Coupon Fraud: Short Term Gain but Long Term Loss

In the wake of Target’s retraction of accepting its now famous “Toy coupon”, news about coupon fraud and coupon counterfeiting are starting to sprout all over the media. This news report by Good Morning America has been making the rounds. Coupon fraud involves using the coupon on a product other than the one stated on the coupon, a size or for a different quantity than what the coupon specifies. In more sophisticated levels coupon fraud involves modifying a coupon by removing or altering expiration dates or bar codes.

I personally think that both companies and coupon users are responsible for preventing and combating coupon fraud. There are many ways a company can implement controls over the way they distribute their own coupons. Technology is on their side. With Bricks there is no need for companies to issue coupons in pdf form (the most fraud prone form of issuing coupons by the way). Even with insert coupons, companies are moving towards more advanced ways of coding their coupons in order to prevent misuse.

At the user level, I think sometimes the emphasis on getting a good deal, the money maker item, some times causes people to ignore the ethics involved in using coupons. Particularly in the current state of the economy, increasingly people want to save a buck, but at what expense? I read on the forums and on other blogs people complaining about poor customer service regarding stores accepting their coupons. It never fails that someone states that “one person is ruining it for everyone else.” The truth is it isn’t one person, it is a lot of them and it could even be yourself.

Next time you think about using a coupon for a product that the coupon is not intended for think about all this people complaining about being chastised for their coupon usage, or even maybe the last time you were looked down for using coupons. If you think that “this one time, it’s not a big deal,” think of the thousands of people that think the same way every day. And don’t be surprised that people are being treated the way they are. It does take one person, it takes each and everyone of us to make sure coupons are used the right way.

Comments

  1. MJ says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Do you shop at Meijer? If so, what are your thoughts on using multiple Mealbox printed coupons?

  2. Mercedes says:

    No, I don’t have a meijer. how do their coupons work? Is it similar like the Target coupons, they are posted on their website and you can print as many as you want. or is the number of coupons available to customers limited?

  3. megan k says:

    I just started using coupons. I’m shocked that this is happening. I only shop at Wal-Mart due to the fact that’s all there really is where I live. If I print from coupon sites am I safe? How do I make sure one I printed isn’t fake?
    Thanks for the helpful info!! Gosh, a simple thing turned ugly huh? Sad really.

  4. MJ says:

    It is like Target. You can print as many as you want. I went today and bought 3 packages of frozen potatoes, which had a mealbox coupn for $1 off. I used 3 coupons, and none of them beeped, so I figure it must be ok, right? But I still feel like I shouldn’t use tons. For example, there was a coupon today making pasta free – I used 3 (which I feel is a reasonable amount), but I COULD have used 30. I’m just not sure that’s right, kwim?

  5. Mercedes says:

    Megan,
    Yes, printing from coupons sites is safe. I also pinting from the companies websites directly is safe. One thing I don’t recommend is looking at “buying” internet printables in a place such as Ebay. I would trade for themw tih someone you trust. Finally, hotcoupon world has a forum called “It’s got to be real.” They take the time to contact companies to make sure a questionable IP is real. It also holds a list of counterfeit coupons. Check it out! the linkto the website is on my rightside bar.

  6. Mercedes says:

    MJ,
    The only questionable part I find about your dilemma is whether is Ok to clear your stores shelves. I think that if you find an opportunity to stock up an item for free I would do it. usually what I do is take a reasonable amount of items when the sale starts. If you can hit several stores close to you that’s even better. Then on the last day of a sale I would get even more items. I do this because empty shelves are a common complain among couponers and it is also not nice to buy other people out of a great deal.

  7. Elizabeth F. says:

    Great post! I love getting a good deal, but if you misuse a coupon how can you get home and really feel good about it?

  8. Marcy says:

    Great post!

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree and I get so frustrated sometimes when I see questionable coupons being abused. For example I used the Lipton Tea q’s at target to get free Green Tea packets even though you know they meant them for the large boxes. I only got 2 or 3 at a time though and I saw on HCW where some lady used the $1 Archer Farms coffee to get 212 bags of single serve coffee without paying a cent AND she even told the Target store she was going to print 212 coupons from their kiosk! That kind of excess totally made me rethink my own sneaky packets of tea and makes me understand better why Target employees can be so snide to couponers…

  10. looney says:

    There was a postsecret post about someone who would get a really talkative cashier every time so she could distract her while she used coupons that weren’t for things she bought…
    I think it’s up to the cashier–if the coupon doesn’t scan, they need to INSPECT the coupon and product and refuse it if it isn’t valid for the date/product.
    Some cashiers are lazy and just key it in manually without checking.

  11. Jen says:

    Thank you! I’ve deleted a couple of blogs that I had bookmarked because their behavior with coupons is questionable and I don’t want to support them. I’d rather have integrity than save a few more bucks.

  12. Mercedes says:

    Looney,
    Yes, part of it is the cashiers repsonsibility but most of it is the user’s responsibility. There are ton of coupons that scan with no beeps for items for which they are not intended. There are also tons of coupons that beep eveb when used on the product they are intended for. But I think that as users we shouldn’t have to put the cashier in a position to have to make the decision to take the coupon or not.

    And just for the record, I am not better than any one. I have infractions received at HCW to show for my lack of judgment. sure I was surly at first, but then I saw it as the lesson in ethics that it was.

    • SUSAN says:

      I CAN’T BELIEVE THE STORES SOFTWARE CAN’T CONTROL THE REDEMPTION OF COUPONS FOR THE PROPER ITEM. SEEMS AS IF THEY ARE LOSING MONEY OR ARE WORRIED ABOUT FRAUD THEIR SOFTWARE SHOULD BE WHAT STOPS THE FRAUD, OTHERWISE THE EMPLOYEE HAS TO SLOW UP THE LINE TO CHECK EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN BAGGED. IF THE CASHIER IS WRONG, ARE THEY FIRED OR IS IT A SYSTEM ERROR THAT IS OUT OF THEIR HANDS? I HAVE SEEN IT BOTH WAYS. CASHIERS ARE TOLD TO TAKE WHATEVER SCANS, SO WHO IS AT FAULT IF THE WRONG COUPON GOES THROUGH? I HAVE HAD COUPONS REFUSED AND NOT SURE WHY.

  13. Wayne Altman says:

    Mercedes, This is an excellent post!!! Very refreshing to see responsible articles like this. Saving money is fantastic, but not at the cost of our integrity. The economy will never get so bad we have to resort to cheating and theft. LOVE IT!!!

  14. Angela says:

    Beautifully worded and I admire your strong stance. I have referenced this post in my own blog where I recently came up with a “coupon code of ethics.” THANK YOU for your willingness to say straight up how you feel about this.

    http://www.thecouponproject.com/the_coupon_project/coupon-ethics.html

  15. NameAlreadyInUse says:

    Personally, I think that all you coupon bloggers have ruined it for everyone. There USED to be a time when it was up to the shopper to hunt through the ads and coupons and find the deals. Now everyone just goes to cincinnaticents or moneysavingmom or some other blog and prints off that week’s deal list! And by the time I get to the store, which is after WORK, because not all of us have the luxury of being stay at home moms who make money from blogging–All the deals are SOLD OUT!

  16. Kat says:

    Namealreadyinuse

    My mother works 40+ hours a week and still manages to get all the same deals the other couponers get. So what if she has a 1$ OFF Coupon for that face wash that was on sale for a 1.50$? If you complain about not getting the deal because you work then obviously you don’t want the deal bad enough.

  17. valoreem says:

    I work at Target and got to this website trying to find out how several men are cheating Hasbro toys with a coupon scam. I hear what you say about trouble with coupons at Target and I know from first hand experience that some coupons don’t go through the system and it’s frustrating for the paying customer. But I will tell you that the cashiers are not lazy. If people have to wait 2 extra seconds to get checked out they b**** their heads off and ask for a manager. The cashiers just want to customers to have a good experience and let the coupons go through regardless. All of you would be surprised at how morally flexible scores of people are when it comes to saving money. Target seems like a big corp who won’t miss the money but you have no idea how many scammers come through the doors on any given day. I can’t help but think that every thing we buy would be cheaper and coupons wouldn’t be necessary if we all didn’t have to pay extra to make up for what has been cheated from manufacturers through fraud of some sort. You can bet that the manufacturers aren’t loosing money, we are all paying more every time some woman goes into a store and get 212 serving of coffee for free. Just sayin’ . . . . .

  18. patti says:

    The first couple times I saw that show Extreme Couponing I was amazed. Then I figured out it’s not realistic at all. I live in Florida and we get the short end of the stick on a lot of coupon policy. I have yet to find a store that doubles a $1 or $2 Q, if I give a cashier a $1.50 Q for a $1.40 product, they take off $1.40 so I’m not making .10 on the deal no matter what store I’m in. and everytime I’ve asked a manager to pre order large amounts of a product, I’m turned down. If I have a lot of Q’s that make for a great price I want to use as many as possible but not if it’s going to deplete an item completely. I’d feel guility about it because I know how I feel when I find someone has done it to me. (and it happens alot). That being said.. I get a LOT of flack from uninformed cashiers that act like I’m trying to rob them. Yes there may have been someone in front of me givin them a hard time but it’s part of the job. Be glad you have one cause there are a lot of out there that don’t

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