Monday, May 9, 2011

A Savvy Comment: CIC Extreme Couponing Ethics

While I have been vocal about my opposition to the show Extreme Couponing, I thought you all might be interested in hearing what the CIC has to say!

CIC Position on Extreme Couponing

The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) expresses our great disappointment with TLC’s current series, Extreme Couponing, and hereby offers our expertise and other assistance to TLC and Sharp Entertainment (which produces the show) to enhance the program with more accurate and realistic information. In addition, we hope they address potentially illegal acts that appear to have been portrayed on the show.

Professionals in the coupon industry believe this show creates unrealistic expectations about how coupons work and promotes the misuse of coupons. For example, the show appears to portray coupons being used in violation of the terms and conditions printed on the coupons, such as using coupons to obtain products other than those specified by the coupon offer, and focuses on consumers who have procured large quantities of coupon inserts from unknown sources, which may raise civil and/or criminal issues.

In real life, individuals attempting to use such large quantities of coupons or attempting to use them in violation of the terms stated on the coupons would most likely have their coupons refused at the register or, depending on the circumstances, be investigated by law enforcement. According to media reports, TLC recently stated,

“While the series documents extreme couponing strategies, we take any concerns about specific tactics seriously and are looking into the situation.” We look forward to hearing what TLC discovers.

The CIC’s and other industry experts’ previous offers of assistance to the producers to make this an educational show were previously turned down. Nevertheless, we stand ready to help in the event the producers or TLC reconsider their path and seek to turn this into a show that accurately reflects appropriate coupon strategies and use, which would result in real benefits for TLC’s viewing audience. (May 5th 2011)"

In addition, last week, newspapers across the country received notification from News America/Smart Source as to their response to Extreme Couponing.  In part the notification reads:

"Due to the show Extreme Couponing, there has been a significantly increased interest by the public in couponing recently. While we welcome the promotion of coupon usage, some episodes appear to portray shoppers using illegal methods to obtain and use coupons, including going to newspapers to obtain multiple copies of our SmartSource coupon inserts."  "It is illegal for any inserts not distributed in newspapers to be taken, given away or donated. Failure to comply will result in prosecution."

As a result, newspaper security guidelines will be more strictly enforced or the offending newspapers risk being dropped from carrying coupon inserts at all!  Do you really want your newspaper to lose their coupon inserts?  If not, then stop asking carriers to give you extras, taking them from vending machines, dumpster diving for them or buying them online (where do you think they're getting those inserts to sell from folks?)

So what's next?  It's already coming!  

Have you noticed that there have been several recent coupons that now limit the number of coupons you can use in a transaction?  Coupons typically limit how many coupons you can use on one product, ie... one manufacturer coupon per product, but now they are limiting how many products you can actually buy at a time!  I believe Extreme Couponing will bring even more unwelcome changes for the couponing community.  As you know, I have no problem getting a great storage room full of products your family needs, but there is a point when it becomes wasteful and greedy! Buying 5-10 of something is totally different than buying 50-100 or even 500-1,000!

It's truly unfortunate that a television network would seek to undermine the community it professes to promote!

I am proud to say I am NOT an Extreme Couponer!


  1. I think it's about time some regulation was in place. I like good deals too, but I only get two newspapers and typically only want to buy 1-3 of each item I purchase at a time. It's really disappointing to see a shelf cleared of ketchup (something I needed to replace in my home) because some extreme couponers bought 30 bottles. It means less of us get to take advantage of a good deal. This show disgusts me too.

  2. I completely agree! There is nothing worse then seeing a good deal and then going to get it only to find that an "extreme couponer" got there first and cleared the shelf. If companies would stock better, I'm sure it wouldn't matter as much but it is still greedy and wasteful. I myself buy for me, my mom, my grandma, and my 2 sisters when there is a good deal, but I have never once cleared a shelf. People should learn to get what they need and let others do the same.

  3. They need to fire those crazy ladies and hire you, Amy!

  4. love this post, and i agree. great post, lady!

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  6. I totally agree with this post. I've never watched the show and I usually only coupon shop once a month, but I notice now that I'm scrutinized when I bring in my honest, legal coupons for my big once-a-month grocery shopping, and some of the more friendly cashiers have told me the stores (I only shop Kroger) are restricting all coupons because of the show. I try to be frugal, but I don't want to be criminalized and I've almost considered not couponing and just shopping Aldi or something.
    Ugh. This was something I use to enjoy.

  7. Someone always has something to complain about. If YOU were the one getting these great deals, none of you would be complaining, but since you don't know how or choose to, you have to complain about someone else getting these deals.
    I go into the store and use a coupon that says "limit one coupon per item" if the person at the register is not aware of their policy, then I give them as many coupons as I have. If they tell me the limit, then I say fine, then I will pay individual transactions, but that has not happened to me yet. I have enough panty shields to last me for the next 5yrs.
    It's great that some people knows how and gets these great deals. If they go in and wipe out the shelf, then the staff will just go in the back get more off their pallet and restock. If they don't have any more, then you just need to go back another day.
    You mean to say, YOU have never taken the last item off a shelf? I know I have, even if it was just one left. I'm not gonna say "hhhhmm, I don't want to take the last one, maybe I better leave it for someone else." Hell no! I'm taking that item.
    You all just said you love a good deal, so this leads me to believe that you would do the same thing, if you could.

  8. I think that the Extream aspect is what the show is trying to portray so I can't seeing them changing it to "normal" coupon use.
    As for seeing empty shelves at the store...I first try to get a raincheck for the item. However often the desired item has a super deal (like register rewards offerd by Walgreens) that will not be available later with the raincheck.
    Personally I get annoyed but don't get mad anymore. People who are greedy will be greedy about many aspects of their life and unless all coupons go to the one per transaction then there will always be the issue of wiped out shelves. I don't think others mean that if there is one item left on the shelf that you shouldn't buy it but when there are maybe 10 items and you take all ten leaving NONE for anyone else that is the issue.
    The show portrays shoppers who have hundreds of an item like razors when there just is no reason to have that many and thus causing the disgust.
    Just my opinion and I sure hope that it becomes a passing fad and we can go back to our regular coupon use soon!

  9. armywife65 - how sad for you that you would choose to use coupons in ways other than as directed by the manufacturer. You act as if they owe you something, and they do not. No one owes you anything, though I would say you owe yourself a little more respect.

    Of course at some point most of us have taken the last item on the shelf, but not when our cart is already full of 5 years worth of pantie shields! I'm afraid that you clearly have no idea how to get a "good" deal, but rather choose to act in an unethical manner. I've been managing websites and forums for over 13 years and seriously couponing for 18. And while I do know how to get a good deal, I also know that my integrity is worth more than $0.25 and a box of pads! Good luck to you.

  10. Excellent post, Amy. I love what you have said. I went to a store yesterday morning to pick up the WoW deals and found that very few of them were on the shelves. When I asked on of the store employees, he said that some people came in late Saturday night and cleaned them out of all the really good deals. How frustrating for "average" people who just want to buy a couple of razors for a good deal!

  11. I don't understand how television shows can show people committing crime and get away with it! TV is turning into a 'how to' for criminal behavior if the producers of the show can be allowed to record criminal acts without prosecution. It is the responsibility of the producers of this show to KNOW what is legal and what is not before they put stuff like this out for public viewing. This show is not the only one I have noticed doing stuff like this. If producers are held accountable for what they put out there maybe the future of television won't be so bleak.

  12. I am pretty sure armywife65 is the same person who got mad at me on freecycle because I didn't give her something she wanted that I was offering. I had to complain to the moderator because it got so bad.

    I believe in being ethical. If the coupon says something, I want to have the integrity to honor it. I don't need a 5 years supply of anything. 1 year would be nice. 2 years would be more than plenty.

  13. armywife65 - I will guarantee you, that 99% of the women who read this blog know how to get free panty shields. They know how to get the good deals. And they do! They just chose to do it the ethical way, and without doing it at another family's expense. We, as couponers have to look out for eachother, and that means not wiping the shelf of every package of razors, or all the panty shields etc... I probably have enough panty shields to get me through the next 5 years too. But I bought mine 5 at a time, not 50. Lots of the women who read this blog probably have that many. They just did it the right way, not the 'clear the shelf' way.

    I myself have been baffled by what I saw on extreme couponing, and I have watched, completely dumbfounded by the lack of honesty that people show! If there is a store limit on a product - and you know about it, why try to sneak coupons past the cashier?? It's not worth the extra money to sacrifice your integrity.

  14. My favorite one was the lady that stole papers from abandoned houses. Not only is it is psycho.

    I get a kick out of the show, bit in many ways it reminds me of the show Hoarders.

  15. @armywife65 what you are doing is illegal and i hope you get caught and face criminal charges... im also an army wife and you disrespected the word army when you stated that comment. i suggest you change it.. also its people like you who ruin it for people like me... and i seriously doubt you have ever got away with those kinds of acts at any commissary.

  16. To Armywife65 You are doing what is called illegal couponing use when you try to use more than "One coupon per transaction". First of all that is coming to an end when the new coupon system comes out on all the registers! I have been doing ethical couponing for well over 22 years and yes I have a great stash but I buy a couple of items at once not tons of one item in one transaction. I for one am also very irrated about the show and I absolutely hate it! We have a woman here teaching classes. She was on the show buying Purex det, with a coupon not for the kind of Purex that was stated on the coupon. That is another example of coupon fraud. The more classes these people teach the more awful it is getting! I have spoken with several local store managers at different stores and they know who she is and they are getting fed up! That is why Publix will be changing their policy very soon! No more overages, and I was told they are discussing no use of a 2nd coupon on bogo deals! Most of the folk on the show use coupons because they have major debt and instead of getting a "job" they use the coupon system to support them. I use coupons because it is a hobby and it is fun. Now they are making it less fun and in turn it will come back and bite them in the foot. I can afford to live without using them. Most of them cannot.

  17. @armywife65

    I certainly DO know how to get the deals. I even always get my panty shields for free. But I don't clear shelves, I seldom get more than 2 or 3 of a sale item, and I have a full pantry (which stays IN my pantry, not all over the house!).

    Sales come in cycles. I don't need a 5 year supply of anything. 3 or 4 months supply is more than enough, because there will be another coupon and another sale.

    I coupon modestly and ethically. My savings are almost as much percentage-wise as those on the show, but I keep the quantities low so that it doesn't take over my life.

  18. What makes me mad is armywife saying that someone should have to come back the next day and get something. What about the people that cannot do that? I for one am one of those people, I am disabled and it is very to get out, so if something is gone because of a hog I do not get it. There are also elderly people who cannot get out much and then if the shelf pigs have struck, they do not get the item. There are many people who cannot just come back the next day! Have some empathy woman. You should not use the word army in your name, you put it to shame. I am not an armywife but was the daughter of an army soldier (my father). If my dad seen someone clearing the shelves he would not come back the next day, he would take it right out of the person's cart. It was hard for him to get out in the end too!!

  19. One of the very first episodes of extreme couponing (before it became a weekly show), followed a women who had gotten off food stamps and put her children through college because of couponing. Every week she would walk a 7 mile route around her city encouraging her neighbors to use their weekly circulars (coupons in the mail) or let her have them. When she went shopping she only bought what she could use over the next few weeks or month. As she walked up and down the aisles of the grocery store, she would help others in the store find bargain prices on fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, and share with them the coupon she didn't need. At the end of her shopping trip she had a cart full of reasonable groceries (meaning actual food like chicken, fruit, bread, milk, etc) and paid less than $10. What an inspiration! I have incorporated a lot of her techniques into my own shopping routine.

    I don't mind paying for my groceries, after all, someone's livelihood depends on it. There is a cost in the production of the items we use, and the people who make, distribute, invent them deserve compensation. So some of us will have to pay for the products we use and thank goodness! Can you imagine if you provided a service and EVERYONE wanted your service for free? some one has to pay for the products we use, and it can't just be the company providing it. So when a shelf is cleared I don't stomp away furious that the store didn't provide more, I simply recognize that items do have a cost and I am not entitled to have someone else pay for what I need.

  20. WOW - it seems this topic is getting a few folks hot around the collar. Just an fyi - these comments are being moderated and while I welcome all comments, pro or con, your comment will not be posted if you can't keep yourself or your mouth under control. Share your opinion in a clear and concise way and I'd love to hear your side. As always - thanks for reading.

  21. I am just thankful to Amy for the great advocate she is and the support stores like Walmart are giving because of the ethical way she promotes couponing. My family has been in a tight spot the last two years as my husband was laid off and now works part time and I work as a teacher. Couponing has helped me keep food on my family's table and a roof over our heads. I hope we will all be respectful as human beings and follow the golden rule so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits of coupons.

  22. I would like to know the wording of the exact law that allegedly prohibits selling coupons. I'm not entirely sure that the CIC doesn't spin the wording to suit their position. I'd like to see the law for myself.

    If it's illegal to sell coupons, then how do the people do it who sell those entertainment discount books every year? I also donated some money to Primary Children's at Rite Aid last week and, in exchange for my donation, I was given a card of coupons for their store. That seems like buying coupons.

    I would suggest that the reason coupons of higher value sell for more than coupons of lower value even if you are only paying for the clipping and collection is that higher value coupons are in higher demand. That's reasonable -- to charge more for a product that more people will want.

    I've enjoyed the Extreme Couponing show. I like to see the people challenge themselves to an especially large purchase and then donate it to those in need. I don't see what the problem is.

  23. Deni-

    The exact wording is written on almost every coupon - in part it states: "Consumer: May not be sold or auctioned or otherwise transferred or reproduced."

    As far as the Rite Aid or Entertainment coupons those are intended to be sold - the contracts for those coupons are completely different than contracts for Sunday newspaper coupon inserts.

    To quote NewsAmerica/Smartsource: “The stand of News America Marketing is that coupon clipping services are illegal.”

    It's illegal and the CIC is trying to support that policy.

    As far as donating products - I love that too - but I'd love it more if they didn't bend store policies, show unethical couponing methods or portray an unrealistic picture of couponing as a whole.

  24. Absolutely I disagree with any form of coupon fraud and all store policies should be respected.

    I know about the wording on the coupon, but that may be only expressing the preference of the manufacturer and not the law. It could be the same as a company that has you sign something saying you're not allowed to sue them when we all know that it's legal to sue anyone, any time for any reason -- your case just might not get to court or you might not win.

    Transferring or selling the coupon may void the coupon, but that's not exactly the same as it being illegal.

    As a couponer, I think it would be very important to know all the details of this law. If my neighbor gives me her unused coupons, is that illegal? If I see someone buying something in the store that I have a coupon for and I share it with them, is that illegal?

    I give my sister in law, who has a dog, all of my dog product coupons and she gives me all her cat coupons. Is that illegal?

    I'd like to know what the lawmakers have to say about this and not the manufacterers who may merely be stating their preference.

  25. I think it would be wise, and very helpful to the couponing community, if the TONE of the Extreme Couponing show made clear that this is not the TYPICAL shopping experience of the couponers being profiled.

    I find people get the idea that these couponers shop like that every week -- when, in reality, they have been ASKED to put together something extreme for the show to give an example of what kinds of things can be done with coupons.

  26. I think the words "transferred" is the part that is kind of vague.
    I wouldn't pay $$ to a clipping service nor would I try and sell them or buy coupons either.
    I personally think that if you and your neighbor or family member give coupons to each other there would be no problem. I mean as Gr'ma I don't have any need for diapers or wipes or other child/baby supplies so I give them to my daughter or son's use. I guess I could buy the product and then have them pay me for it but I think that is the other end of extream LOL

  27. it is nice to see someone finally calling out insert services. i posted a question re: this on Ethical Couponing's fb wall awhile back and didn't get a very fulfilling answer.

    i wouldn't want to buy a "hot" tv, computer, etc. if i knew it was obtained in an unethical manner, and i shouldn't turn a blind eye when it comes to inserts, either.

    the only reason there isn't more outrage is because the selling of this service works in couponer's favor. but, IMO it is wrong, and now SS has officially declared their stance and declared it illegal. im not here to judge, but i for one am not going to be using an insert service or ebay.

    deni does make a couple of good points, but the handful of coupons i find within reach all say to me that it is FRAUD to sell coupons. I have also spoken to red plum and was told the same thing...that a "handling" fee is charged by insert/clipping services and ebay merchants in order to get around the law.

    if you google "coupon fraud prosecution" you will see several cases come up, that are being prosecuted. how could cases be tried if there were no law to press charges based upon?

    have you ever asked an insert service where they get their coupons from and got a straight answer? i have not.

  28. I remember seeing a program on tv years ago that showed how stores over charge consumers consistently, ringing up prices that were not the advertised price. There is no criminal penalty for the retailers stealing from consumers. Why not?


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