Is TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” ruining it for legit couponers?

Since the latest season of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” began airing on 4/6, it seems like there has been a great deal of controversy.

-First, the Kroger stores in the Houston Texas market announced that they would no longer be doubling and tripling coupons.  Although they claim that this is not related to the show in any way, many people believe otherwise.  They also claimed that this would ONLY affect the Houston Texas market, but many other markets have already been impacted and they continue to announce the change in other markets.

-Kroger stores also announced that they would no longer allow “stacking” of coupons.  In the past, you could use a digital/loadable coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon at the same time.  I do understand why they stopped this practice because you were essentially using two manufacturer’s coupons on one item, but they made this change abruptly without providing any notice to their customers.  They also announced that they would no longer allow the “stacking” of store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons.

Publix recently announced changes to their coupon policy which will limit “stacking” of coupons.  You can view more information about the coupon policy, which will go into effect on 5/23/11, here.

-J’aime Kirlew, one of the participants on the first episode that aired this season, has been accused of committing coupon fraud because she was using coupons inappropriately.  She was using coupons on items that she was not purchasing or on the wrong sizes.  What’s scary to me is that she continues to say that she has done nothing wrong?  Check out this interview from the Wall Street Journal where she not only admits to this practice, but also says that she doesn’t see anything wrong with it (if you haven’t seen it yet)!  In my opinion, J’aime gives couponers a bad name!

The Coupon Information Corporation also issued this sattement about TLC’s 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.

I have to admit that when this series first aired, I was intrigued.  Although I have been couponing for a long time and know that it’s not very realistic, I couldn’t help but watch.  But, I think that the changes we’ve seen over the past few weeks where stores are starting to crack down on couponers is just the start.  I have a feeling that TLC’s Extreme Couponing is going to “ruin couponing” for a lot of us.

What do you think?  Have your stores started cracking down already?

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  1. brittany says:

    I can’t believe she finally admitted it and still thinks it’s ok. She must have some serious histrionic pd issues.

  2. Jackie A. says:

    Using coupons where I live has always been very restricted. Our Kroger only doubles up to $0.50 and you can only use 4 like coupons. There is also no stacking at all. Our Farm Fresh will only double 20 coupons,total, and only 2 like coupons. And neither will allow internet coupons with a value over $1.00.

  3. My coupon binder is now hidden in one of my reusable shopping bags. I feel like all eyes and security cameras are on me now when my coupons come out. I hope the show does not ruin a good thing. I like to focus on the positive and that is that the show may be turning the light on for some people who need it that savings is possible with coupling. I save in a lot of other ways also but couponing is a major source of savings . I just hope that most people realize that this show shows extreme people and that saving $75 on a $200 shopping trip is also an A + shop

  4. Melissa says:

    Our Kroger store (Fred Meyer here in the Northwest) has not stopped letting us stack a mfr coupon with a store coupon. They have never let us stack a mfr with an e-coupon, so that doesn’t affect me at all. I can’t see how it hurts their bottom line at all to let consumers stack store and mfr–it doesn’t come out of their pocket, right?

  5. Priscilla says:

    I totally agree…this show will ruin it for the rest of us. I also hate that the show has folks doing 18 transactions, wiping out stock, buying 100s of things they don’t need so they can ‘make money’ to buy something else, getting extra people to come during checkout to satisfy a per person limit…the list goes on. Couponing has been a wonderful thing, but the folks on this show are not good examples of ethical, reasonable and considerate couponers.

    and it has potential to really educate folks about all the great things about couponing…it just doesn’t.

    • I totally agree with you Priscilla!! I read this lastnight and just haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Two years ago I received a diagnoses that forced me to stop working. I felt so guilty about the loss of income for my family, that I made it my mission to save as much money as possible on the “home front” Couponing has been a lifesaver to me and my family and I can’t believe the rest of us who coupon honestly may be punished for something like this. I hope TLC cancells the show!

  6. I’m with you on this one. I refuse to watch the show. It is appalling to see how couponers are portrayed and how questionable practices are allowed to air.

  7. Tabatha says:

    I never used coupons before seeing EC. First off, I thought the show was a fantasy after doing one google search. It became clear that rules were being bent for the sake of the camera’s. For instance, Kroger corporate had to give a green light on those 18 transactions. It did make me realize that I could be saving some money each month. A hundred, maybe two, and that would be great. I’ve only seen three or four of them (there were several on that day and I was stuck in a hotel room lol), but I’m finding myself hating that show, because I can see that I may have gotten to this party right before it’s over.

    • I feel the same way about getting here right before it’s over. I really hope this doesn’t change things, but I already see new policies being brought in around me, and I’ve just started getting better at this!

  8. Long time blog reader, first time commenter – I have not had the guts to watch an entire episode of the show. Well, more realistically, we don’t have cable anyway. But on a recent trip, while watching some other TLC show, the commercial for this show came on during every single commercial break. And I would say that that alone has been fairly influential on ruining couponing for me. When I see a bunch of happy, intense moms spending $6 for $600 worth of groceries, it turns my stomach for the following reasons: first, a gigantic guilt trip, like somehow I’m not a worthy mother because I can’t stand to sit there and find the deals, but second, the amount of time and effort they put into it is so daunting it’s not even funny. Just hearing their twenty second ad was enough to make me feel like there’s no way I could ever “succeed” at this game. I kid myself into thinking, “Well, I’d make more money if I were putting all that effort into a part time job!” Which may or may not be true. Anyway, I don’t think the show is good for regular people who want some help starting couponing in an effort to slash their grocery bill. I think it’s another case of TLC being a stage for Freak Shows.

    It’s blogs like yours that are clear and concise, and have really great tips for practical couponing usage, that will make a big difference in regular peoples’ pocketbooks. This kind of reality TV will just turn us off to the idea of couponing, when in reality, doing some of the things that you advise on this site (buy your coupons from a coupon clipping service, stock up when prices are low, buy in bulk, look at the sales fliers, don’t forget the best one: amazon mom for my two under two in diapers!) have already saved me money and helped with my 3 month supply. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this site. Thanks for all you do. Your non-deal related posts (like this one) are also always interesting, and I love to read them.

    • Katy – I love seeing long time readers comment for the first time!! Thanks so much for your comments and I’m so glad my blog has helped you and your family! 🙂 That was my goal when I started this whole “thing”

  9. Twice now at Safeway, the manager was called over by secret code to oversee my transactions after pulling out my handful of coupons. Everything was legit and he was very friendly, but still felt ackward like I was trying to get away with something. I had a rejection at Walmart for buying a sample with a coupon for a Tide product because it showed a different picture on coupon but I told the guy it didn’t specify size or type. It said any tide laundry detergent. He read it and said I was right but you should have seen the looks I got from customers standing behind me.

  10. I actually watch this show and I though that something like this might happen. I was thinking that the “extreme” people might ruin it for “normal” people that use coupons. I wonder how they found out about the coupon fraud? Could they tell just from watching the episode or did they somehow investigate it? This is really interesting.

    • Liz ~ She (J’aime) actually had posted how to videos at one point showing how she commits her fraud and there were actually screen shots of her shopping list on the show that showed the coupon family codes rather than the dollar amounts.

  11. Karen Collins says:

    I am being scrutinized at my local Kroger now. What is really bothering me is the fact that the shelves ARE being wiped out. I wanted to pick up 2 cans of Kroger baked beans that were on sale, and the shelf was empty. I also wanted a jar of French’s Honey Mustard…all gone. This is crazy. Now is everyone going to be lined out outside the store when a new ad starts? I use coupons and I think they need to limit the transactions for a single item or we are all going to be spending any coupon savings driving around to get a can of beans!

    • I completly agree with you Karen. I shop several different stores and at Meijer’s it there’s a coupon out for a paticular sale item, the shelves are cleared by Tuesday. I think they should limit the number of sale items you can buy. I hate that it has come to this, but am really tired of seeing that big empty space on the shelf where the item I want use to be.

  12. i work at a news store and it has gotten to the point where on sundays we have to take out the coupons and give the3m to people when they bring up their paper, so that people are not putting 3 or 4 inserts inside a single paper

    • Wow – that’s terrible, but I can believe it! When I buy a paper at the store, I always check to make sure the inserts are in there because I’ve gotten them without inserts one too many times.

  13. My store hasn’t cracked down but suddenly there are people hording purchases and going to the store several time. I even heard one woman bragging about her “stock pile”. They have huge binders in tow and suddenly those of use who are just shopping with our coupons for the family and not the “stock pile” find the shelves whiped out.

    I think this show is creating a genertion of horders just becuase they can get it for free doesn’t mean they need it.

  14. Lee Ann Cameron says:

    I have used coupons for years…but not religiously and not extremely …I was happy just getting something as a good deal. My boyfriend is disabled and I take care of him…my daughter has had some health issues so she is living with us. It does help to stretch our budget…and being that we live out…a trip in to the larger town to buy something we cant get in the small community was something I looked forward to…now…all I see is cleared shelves and empty news papers …I figure that at some point the extreme greedy people will fade away and the regular couponers will be back to normal…I can hope. Sadly the greedy ones…that print tons of coupons…and wipe out the shelves make us all look bad.

    We have started printing coupons and I get so disgusted when I go to print some and poof they are gone…or they get hung up and I see a nice little blurb that tells me that my coupons have been printed and are waiting at my printer…nah uhhh..missed several good coupons that we would have used…It is getting really bad that the coupon sites are over worked I am going to stop trying ….

    I can only hope that with the new restrictions and the CIC offering to help TLC with a reality check
    that maybe the rest of us will stop being made out to be the bad guy….I dont buy 40 toothbrushes…or 15 tubes of toothpaste or 50 flosses…I just dont have the room or the inclination to work that hard for something that I cant use. Now I do buy a couple of papers each week, to honestly get my coupons…and guess that will have be ok for me.

  15. LaVonne says:

    I do agree that it can ruin it. I also have found that the shows portray unrealistic & ridiculous uses for coupons. Who really needs 60 bottles of hot sauce? None of the grocery stores in my area that I have shopped at even allow more than 4 of the same coupon being used. Some of them limit use to 20 coupons doubled per day (Harris Teeter). Some don’t allow the online coupons that you print due to coupon fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I use coupons & always have. I often saved up to half on my grocery trip before I had to stay brand loyal (kids w/food allergies, lol). I still often save 25% of my bill when I have coupons. The majority of my shopping is now done at Costco (did I mention I have kids…5 of them, lol). However, I have found that we now eat better as I don’t buy things just because I have a coupon. I am realistic about whether we might eat/use the item. I do stockpile for a couple of months when I am able but I don’t hoard like the extreme couponers do. I’ve always gotten looks/attitudes regarding using coupons, but I use them to save our family money. It’s the only way we have survived some months. I have also noticed that shelves are emptied & the stores don’t seem to restock very fast. I do get rainchecks when needed, but it’s a pain sometimes.

  16. Ruth Wallace says:

    The store I shop at never did let u use that many coupons and double them. They will double coupons up to $1 but only one per item. So say I bought 5 things of Tide and I had 5 $1 coupons for them. They would only double one of those coupons. They also limit the ammount of coupons u can use. They won’t even let kids use coupons and they won’t take coupons printed off the internet. They are really picky. My local Krogers will only double coupons up to 50 cents. I dont see where someone could be an extreme couponer in my area. It’s impossible.

  17. At first I thought we would see no changes because the effect had not hit our town yet form this show UNTIL last Sunday. It was like someone let out the zoo in Albertsons. The place was packed with couponers not regular shoppers. I walked back and got 1 pack of the rhodes rolls for my first transactions and was gonna come back later, well a half hour later after my first trans and going to buy a paper the full shelf was empty. Its not a big deal, I grabbed a rain check but that just tells you how many were there. no one in particular cleared the shelves, there were just SOO many of them there. The thing is I used to be able to shop doublers at Albies and never once run into any other couponers and now there are hoards of them and with the recent changes all of our albertsons are making around town on doubler usage and the new Rite aid changes I am finally starting to feel the impact here. I love that people are learning to save money but Id rather they did not do it from watching TLC.

  18. karen maupin says:

    Im reading this and shakeing my head .You should not be ashamed of saveing money,rather you are rich or poor. I live in NC and you need to have a little stock pile for hurricane season,useing coupons is a great way to save money I dont let other people bother me when they look I even give them coupons if Im not useing them they get really happy when I do this .I dont have a lot of money either and I think that when people look at us they wish they had some coupons so I give them some .We live in a small town so it good to help out each other and its another way to give from the herat you dont always need to money to give. Giveing your coupons away will make you feel good try it.thanks for all guys have taught me about couponing.

  19. I noticed that our Target has been adding odd cents onto the price of an item so it ends up not being free and there ends up being no overage.

    • Sarah – that’s a bummer! My Target had gotten so coupon unfriendly that I hadn’t shopped there in quite awhile. I finally went back last weekend and had a decent experience and no coupon drama, so it’s convinced me to keep trying…

  20. I must admit that I did not get into couponing until I saw debut episodes back in January. I have purchased several newspapers to get multiple inserts, I have used coupon clipping services when I would like to purchase multiple items and I print internet coupons. I also never try to buy something that the coupon is not intended such as different size or product…..even if a coupon site says it will work, nor do I try to buy so much as on the show….the solution is to break up the purchases! Multiple purchases!!

    I do not like the way that Extreme Couponing portrays unrealistic results! It also appears, in some cases, staged. Can we get a disclaimer like on weight loss commercials “These results are uncommon; your actual saving may vary depending on other factors, such as store policies, management opinions and cashier knowledge”

    My fear is that some day stores will put your photo into a database and either ban you from the store or from using coupons. I try to remember that the store is not obligated to take coupons, they do it increase sales and profits.

    Yes, they should really tone down the show, make it more realistic and focus on real couponing and how it saves money, but not try to focus so much on getting so much for free…..that is what I think makes the stores change policies….fear of losses.


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  6. How Not to Coupon « thedealwithcouponing says:

    […] Melissa’s Bargains talks about how TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” is potentially ruining couponing for other shoppers. It addresses shelf clearing, along with another serious issue to bad couponers: stores changing their coupon policies. Kroger, which is a store in Texas, has changed its coupon policy because of the extreme couponers. Not all stores are doing this, and so far no stores I go to, however, more stores will start doing this if extreme couponers don’t cool it. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of deals, but don’t clear out the store. It’s ruining it for the rest of us couponers! […]