Super Couponing: Breaking bad – When shoppers abuse coupons
Most shoppers use coupons in an honest effort to save money. Some people, however, push the limits of what can and should be done. Listen in to this store employee’s story:
Question: “I would like to inform you of how some shoppers abuse coupon usage. We have people who come in with 20 to 30 coupons for the same item, even though the coupon specifies that only one coupon may be used per visit. To get around this rule, these shoppers have the cashier ring up the items one at a time. The customer then goes to another store in our chain and returns that item for a full refund. Through this process, they make a tidy sum of money with very little effort. They often use $7 or $10 coupons for teeth-whitening strips, which cost upwards of $20 without a coupon, depending on the brand. If the shopper buys 10 boxes using coupons, they could conceivably return them all and pocket $70 to $100. It’s a fact that coupons generate business for retailers and marketers, but this is becoming a huge problem. I don’t want to see couponing ruined for all of us. I know people are struggling, but this is fraud.”
Answer: I’m always dismayed to hear stories like this. There always will be shoppers who try to game the system when money is involved. (And don’t get any “bright” ideas from this employee’s email! The practice she described is, indeed, a form of coupon fraud and should not be copied.)
What happens when you return an item you’ve used a coupon to buy? Let’s say I buy a $4 item and use a $1 coupon to purchase it. I later decide to return the item. Note that most stores do not require a sales receipt for returns. One of two things can happen: Depending on its policy, the store may refund the full $4 selling price of the item or the store may refund $3, the price I actually paid for the item post-coupon.
Stores that refund the full pre-coupon price to the shopper do so assuming that they will receive the value of the $1 coupon when they submit it to the manufacturer redemption. Other stores will only refund the post-coupon price, which is the dollar amount the shopper paid for the item. The store ultimately decides how to handle coupon returns. As this issue gains momentum, I’m guessing more stores will start to refund the price a shopper actually pays for the item. This is the easiest way to stop buying-and-returning coupon fraud.
• Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, http://www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.