Coupon Ethics: Be the Change

ethics1

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

I’m mad.  Hopping mad.  Spitting mad. (which is actually kind of funny, since I just quoted Gandhi, but I can’t get that quote out of my head)

If you have been reading this site for more than a few weeks, you know that I have been on sort of an “Ethical Couponing Mission”.  One of the side effects of the bad economy is that more and more people are using coupons for their grocery shopping.  While that has been good for me (and my Stats page), it hasn’t been so good for the supermarkets.

“What are you talking about Mindi?  You are always saying that stores love coupons because they bring customers to their stores and help clear their shelves, and that the stores don’t lose money beause they are getting reimbursed!”

See – I just read this post at Common Sense With Money and it really got my dander up.  Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that my friend had emailed me coupons for free Velveeta and free Reynolds Wrap?  It seems that I was naive enough to believe that this was an isolated incident.  But it seems that with the renewed interest in couponing comes a renewed interest in couterfeiting.

The two newest coupons are for Free Charmin and Free Bounty Towels…and both are fake.  And while a person may get a store to accept them, counterfeits like these are the reason that I can’t get a local store to accept my legitimate coupon for a free 2-liter of Diet Dr. Pepper (and I really love Diet Dr. Pepper!) and that many have had problems with the BOGO Aquajuice coupons….or that some stores have stopped taking IPs completely.

What’s worse is that these counterfeits dont look like IPs.  They are full-color coupons and I bet look very real “in person”…they may even be on a glossy “feels like a real coupon” paper.  If this continues, stores will soon begin to refuse to accept any coupons for free items.  For those of you who take advantage of rebates, mail-in offers or just get free coupons from companies through home mailers or by calling a company, this can have a major effect on your ability to use your legitimate coupons.

Think that counterfeit coupons isn’t a business?  There are over 450 ended (and marked as “sold”) auctions for these coupons on eBay, with most of the listings being by the same person.  In the past, I have rolled my eyes when people say that counterfeiting coupons is often done by organized crime and similar “criminal enterprises”.  I don’t know why I thought that they were done by little old ladies with PhotoShop and too much time on their hands, but I’m now a believer.

So what can you do?

1.  Never buy coupons for free items through eBay, Craig’s List, etc.  I’m not a fan of buying coupons anyway (I’ve never done it), but if you need to buy them, get them though a service like Coupon Clippers.  (edited to add:  I received an email from a friend who I know is an honest person who sells coupons on eBay.  I would like to clarify that I am talking about avoiding buying coupons for FREE items on eBay…or at least do so at your own risk and after checking this list.  I would also check the seller’s other auctions before buying and use some common sense.  Someone who has 30 auctions for FREE high-value coupons should be looked upon with suspicion.  Someone with 30 auctions for the kind of coupons that you get in you Sunday inserts or in the advertisements in your regular mail is likely to be an honest seller.  But if the only place you eve hear of a coupon being available is on eBay, there is a good chance that it is counterfeit)

2.  Spread the word among your couponing friends about this.

3.  If you have purchased any of these coupons, throw them away.  Please don’t attempt to use them.  Yes - you were scammed and are out the money that you paid for them, but that still doesn’t justify trying to use them now that you know that they are fake.

4.  Print out this release and this one and take them to your local store (grocery store, Target, CVS, etc).  Point out to them that they probably don’t look like Internet Printables and may be easier to “slip by” a cashier.

5.  Check this list often for news of new counterfeits or to make yourself aware of counterfeits that you may encounter online.

As for me, I’m adding “trolling eBay for auctions to report” to my list.

I realize that Moms Need To Know is just a small corner on the Internets.  I have no illusions that I can single-handedly take down counterfeiters with my site. 

But what I can do is work to help my local stores not be the victim of fraud.  It is in my (and your) best interest to do so before these people ruin it for all of us!

(stepping off soapbox, taking a deep breath)

Comments

  1. Jennifer Y. says

    This is so annoying!!

    PS – CVS took my Dr. Pepper coupon, although it didn’t cover the full amount. Cheap, but not free.

  2. says

    I support you 100% You would not BELIEVE some of the stories I could tell you about fraudulent returns. And that kind of thing just makes it harder for honest people.

  3. fran says

    Hi Mindi, You certainly are riled up…and with good cause. I will be ticked off also if these idiots ruin it anymore than they already have. I went to ShopRite on Saturday and wanted to use the B1G3 free Zone Perfect coupon…they would not accept it. The manager told me they don’t take internet coupons that don’t have a web address on them. I went to a different ShopRite on Sunday (not to try to use this coupon…we had to return a movie to Red Box and this ShopRite is closer to home). Anyway, I asked at customer service about the B1G3 Zone coupon…that store doesn’t take any internet coupons for “free” items…she never said anything at this store about a web address. Have you come across this yet?
    Don’t these “people” realize how they are ruining couponing for everyone else? Just like the people that abuse a deal, when there is a glitch in the system…the store WILL catch it because people go to the stores and get 12 and 13 items of one thing. I’m referring to the Softsoap Body Wash at Walgreens that produced the free coupon when you purchased one…then word hit the web that you can roll these, and roll these, and roll these. If you read any comments, people were saying “I got 12″, etc. So, because these people were SO GREEDY, Walgreens realized what was happening and fixed it. I bought the one, then the free one. I don’t need 12 or 13 of these, as I have been couponing for many years, and one or two is fine. Anyway, I digress. Good post. Now you got me all riled up, too.
    I did call my favorite Walgreens to make them aware of the 2 coupons you mentioned.

    • Mindi says

      I think the ShopRite people were just looking for a reason not to take your IPs or just making up a reason as they go along!

      I’ve been known to take major advantage of a deal, but only if I really needed it (like cereal – we go through that like crazy). But even then I restrain myself. It’s not like there won’t be another great deal on the same thing next week or next month!

  4. Carrie says

    Unfortunately the people that are producing and selling these counterfiet coupons could probably care less about coupons and what they are truly meant to do. They are in it to make a quick buck. If stores stop taking IPs as a result of what these criminals are doing, they will come up with some other scam that will eventually hurt honest people.
    Thanks for a great post and making honest people aware of what dishonest people do with their time!
    PS – Do stores get updates regularly on these types of scams? Is there a “snopes” for them to check out?

    • Mindi says

      I don’t know if the stores get these updates…but they should!

      And even if they don’t, they can find the info just by going to the http://www.cents-off.com site and clicking on the ist of current counterfeits!

  5. Caroline says

    Thanks, as always, for bringing this information to the forefront. I’ve been more aware of fraudulent coupons since the Riceworks freebie that I used a few times before learning it was fake. I feel awful about it and am now much more aware.

  6. Julie says

    I have a hard time with selling/buying coupons from e-bay simply because coupons state right on them that that is a federal offense, those that “sell their time in clipping them for you” have only found a vague loophole in the law, however it still seems kinda seedy to me!

    • Mindi says

      I get sort of the same feeling as well (about buying and selling coupons). However, having been in different areas/states on a Sunday and seeing the difference in coupons that people get, I can kind of understand it.

      And I don’t know why, but buying the whole insert just seems “better” than buying invidual coupons. Don’t ask me why…it just does ;-)

  7. tonya says

    Well, I printed the release and showed it to the manager at my local Giant. He was very happy and acted quite suprised that I brought it in. I don’t think he was aware of the coupon. You would think that Proctor and Gamble would contact their retailers.

    • Mindi says

      I took mine to Genuardi’s yesterday and the manager who got a little exasperated with me a few days earlier (when my cats didn’t print and she wanted to say that it was because the items I bought weren’t included in the deal because they weren’t in the ad…but when I insisted that she ring them again at another registers, the cats printed) is suddenly a big fan of mine.

      She had no idea about the coupons and when I left the store, she was showing them to all the cashiers.

      Hey – if nothing else, it got me back on her “good side” ;-)

  8. CJ Sime says

    I love your crusade! I support you and hope you continue to get the word out. No I dont think you will stop the actual people who are behind the fruad, but I do think you will make a significant impact on people who don’t know any better.

    Thank you! and I am also glad you are trolling ebay! LOL

    • Mindi says

      Found a bunch last night…not the Charmin or Bounty, but some Velveeta and Reynolds wrap. And they were all from the same few people who had about 20 listings for each!

  9. Kristin says

    I couldn’t get my store to take the diet dr. pepper coupon – or the pace ones. Were the pace ones ever a legit coupon anyhow?

    • Mindi says

      The Pace coupons were legitimate and stores will get reimbursed for them, but they were not intended to be distributed.

      They were the result of some sort of contest on Pace.com. I guess someone won it and decided to share the link….and then for some reason the software didn’t stop each person’s ability to print them after 2 copies.

      I ended up just throwing mine away once I heard about the problems.

  10. says

    Mindi,

    are those images for coupons exactly as they look? I noticed the expiration date is for 06 on one and 08 on another…just curious.

    It’s very frustrating that the more press couponing is getting the more bad couponers are coming out and the more honest couponers are getting hit. At least one of my Walgreens’ now has a policy that they will no longer take REGULAR coupons for even one cent over the item’s cost, nor will they adjust the total on the coupon so it’s even. It’s not as if the stores are not being fully reimbursed for the amount on the coupon, but many stores are being put off by our successes and feel they are being cheated somehow. I can only imagine how much worse it’s going to be now.

    • Mindi says

      Most of the coupons on the list at cents-off.com have been around for a while and the counterfeiters just change the expiration date and the “maximum value” amount.

  11. MOMMYSAVESALOT says

    Hi Mindy,

    I have a coupon question. I live in the suburbs of the Philadelphia area and want to know:

    1. Does acme double coupons; if so, up to what?

    2. Does shoprite double coupons as well? Would they accept an Acme coupon for $5 off?

    Thanks!

    • Mindi says

      Acme does double coupons up to $.99…so your $.75 coupons have a value of $1.50.

      I am pretty sure that ShopRite doubles up to $.99 as well. As for taking Acme coupons, I don’t know…but it is becoming a trend (Acme & Superfresh heavily advertise in the stores that they will take competitors coupons. Giant has signs as well.) I’m pretty sure that if I asked the manager at Genuardi’s that they would take it…so I would ask at ShopRite! The worst that they can do is say “no”, right?

  12. Julie says

    Thanks for your crusade. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the people who would try to use these counterfeits aren’t aware that they’re fake.
    I won’t get to my favorite CVS this week, but I noticed that Bounty and Charmin are on sale. I called the store and told them about the counterfeits and about cents-off.com.

  13. Shannon H says

    One of my favorite blogs to visit is Moms Need To Know. It is through her post that I learned the ethics behind couponing.