Ethical Couponing & Coupon Courtesy

By ERIN TURNER

You’ve heard of extreme and super couponing, but what in the world is ethical couponing?    Well, it is exactly what it sounds like — it’s being honest and moral in your coupon redemption practices.

This blog comes about because of a conversation I had with a clerk at Albertson’s last week.  As I handed him my printable coupons (coupons printed off the computer) he told me Albertson’s is considering not taking black and white printables anymore because they have been catching people photocopying those type of coupons (an illegal practice).

So what this means for the rest of us is we will have to start using color ink ($$$) to print our coupons because a small group of people can’t follow the rules.  Plus, many stores are considering no longer accepting printable coupons at all because of fraudulent use.

I can’t stress enough to anyone who uses coupons to please follow the rules and be honest.  We are already getting a price cut by using the coupons, so don’t be greedy and try to illegally get more than what is offered.  That is lying, cheating and stealing — not okay at all!

Photocopying coupons, intentionally using expired coupons and other fraudulent uses of coupons costs companies thousands of dollars every year.   I’ve heard people say, “Well, those companies can afford it!”  In the long run, no they can’t.  They allot a certain amount of money to be designated for promotions such as coupons.  If every time they ran a coupon promotion for which they budgeted $500 and at the end they had to pay out $750 because of fraudulent coupons, that puts them $250 in the red for their promotional campaign.   After awhile, those companies are going to stop offering coupons because it is affecting their bottom line.  I can’t blame them!

Whether a company can afford it or not isn’t the issue.  The issue is this illegal kind of behavior affects the entire couponing community.  When companies stop offering coupons, limit their coupon policies, or make it difficult to use coupons, it affects everyone.  And personally, I am furious at those folks who are affecting my ability to legitimately save my family money.  (Yes, my “mother bear” is coming out!)

Fraudulent coupons are similar to counterfeit money.  Remember when there was an influx of counterfeit $100 bills and stores stopped taking them for awhile?  And now, if you hand them a $50 or $100 bill, they inspect it like you are a criminal?  Well, it’s the same experience for those of us who use coupons.  The innocent users are the ones who have to pay the price.

If you know someone who is using fraudulent coupons, it is your responsibility to call them on it.  Sometimes people just don’t know and a simple explanation is all it takes.  But if you know someone who is doing it intentionally, then report it to a store manager.  It will go a long way with the manager if other couponers step up and say, “Hey, these people are not following the rules and as a coupon community, we don’t like it.”

Similarly it is important to be kind and considerate when you do use coupons.  If you have a huge stack, always forewarn the clerk.  Sometimes they will just close the lane so they can focus on your transaction without any pressure.  If I get into a lane and have a lot of coupons, I usually tell the people behind me too.  That way they can switch lanes if they need to get through faster.  A lot of times they will stay in line just to watch the fun and are amazed at the final total!

Also, keep other couponers in mind when you are stocking up.  Completely clearing a shelf is rude.  Now, if you are simply getting the last few items on the shelf, that is different.  But walking in on the first day of a sale, and completely clearing off a shelf and leaving nothing for others is wrong.  If you need that much of an item, then be responsible and place a special order with the store.  You will still get the great deal and be able to use your coupon, plus you leave enough for others.

I have noticed people leaving coupons for items on shelves in the grocery stores for others to use.  How awesome is that?  What a random act of kindness!  I love to see that — it makes me proud to be a part of a community that is willing to “pay it forward!”   Thank you to all the coupon angels out there!

Last week my husband and I were in the checkout line.  We were discussing couponing with the gentleman behind us.  The clerk told the gentleman a few weeks back on a Sunday we had come in and did an incredible savings trip.  I was shocked she remembered us and even knew the day we had shopped.  I teased her about keeping her eye on us and she said, “Oh no, I remember you guys because you are some of the nicest couponers we have.”  Really?  How do other couponers act?  Doesn’t everyone treat the clerk kindly and try to be helpful?

I always try to organize my stack of coupons in a helpful way for the clerks and if a coupon doesn’t work I don’t throw a fit and get angry.   Also, my husband and I love chatting and joking with the clerks — forming a sincere and good relationship with these people is key in couponing success!  Your actions at the checkout line define not only you but the entire community of couponers.

Please if you learn anything about couponing from me, I hope it is to be considerate, honest and kind to the clerks, the store managers and to other couponers.

Okay, enough of my soapbox for this week.  I just wanted you all to be aware of the impacts of fraudulent and unkind couponing and understand how it affects all of us.  So, even if you are an extreme couponer, a super couponer, or a once-in-awhile couponer, you should ALWAYS be an ethical and kind couponer!

Enjoy this blog?  You might also like Erin’s previous posts on Organizing Your Coupons, Couponing Basics, Coupon Myth Busting, and Stockpiling.

Back to the Save It blog home page.  AND, be sure to check out the “Missoula Save it Club”  on the home page of MakeItMissoula.com (See the Daily Missoula Fix buttons in the left navigation bar) for savings updates throughout the week!

Click here to see the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian.  Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques and trying to maintain a well-run, happy and organized home for herfamily.