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.

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