How ‘Extreme Couponing’ Is Ruining Coupons

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It always seemed mind-bogglingly difficult to achieve the kinds of savings portrayed on the TLC show “Extreme Couponing.” Thanks to tougher supermarket policies and the proliferation of less valuable coupons, extreme savings through coupons seems downright impossible.

The best coupons have two key features: They offer discounts on the products you like and would be buying anyway, and the discounts are substantial enough to justify the time required for clipping them.

Increasingly, however, American consumers are coming across coupons that have neither of these features. A NCH Marketing report released earlier this year indicated that there was a 17% drop in coupon redemption in 2012. Among consumers who used fewer coupons last year, the most popular explanation given for the decreasing in couponing was this: “I can’t find coupons for the products I want to buy.”

(MORE: Former Extreme Couponer Admits: ‘It’s a Waste of Time’)

What’s more, it’s getting more difficult to find coupons that save the shopper a decent chunk of change. In early May, Kroger, one of the world’s largest supermarket companies, lowered prices on thousands of items in its stores in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, and elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region. You’d expect that news like that would be greeted with applause and gratitude from consumers. Instead, many shoppers have been grumbling that recent changes at Kroger will make them more likely to frequent dollar stores and Walmart—because Kroger’s price drops were accompanied by a ban on double couponing.

The company had previously pulled the plug on double coupons in Texas and California, and spokesman Carl York told the Charleston (W.V.) Gazette that shoppers shouldn’t expect any stores to double coupons—turning 30¢ off coupon instantly into 60¢ off at the register—down the line. “I think double coupons is something that’s going to go away at some point,” York said. “The industry is moving away from that.”

Regardless, shoppers have created a Bring Back Doubles Facebook page, and online commenters have been chiming in with observations comparing the move to JC Penney’s much-hated decision to scale back on coupons. Here’s how one commenter responded to a Roanoke Times story about Kroger’s changes:

Doing away with doubling coupons is a deal breaker for me. I’ll do most of my shopping now at Walmart, where volume really does show up in their pricing, and the coupons will now be worth the same. I believe this change will go in the same file as JCP’s attempt to reinvent itself.

(MORE: Stores Confront Extreme Couponers Tactics with Tougher Policies and More Limitations)

This reading of the situation may be a bit, well, extreme. Kroger isn’t banning coupons altogether like JC Penney basically did; the supermarket just stopped the practice of doubling their value for shoppers in certain locations. Supermarket News quoted Kroger CFO Michael Schlotman speaking at a conference recently, explaining that only a “very small number of customers actually engage in” double coupons, and that it would be fairer to spread the savings around via across-the-board price cuts:

“Now, they’re a very vocal part of your customer base, and they don’t like it when you stop giving them that reward,” he said. “But the percentage of customers who actually enjoyed the benefit of that, our view was we were better off taking those dollars and investing them in better prices for all of our customers rather than rewarding just a select segment of our customers.”

Whether or not Kroger has truly been offering “better prices” is up for debate (many shoppers report not being impressed by the supposed price cuts), but what’s undeniably true is that outlawing double coupons makes it more difficult for couponers to snag the extreme kind of savings seen on TV. It’s not just Kroger either. Walmart store managers have been known to make life more annoying for extreme couponers by, for example, mandating that certain cash-back coupon schemes be painstakingly doled out one at a time, rather than in a single transaction.

Coupon enthusiasts such as Jill Cataldo don’t blame Kroger or other supermarkets for the changes they’ve made regarding coupons. Instead, they point to the popular TLC program “Extreme Couponing,” which shows shoppers purchasing hundreds of dollars of merchandise for a few bucks using various extreme (and possibly bogus) coupon strategies. In her syndicated couponing column, Cataldo wrote that there has been an “Extreme Couponing effect.” After the show began airing, coupons became less valuable—”Manufacturers that previously offered $1 coupons now offer coupons good for $1 off on the purchase of two items”—and grocery store chains introduced tougher restrictions on coupon usage.

(MORE: The $40 Million Counterfeit Coupon Caper)

Store clerks likewise say that retailers have little choice but to crack down on extreme couponers, some of whom seem willing to do almost anything to cut down on their grocery bills. “People who do the extreme coupons are generally the most vicious people you will ever meet,” one Kroger clerk explained to Consumerist.com. “They’ll cut off the dates of expired coupons, try to use several coupons per item and will argue when you shut them down.”

Some couponers will attempt to do much worse than any of that. Last summer, a woman from Phoenix named Robin Ramirez was arrested for overseeing a $40 million counterfeit coupon ring, in which fake coupons were created and sold via eBay and other outlets for less than face value. The Arizona Republic reported that Ramirez was just sentenced to two years in state prison and has been ordered to make restitution payments to the tune of $5 million.

One of the police officers involved in the investigation that brought the coupon ring down said that fraud “causes manufacturers to give out fewer coupons and coupons with a lower face value,” according to the Republic.

74 comments
ChrisCK
ChrisCK

Everyone wants to get a good deal and using coupons is fine; but when you abuse the system And essentially cut out any profit a manufacturer or store makes, you're just hurting future consumers ,manufacturers and the stores themselves and if you say the stores rip people off, Just use common sense and remember the old adage: two wrongs don't make a right.

CouponGirlsla
CouponGirlsla

I think I will write an article on my website about this article.

CouponGirlsla
CouponGirlsla

You should let me write an article I will tell you the complete truth about extreme couponers. 

CouponGirlsla
CouponGirlsla

I was on TLC Extreme Couponing. This article is not completely truthful. I never do any of those things mentioned in this article. When you talk about extreme couponers you can not generalize them all together. Some of us are not like that. And I sure don't use fake coupons. Yes policies have changed but it is not our fault that people try to do what was done on the show, Most of these episodes were filmed many years ago when coupon policies were more relaxed. I take offense to this article. I teach millions of people how to coupon the correct way. You should be ashamed.


JulieanneYoung
JulieanneYoung

Could u teach me @ julieanneyoung714@gmail.com I'd be so thankful

Papajack55
Papajack55

The only reason I coupon and I don't mean "extreme coupon" either, is to help my kids and grandkids. My kids are busy working and have kids that need essentials for their children, so yes, I am going to help out within the legal limit that I can. I don't go out and buy 1200.00 worth of stuff for 30.00  I just get the essentials for my family. I don't see any harm in that. 

PatriciaThompson
PatriciaThompson

I am a cashier at Wal-Mart and I hate these extreme couponers who use ad matching and the coupons. They buy $0.97 travel conditioner at $0.25 and use a $1.00 or $3.00 coupon with it. Make it illegal to do that. Products should not be less than face value of the coupon. The coupons do have a use by date but not an amount minimum for the purchase.

jvdthwip
jvdthwip

@PatriciaThompson Eh, that's bs. You're not required to look out for Walmart, they make billions. How? By taking business away from everyone else. They have the best return policy, the best coupon policy (can use competitors, can pay you back for excess coupons), the best admatch policy, and Savings Catcher rewards. They use all these absurd undercutting tools to stomp out everyone else because they know that giving away (your example) free travel conditioner (which costs them almost nothing) means you might buy other things from Wally World.
Just let it be.

ChrisCK
ChrisCK

So with your logic if it's just travel conditioner its okay to essentially steal it. Makes sense. Smh

JeffreyAllender
JeffreyAllender

@jvdthwip @PatriciaThompson Yeah actually, Patricia, you are not screwing over Wal Mart.  You are screwing over the manufacturer of the coupon.  They are the ones who end up reimbursing wal mart for the coupon.  So when you have some con artist trying to use a 3.00 coupon for a travel size 97 cent item that was obviously intended for a full size item, the manufacturer ends up getting screwed.

DominioPúblico
DominioPúblico

There has also been a rise in the number of coupons that are good for another coupon with a purchase. Buy a lifetime supply of TP and you get a coupon good for $5 off your next purchase of TP. Unfortunately, you will never get the $5 off, because you already own a lifetime supply. 

shucke2842
shucke2842

The one thing they do on Extreme Couponing that is absolutely not true is show the taxes go down.  On every coupon, it says bearee must pay the taxes, so regardless of how much they get the grocery tab down to zero, they would still have to pay the sales tax on the entire purchase.  One episode I am currentlly watching sows $73.90 in sales tax before they start deducting the coupons and he ends up paying zero.  That is an absolute fallacy.

KarenChase
KarenChase

Depends on what they are buying. Most states don't tax food.

ShirleyKidman
ShirleyKidman

Coupon is great idea. There is a lot of poor families, who do not know where there next meal is coming from. The food banks are running out of food all the time. If these people found away too work out the deal then let them. There not stealing or doing break and enters. There just trying too feed there families. My mom had all she could do too feed us as kids. She would have 3 to 7 kids too look after on her own. She always had me and my 2 sisters and a lot of time she would have my Aunt' and Uncle's 4 kids. My dad, Uncle and Aunt would strew off all the time for months on end. If this coupon was in Canada my mom so would of done this. For all the families doing coupons I wish you all the best. :)

haywood
haywood

@ShirleyKidman WOW.  Please go back and read over English books from grades 3-8.  Grammar Nazis (and the rest of the English speaking population) will take you a lot more seriously if you actually use the language we know.

SeanCrum
SeanCrum

I read all the comments and i see there are alot of haters, nobody is stopping you from couponing.. IF THERE WAS SUCH A BIG DEAL ABOUT IT, THEN WHY DO MANUFACTURERS KEEP PRINTING THEM AND PUTTING THEM IN EVERY SUNDAY PAPER ACROSS THE COUNTRY.. THEY DONT GIVE A DAME, THEY DONT LOSE MONEY...ITS LIKE THIS. IF ONE PERSON BUYS 100 PACKS OF TOOTH PASTE AND DONATES IT AWAY. THEY ARE HELPING PEOPLE...2ND THE STORE THEY BROUGHT IT FROM, LOSES NO MONEY CAUSE MANUFACTURE SENDS THEM A CHECK, THEN THEY DONT LOSE NO MONEY, BECAUSE THAT CHECK THEY WROTE WAS A TAX RIGHT OFF AS A BUSINESS EXPENSE WITCH SAVES THE MONEY ON TAXES THEY HAVE TO PAY...SO BASICALLY NO ONE LOSES..ITS A BUSINESS PEOPLE..LOOK AT BIGGER PICTURE...

jyladvik
jyladvik

@SeanCrum You sound very uneducated. Your poor grammar and sentence structure is possibly the reason you can't get a real job. Oh, and I don't need to buy 100 tubes of toothpaste. What would I do with it all? These extreme couponers aren't donating their stuff, they are hoarding it.

JeffreyAllender
JeffreyAllender

@SeanCrum why are you yelling?  I cant take anyone seriously who uses all caps. Typical couponer.

BrittanyDanielleSmith
BrittanyDanielleSmith

I think using coupons is just fine. hell at least with coupons I can afford to go shopping. is 20 tubes of tooth paste or 1000 packs of tic tac a little much yes, but its their choice!

AmberAllen
AmberAllen

I feel like Super Couponers are selfish and greedy.  In the first episode of the show, the woman buys 60+ bottles of mustard, just because its on sale, leaving one bottle on the shelf for other customers.  That's selfish.  It would take, no joke, a hundred years for three people to go through 60+ bottles of mustard.  She could have bought ten, been set on mustard for a decade or more, and left the rest for other shoppers.  


Its like this with many items they buy.  Its sickening and wasteful and selfish.  

UB
UB

@xChloe I agree with @AmberAllen.  

I coupon too, but not to the extremes some people in my area do.  They don't need to clear the shelves just to donate.  Regular people would like the savings too, but it's frustrating when you can't find the items because shelve clearers want to "donate".

trinahenry92
trinahenry92

Not hurting anyone? Interesting concept. What would happen to our economy if the majority of people did this, including people who could afford to pay for their groceries? What would happen to the Mom and Pop stores? Well, they would go out of business. They would not be able to pay their bills, feed their families, keep a roof over their heads. You are stealing from their pockets. This practice forces prices to go up, causing other middle-class, barely making ends meet, Americans to bare the brunt of your selfishness... and you all use the smoke screen: "but SOME of us -who aren't hoarding our loot- would donate to the needy." There are other ways, like Meals on Wheels and specific charities that will accept donations, instead a surplus of paper towels or a bottle of mustard... yummy! It's simple economics.

jvdthwip
jvdthwip

@AmberAllen Actually, Walmart return policy lets you return items under $25 for cash, and they always return the full value of the product before the coupon since they've already been reimbursed. That means buying 60 bottles of mustard can actually translate into pure cash. People do it.

xChloe
xChloe

@AmberAllen  I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. Yes some might buy them just for themselves, but there were others who donated most of the things to charity, plus they obviously have more to shelf. I know for sure that your just saying it because you haven't been able to save as much as them, If you were in their position you'd do the same! So actually I think that it's great that their saving as much as they are, they are very wise and kind people. They ain't hurting anyone it's not like they're making you go hungry and you have no more food to buy.

natkatsmommy
natkatsmommy

Couponing (extreme or not) is NOT stealing.  The stores actually get more money when you use coupons as opposed to not using them.  Read the fine print on coupons... It plainly says that the stores will receive face value of the coupon plus 8 cents. So even if an item costs $1 and you use a coupon for $1, the store gets back $1.08 from the manufacturer. 

BrittanyDanielleSmith
BrittanyDanielleSmith

@csevers @natkatsmommy  

Then its the manufacturer fault for putting them out there. The consumers that use the coupons are just using what they have in front of them which is smart since most of us can't afford what we need!

jvdthwip
jvdthwip

@csevers @natkatsmommy The manufacturer produces coupons to generate mindshare and propagate their brand. That's almost worth the coupon face value alone. Product is produced for much less than the MSRP. It doesn't rip off anyone in the big picture. Extreme couponing is a huge corner case, and the manufacturer knows how many of each coupon they print, anyway.

csevers
csevers

@natkatsmommy So you're ripping off the manufacturer then? That seems a lot better, laugh.

blhjjgggghh
blhjjgggghh

This awful attitude toward extreme couponers is jealousy that you don't know how. I really don't understand how they're stealing if they're using coupons as intended. They're smart and there will always be jealousy.

jvdthwip
jvdthwip

@dickclarkfan1 @blhjjgggghh The manufacturer only ever pays out as much as they printed on the coupon and they know how many coupons they print.
The "free items" are when you buy a store-discounted item with a manufacturer coupon. In this case, the store makes just as much money as every other customer for the item, which they discounted themselves, and the manufacturer reimburses the same amount of money for every coupon, regardless who used them.

There is literally nothing wrong and it hurts no one. Why would a store blacklist someone who is generating money for them? Manufacturers reimburse more than the face value of the coupon to merchants. It's not hard.

JeffreyAllender
JeffreyAllender

@jvdthwip @dickclarkfan1 @blhjjgggghh Because lately these coupons are obtained illegally or counterfit.  And you ARE hurting someone.  The manufactorer of the item, and the store, if the manufacturer decides not to pay on the coupon.

dickclarkfan1
dickclarkfan1

@blhjjgggghh Um, the manufactures never intended you to use your coupons to quite possibly get your purchases for free.  That is why many stores are now keeping a "blacklist" of extreme couponers and will refuse service to these parties. 

sylviab
sylviab

I have watched this show several times and the one thing that I see over and over again.. is most of the stuff these people but is complete junk. Processed or frozen food... nothing of nutritional value whatsoever !! No fruit, or vegetables and rarely meat, poultry or fish!! I don't need 100 tubes of toothpaste !! I would love to save money at the grocery store , just as the average person would, but I'm not going to buy complete crap and sacrifice my health so I can to eat for free !!

xChloe
xChloe

@sylviab  Well if it's on the grocery then it's not complete "crap" as you say. People obviously buy it and that's why they shelf and put it for sale. I bet you eat the same so stop hating and if you claim you don't then I know you'd like to eat for free if you didn't have the money!

Shutterbugfan
Shutterbugfan

Terrilee your wrong the kroger stores here in michigsn still double coupons up to a dolloar as long as you scan your card.

mbiehl31
mbiehl31

What right does a person have to go into a store and come out with hundreds of dollars worth of products and only pay a couple of dollars.  It is stealing plain and simple.  Whether you manipulated the store rules or you pulled a gun out of your pocket you stole.  I can't believe others are applauding this behavior.  It is sick.  There is a huge difference between the person who uses a few coupons to save their family a few dollars than expecting to leave with a car full of groceries that you did not pay for.  It is sad to see how far our society has fallen.  

AndreaWellman
AndreaWellman

It is awfully sad, don't you think? Like, why should people who are not well off even get groceries? I don't even like it that people who need to use coupons are allowed groceries from stores They should be eating grass and dirt and twigs from the yard or something... Well, not MY yard. Because I wouldn't want one of THOSE PEOPLE living in my neighborhood. Or... (And I JUST realized this!) Their kids going to school with mine. Holy Moses! I THINK I SAW A COUPON IN MY SON'S TEACHER'S PURSE!

Keep fighting the good fight against these so-called "couponers" guys! I'm off to call the school board.

#sarcasm

xChloe
xChloe

@mbiehl31  Whoa all these hater comments really getting on my nervous, I don't coupon at all, but when I saw the show I honestly thought that these people were very smart. I have to say that it's absolutely not stealing in anyway. In other words they spend many hours trying to get coupons and calculating how much it will be overall, these people spend many hours trying to provide for their family as much as they can. they aren't stealing do you see them as wealthy? I guess not they are just your average person trying to feed themselves, so stop coming out with you absurd conclusions if you want to keep making the grocery's rich by paying for retail price then go ahead, I guarantee you won't get very far.

csevers
csevers

@mbiehl31 I agree, I think extreme "couponing" is abuse. The coupons are not beings used as intended. It's just like a tax loop-hole.

ChrisCK
ChrisCK

Okay, so It's okay for people less fortunate to steal right? Got it.

TerriLee
TerriLee

Kroger stopped that policy of double coupons years ago in Michigan...and NO their prices are not cheaper.

AngieNTexas
AngieNTexas

I'd use more coupons if there were any on fresh fruits and vegetables where I shop. When I buy other stuff, it seems that the generic is cheaper than the stuff there are coupons for. I have bought the paper a couple of times to get coupons and tried to save. But I didn't even find enough in coupons of valuable stuff that recovered the cost of the paper.

Dissie
Dissie

@AngieNTexas I have the exact same problem! I would love to save some money couponing, but I mainly cook from scatch (and yes, I'm poor as dirt but I choose to spend my money on quality food rather than gadgets like smart phones and tablets) and very rarely do I ever find coupons for flour, cornstarch, apples or ground beef.


In addition, I see a lot of these extreme couponers as little better than hoarders. Stockpiling 1000 cans of chemical filled spaghettios doesn't really help anybody.

chillaxfactor55
chillaxfactor55

I find that many of Kroger's strategic decisions are ultimately self defeating.  Growing up, when they were the only game in town, they'd strategically pull items from the shelves during double-coupon events (Which my mother would get incredibly ticked off about).  When new competition arrived with Meijer and Giant Eagle, my parents shifted to those stores and generally shunned Kroger 

Today, they have numerous competitors, and yet they're doing things like dropping double coupons.  Competetors who don't double often have better prices.  A limit of 5-10 like coupons is still a good inducement to bring people into stores if the coupons are doubled.  They allow their cashiers to be rude to customers, which will drive away nearly every customer (plenty of cashiers are nice, but all it takes is that one bad experience).  And then they overprice their non-food items, which is like putting a sign up that reads "GO TO WALMART!"  I need a 3M Filtrete HVAC filter for my central a/c. It's $17 at Kroger; $13 at Target; $10 at Lowes.  It's still better for Kroger if I buy it at Kroger instead of Lowes. I'd rather buy it at Kroger, but it's $17.  So off to Lowes I go.

calmeg29
calmeg29

This is an incredibly uneducated article. If Kroger truly changed their double coupon policy to help ALL consumers save- then it had nothing to do with double coupons, did it? You can't claim both ways- either they did it to stop extreme couponers, or they did it to help save the general consumer from their inflated prices. How about some common sense here? 

Here is the reality: If you watch Extreme COuponing (I have, so I am not talking about something based on an opinion I have made without being informed about the show) - then you will note the extreme couponer is not going in to save $1000 on their bill. They are buying large quantities of a few products.  These wmen and women have figured out how to beat inflated prices at the supermarket at their own game. SUper markets don't like it. WHat is the point of a coupon? It's to get you into the store, save you a few cents on an item, and entice you to buy everything in sight while there. The manufacturers could care less if you save a few pennies- they want your business on everything else in the store. The grocery store doesn't have enough education to understand the coupon redemption process, and doesn't want a consumer to walk out without paying good cold hard cash to the store. 


Stores are businesses. I don't believe the fairy tale that they care to save we consumers a lot of money. They ant us sucked in, to grab what's at an end cap, and be suckered into over paying for something that cost the store pennies. It's like going to the ER and paying $10 for a Tylenol. People accept it as OK. It's unbelievable so many people are so gullible. 

A TRUE coupon user will never stop using coupons to save their family money. If it takes some hard work and digging a little deeper, I have seen the commitment to do so. I live in an area that never offers double coupons, and for the most part- cashiers are ignorant of store policies, rude, and borderline verbally abusive. Since when did that become okay? 

csevers
csevers

@calmeg29 Without the double coupons they will lower prices, thereby helping all customers save. This is in comparison with simply discontinuing all double coupons, which only helps non-extreme "couponers". In my experience, at the grocery store, extreme "couponers" are the worst. They take forever to check-out, and always have to argue with the cashier about their discount. I don't know what you mean by "inflated price". The price a store charges is not inflated, it's the amount they have to charge to cover their costs and turn a profit. It's the same as anything else. I bill my client $200 per hour, and I take home $50 an hour, it's called overhead. There are expenses the grocery store has to cover, rent, staff, insurance, etc. That's not inflation, that's just the cost of doing business.

padgettsemi
padgettsemi

Drawing that Kroger - JCP correlation is an interesting one. Personally, I'd sooner shop somewhere with an immediate saving rather than having to sort through a novel of coupons, but it's interesting how others are the exact opposite. What will happen to Kroger? Excited to see.

Chiroderma
Chiroderma

Where do these people get the coupons from? I saw a few clips of the Extreme couponing show and the people there got them from dumpsters, does everybody do that? I guess they don't buy newspapers or magazines  because that would cost more than the value of the coupons...I wonder if they get to consume all those products-food items- before they expire, I hope the couponers donate some things to people in need