for a limited time.

You simply add your store savings card to your account, and then start electronically clipping coupons or adding them to your card. Within thirty minutes of clipping, the coupons are activated and available for use at the store.

The site says the average savings is $16 a month, but it’s too early for me to tell if that’s possible. Right now, shoppers in the Savings Club can get a listerine offer for buy one get one free, $2 off TASSIMO coffee, and handful of $0.50-$1.00 offers.

For me, the participating stores are the real issue. After I signed up, I realized my store is not included. The following stores and their loyalty programs participate: Bakers, Carrs, City Market, Dillons, Dominick’s, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Genuardi’s, Gerbes, JayC, King Scoopers, Korger, Pavilions, Pay Less, QFC, Raplphs, Randalls, Safeway, ShopRite, Smith’s, Tom Thumb, and Vons.

While a store in my area is not participating, I can still take advantage of some of the savings. It’s just, I have to print those coupons. There’s a $1.50 FRESCHETTA coupon available to Savings Club members that does not appear in my normal Coupons section for non-members in my zip code.

It’s too early for me to tell if it’s really worth the $3 investment for the sneak peak at higher value coupons that I can only print because my grocer doesn’t participate in the electronic clipping program. I’m not immediately blown away by the offers, but we’ll see what happens over the next few months.

Terms of free promotion
The free promotion will last until March 16th or until 151,516 new Savings Club subscriptions are added, whichever comes first. You have to give your credit card to create an account. Your credit card will automatically be charged next year at this time when the free trial period ends. It will cost $3 a month to continue the service. While the terms and conditions say you’ll be automatically charged at the end of the free trial, the fine print also says that you’ll get an email reminding you that your email will be charged.

To avoid any problems, I suggest setting a reminder on your phone or another service so you don’t forget to evaluate the offer next year at this time before you are charged. According to the fine print, shoppers who agree to this free trial should not be surprised by a charge next year. The fine print says the email you’ll get about the renewal will remind you that your account will be converted from a free to paid account, that your credit card will be charged, and cancellation information if you are not interested.

At that time, if you decide to keep the subscription, you should still check your account. You’ll be renewed at the $3 a month fee, but there’s also an offer for $30 for a year. That is cheaper because you’ll get 2 months free.

If you like coupons, it might be worth a try to see if you can save even more money in this club. I’ll keep you updated on my thoughts as I’m now a member.

Financial fitness

Getting in better physical shape is the motto for many every New Year’s. Have you abandoned your workout yet? I promise, getting your finances in shape won’t take as much work and you’ll see results. As all those W2’s arrive in the mail, now is a great time to check-up on what you did in 2011 and make changes that make you a saver rather than a spender in 2012.

1. Check your consumer reports
Did you know there are 10 consumer reports that may contain personal information about you? While your credit report is the most obvious report, there are many others including a report about insurance claims and even your rental history. Even more are being added this year, so get a grip on this before others are added to the mix. A simple mistake on a report can cost you money.

2. Review your budget
Do you even have a budget? If you don’t, consider one especially if you spend more than you save. Put your expenses to paper and you might be surprised at how much you’re really spending on miscellaneous items that you can easily do without.

I use my credit card for most purchases so I can earn rewards, so I just download my purchases for the year. Banks and credit card companies make it easy to do this so you know how much you spent on travel, food, and housing essentials like gas.

If you don’t have an easy way to track your expenses, create a system. Then, track what you spend for two weeks or a month and review your purchases. Were they all necessary or are there things you can out?

Spending too much? Start clipping coupons or shop daily deal sites.  Think it will take too much time? It doesn’t. There are an abundance of coupon sites that do the hard work for you matching up the sales to the coupons. Spend some time on them and you’ll be amazed at how much you can save by organizing before you head to the grocery store.

Finally, begin valuing every cent in your pocket. Go through your house, pockets, and car and collect all the spare change. All that loose change will add up to more than you expect.

3. Earn money to shop
How about earning money for your online purchases? Sites like Ebates allow you to earn cash back at many online retailers. It sounds like a scam, but it’s legit.I get a check in the mail every quarter.

4. Raise the bar on your 401-K
If your company matches, make sure you contribute enough to earn 100% of the match. If you’ve been holding back the last few years so you have more disposable income to cover other expenses, make it a New Year’s resolution to start saving again. What better place than your 401-K. It makes financial and tax sense.

5. Refinance your mortgage
Mortgage rates are at historic lows and refinancing can save you upwards of $100 a month. That’s an additional $1200 back in your pocket and perhaps much more. It’s a good idea if you plan to stay in your home for the next 3 years. That way you can recoup the closing costs you’ll pay to refinance.