Should Stores Be Allowed to Limit Quantities to prevent Extreme Couponing?


This morning, in my Facebook feed, I saw a post by someone how was bragging that they had cleared the shelves at 9 different stores and that what they had pictured was only half of their “haul.”  What was pictured, in case you are wondering, was HUNDREDS of boxes of Jell-O and lots and lots of what I think were Yakisoba noodles.  People were cheering them on and asking for the details so that they could do the same thing.

I’m lost…

What could you possibly need hundreds of boxes of Jell-O and noodles for?  Where would you even store it?  The shelf life isn’t THAT long so even if you ate nothing but Jell-O and noodles every day for a year, I’m not sure you could make a dent in what I saw pictured (and remember that was only half of what they had actually purchased). 

Living in a Land of Extreme Couponing

I started couponing about 10 years ago before couponing was really “Cool”  When I first started, it was completely addicting.  I remember dreaming CVS and Walgreens scenarios in my head.  I may or may not have sent my husband out on New Year’s Eve one year to get a moneymaker blood glucose monitor at CVS even though neither one of us is diabetic.  So, I “get” the thrill that comes from getting things for free.  What I don’t get is clearing shelves at multiple stores so that no one else has the opportunity to take advantage of deals and clearing shelves to load up on things you couldn’t possibly use.  But Extreme Couponing changed everything.  Now, not only do we have people loading up on things they don’t need, but they are bragging about it and even re-selling it!

Who is to blame?

I’d like to say that Extreme Couponing is to blame, but it’s not their fault, really, that people lack common courtesy and common sense.  What about the stores?  Should they limit quantities of items to try to prevent this extreme and irrational behavior (and to help make sure that every day folks can still get in on a deal)?  Why not?

How much is too much?

This always raises the question of how much is too much?  What seems “extreme” to me may not be extreme if you have a family of 8 people.  I think the answer is to buy what your family needs and can use in a reasonable amount of time (preferably before it expires).  If the stores limit quantities, it will encourage stockpilers to make arrangements with management to pre-order items so they are not clearing shelves or they may have to make multiple visits to multiple stores.  I’ve been there and done that.  I did it to buy the 10 bottles of Tide pictured above that I purchased in January.  Some might think buying 10 bottles of Tide is “extreme” but every single one of those bottles is gone now, by the way, and has been replaced by deals on All and Purex over the past few weeks!

You may be wondering what I even CARE about this.  The answer is because I feel it every time I go shopping.  If I can’t get to my CVS stores at midnight for a 24 hour store or when they open, I know I won’t get their deals for that week.  I care because I have seen what has happened to coupon policies at stores over the past few years because of this type of behavior.  I care because I see my friends thinking they are getting a “deal” buying household items from people who are re-selling and they could have gotten the same deal for a LOT less themselves!

What do you think?  Should Stores Be Allowed to limit Quantities to Prevent Extreme Couponing?  What types of policies should they have?

Extreme Couponing: How far are YOU willing to go to get coupons?

If you’ve been watching TLC’s Extreme Couponing, you may have noticed that most people featured on the show are not using one, two, or three coupons.  They are using 10 and 20 of the same coupon in one transaction!

If you’re wondering how to get multiple insert coupons, here are a few ways: 

Coupon Clipping Services – Coupon clipping services offer pre-clipped coupons for a set price (usually $.05 to $.45 per coupon depending on the popularity of the coupon).  They also typically charge a shipping and handling fee.  You go in and select the coupons you want and they ship them directly to you.  There are sometimes limits on the number of “hot” coupons you can purchase.

Here are a few reputable services if you’re interested in checking them out: 

My Coupon Hunter

The Coupon Clippers

Dumpster Diving – Some people are brave enough to hit up their local newspaper recycling bins to grab extra insert coupons!  I haven’t had any desire to do this.  You should also be aware that in some areas “dumpster diving” is illegal.

Ebay – If you search for coupons on Ebay, you will likely find a long list available for sell.  Purchase coupons on Ebay at your own risk. There are many fraudulent, high dollar coupons that are sold on Ebay.  In addition, there are Ebay sellers who copy and sell coupons, which is illegal.  If you use these fraudulent coupons, even if you didn’t realize they were fraudulent, and you get caught, you could face prosecution and fines!  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Friends – Some people ask neighbors, friends, and family members for their inserts that they are not going to use.  Some people even manage to make friends with their newspaper carriers and get extra inserts!  When my daughter was a baby, I can remember trading diaper and formula coupons that I didn’t use with friends for the brands I did use.

Purchasing multiple papers – If you have a “dollar” store in your area, find out if they carry Sunday papers.  This is an inexpensive way to get multiple papers.

Do you get extra insert coupons?  How many inserts is too many?  How far are you willing to go to get insert coupons?  Would you dumpster dive for them?

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Confessions of a Reformed Extreme Couponer

I started using coupons long before couponing was “cool” and before the phrase “extreme couponer” came about.  When I first started using coupons, I mainly focused on grocery store deals.  Then I discovered the “drug store game.”  In coupon forums I belonged to, people kept talking about shopping at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens and sharing pictures of all their deals.  I discovered I could get shampoo, razors, toothpaste, and toothbrushes for FREE and it was a rush.  I also learned that I could actually get “paid” to buy certain items after store loyalty programs such as RRs or ECBs and rebates.  I became obsessed with planning out scenarios and trying to get the most bang for my buck.

At that time, there were frequently deals were you could “buy” blood glucose monitors, earn ECBs or RRs and get a rebate as well!  There were also coupons that you could use to “buy” the monitors so it was a total moneymaker.  Before, I knew it, I had accumulated quite a supply of blood glucose monitors.

I remember one year on New Years sending my husband out after midnight to a 24 hour CVS store so we could get this deal on monitors.  While he was there, he ran into an elderly couple who was looking for the monitors as well.  They were both diabetic.  Knowing he would probably face my “wrath” when he got home, he still decided to do “the right thing” and gave them a coupon and told them how they could get the deal themselves.  When he shared what he had done with me and as I evaluated the entire situation (honestly who sends their husband out to do a “deal” on New Years?), I realized that couponing had become an obsession.  I had tried to justify my purchases by saying “but it was free” or “I can donate it” but truthfully I was overly protective of the stockpile I had accumulated and wasn’t donating as much as I should have.  That experience made me realize I was going in the wrong direction and that just because something was free or a moneymaker didn’t mean I HAD to have it.  I decided to move in a different direction, started my blog, and began teaching coupon classes. We organized my stockpile, donated many items we didn’t need, and developed a rotation system.

Here are some things I learned along the way:

Don’t be a shelf clearer – I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but I don’t believe in being a shelf clearer (even when I was in my crazy, “extreme phase I didn’t believe in this).  Buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time.  Telling yourself that you will donate items doesn’t justify it either (again this is my opinion and I’m entitled to it).  If you want to stockpile a certain item, visit multiple stores or make arrangements with the manager ahead of time to order what you need.

Buy what you need, donate the rest – It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that comes when you learn how to use coupons and take advantage of store deals.  It’s easy to convince yourself that you WILL find a use for those items at some point or that you can at some point donate them if you don’t need them.  If you plan to donate, then donate right away.  There’s no reason to have shelves filled with dog food if you don’t have pets or cereal and pasta that you will never need.  If you’re not planning to donate, just buy what you need for your family and can use in a reasonable amount of time (before the items expire).

Evaluate the time spent – Since this is a “confessions” post, I admit it.  When I was at my most “extreme” phase, I would sometimes make multiple trips per day or week trying to scout out the best deals.  It was time consuming.  It took time away from my family.  At some point, you have to weigh things out.  I have since learned how to prioritize deals and have realized that sometimes the “deal” is just not worth the time spent.

What do you think?  How much is “too much”?  Do you have any “extreme couponing” confessions?

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Coupon Trips Gone Wrong: What to do!

Yesterday I posted about Why TLC’s Extreme Couponing is Ruining it for Couponers.  One of the things I have noticed since Extreme Couponing began airing is that it is becoming harder and harder to actually USE coupons!  Even after using coupons for years, and feeling pretty comfortable with store coupon policies, I still have those moments where coupon trips go wrong.

Here are a few tips to help prevent trouble at the register:

Make sure you are using your coupons correctly

Make sure you read the fine print on your coupons and that what you are buying matches up with the details on your coupon. I have noticed that many of my stores have become much more particular about coupons. More often than not, they read the fine print and make sure that my items match up, especially if they beep. Avoid embarrassment at check-out by using your coupons legitimately!  (Make sure you check out this article on “How to Spot Fake Coupons” and this article on “Coupon Etiquette“)

Know your store’s coupon policies

If you do a search online for individual stores and “coupon policies” you will find letters that others have received from customer service regarding store coupon policies. Sometimes it’s helpful to print these letters to share with your cashiers, especially if you have had difficulties redeeming coupons at that store in the past. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to e-mail customer service yourself to inquire about their coupon policies so that you have your own hard copy.  Keep it in your coupon binder if you have one!

Make sure you buy participating items

When grocery stores offer special promotions, there are typically special tags on participating items. Also read the fine print in the ad because sometimes only specific sizes, scents, flavors, etc. are part of the promotion. Buying one “wrong” item will throw everything off.

Here are some tips for handling trouble at the register when it happens:

Remain calm and don’t be afraid to ask for a manager

Even though you may be embarrassed or incredibly frustrated, don’t lose your cool. It will only make the situation worse. Instead, if things get too heated or the cashier refuses to work with you, don’t be afraid to ask to speak with a manager.

Don’t be afraid to visit customer service

If your deal doesn’t work out as planned, don’t be afraid to visit the customer service desk. Participating promotion items usually have a special marking on the receipt and they can usually easily figure out why your deal didn’t work out as planned. Sometimes it also might be something as simple as a catalina machine that is not working. If you bought an item that did not count toward a specific promotion, if you ask, they will usually let you return the item that did not work and exchange it for the appropriate item.

It’s OK to walk away

If you are trying to use your coupons correctly and the cashier and/or store manager refuse to work with you, it’s OK to walk away. You can try to visit the store at another time or visit another store in the area. Be sure to contact the store’s corporate customer service department to share the “issues” you had.

Don’t let a bargain hunting trip gone wrong ruin your experience forever. Take a deep breath and move on!  Also, learn from that experience.  There are certain stores and cashiers that I avoid because I know that they are not “coupon friendly.” 

Do you have any other tips to share for dealing with coupon trips gone wrong?  Have you had problems using coupons at your local stores since Extreme Couponing began airing?

*This post may contain affiliate links!  Please refer to my disclosure policy for additional information!

Why TLC’s Extreme Couponing is Ruining it for Couponers!

Last week, I shared a post about why I will be boycotting this season of Extreme Couponing on TLC.    The post sparked a lot of great discussion and comments!  Although I admit that I was intrigued with the show at first, since the show began airing regularly in April 2011, I have seen a negative impact on couponing in general.

Here are four reasons why I believe TLC’s Extreme Couponing is Ruining it for Couponers:

Many stores changed their coupon policies after Extreme Couponing began airing – Shortly after the first season of Extreme Couponing aired, stores such as Kroger, Publix, Safeway, CVS, Target, and Rite Aid made significant changes to their coupon policies.  These changes, in my opinion, were detrimental to coupons.

Here are some of the most noteable changes I’ve seen in store coupon policies since Extreme Couponing began airing:

-No more doubling and tripling of coupons at many stores

-Limits on the number of coupons that can be used per transaction (including the number of “like” coupons that can be used in one transaction).  In addition, some stores like Target limited the number of “like” store coupons that could be used per transaction.

-No more “stacking” of coupons.  For some stores this meant no more stacking of store coupons and manufacturer’s coupons.  In other cases, this meant no more stacking of digital coupons and paper manufacturer’s coupons.

-No more overage.  Many stores used to allow for “overage” when the face value of a coupon exceeded the amount of the item being purchased.  This meant that you could either apply the “overage” toward other items you were purchasing or the store would actually issue cash back.  In my area, Walmart is the only store that still allows for overage.

-Limits on the use of BOGO free coupons or BOGO free store promotions.  In the past, if a store was having a BOGO free promotion and you used a BOGO free coupon, you could get two items for free.  In addition, if a store was having a BOGO free promotion, you could use a coupon for each item you were “purchasing” (including the “free” item) for additional savings.  Many stores have changed their coupon policies to prohibit this.

Increased scrutiny for those using coupons – I remember when I first started using coupons eight years ago, cashiers would congratulate me on my savings.  Now, I get the “evil eye” as soon as a cashier notices that I will be using coupons.  Many times, managers are called over to “approve” transactions and my trip to the store turns into a nightmare as my coupons are scrutinized and matched up with individual items.  The people in line behind me are never thrilled with this, either.  What should have been a quick shopping trip can easily turn into an hour spent at the register.

Coupons are no longer as “good” as they used to be – Over the past year, I have seen significant decreases in the value of coupons.  For example, the insert coupons used to regularly include coupons for $1 off Colgate or Crest coupons.  For the past several months, the Crest coupons have a face value of $.25 off.  I remember when $4 off Gillette razor coupons used to appear monthly and I was able to get razors for free when I combined these coupons with store promotions.  It has been several months since any high dollar razor coupons have been available.  Now, many razor coupons stipulate the purchase of the razor and cartridges together which is more expensive, even if you’re using a coupon.

Coupon fraud has increased – Coupon fraud has been shown on TLC’s Extreme Couponing multiple times.  This has included the use of fraudulent coupons or using coupons inappropriately (for example, purchasing items that are not included within the terms of the coupon).  After seeing this on TV, people think it’s OK and coupon fraud has increased.  I believe an increase in coupon fraud has also led to tightened store coupon policies, increased scrutiny, and changes in coupon values.  When people commit coupon fraud, the manufacturers and retailers lose money and that expense is passed on to the consumers.

Last week, when I posted my reasons for boycotting Extreme Couponing, this was one of the comments I received:

This show isn’t ruining anything. The show is getting people out there to realize there is a way in this economy to help your family survive.

What do you think? Is Extreme Couponing ruining it for couponers? If you’ve been using coupons for awhile, what changes have you noticed since the show began airing?

If you missed it, you can check out last week’s post here–> Five reasons why I will be boycotting this season of Extreme Couponing 

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to my disclosure policy for more information