A reader asked a great question or had a very valid concern that I am sure others have wondered as well.
“I am new at this and haven’t tried, this is my first week to buy 5 papers, but I was questioned by a family member if doesn’t this seem a little dishonest to try to work the coupons like this and to try to get something for nothing. Left me a little discouraged.”
But, the facts are COUPONING IS COMPLETELY ETHICAL AND LEGAL, if you do not take advantage of it ways that are UNETHICAL.
I have posted before what happened from the time you cut the coupon out, used it, and the store was fully reimbursed for it by the manufacturer. The benefit for the store is that not only are you going to the store and shopping there, more importantly you are moving their merchandise, which as my CVS manager explained to me, is more beneficial to them that they give you it to you free and CVS get reimbursed, than it just sitting there.
Now, there are ways in which couponing is unethical and just the same as stealing. This is were I jump on a soapbox. When I teach a coupon class unfortunately I have to spend quite a bit of time on explaining the “right” way to use coupons. When people use coupons the “wrong” way they ruin it for the rest of us.
Below is a old guest post from a reader that applies to this question perfectly…
What to NEVER do with a coupon:
NEVER use coupons for products they are not intended for. If a coupon says you must buy 2, you must buy 2. Even if the coupon does not beep when they scan it. If you try and slip these through it is coupon fraud, this costs the stores and the manufacturers money. It is stealing.
NEVER use expired coupons. There is the possibility stores will not get reimbursed for them. Stores usually have 3 months to send in their coupons after they expire, but that is not for us to decide. If you are trying to slip these through, that is also stealing.
NEVER EVER copy coupons. Printable coupons have a unique code in the barcode that is linked to your computer’s address. If you copy them the code is all the same they can track it to you, it is coupon fraud to copy ANY coupon.
NEVER Decode the Barcode. I am not even going to start explaining what this is. It taking advantage of the “system” and coupon fraud at best.
NEVER alter coupons. I am going to throw in, or use pdf’s sent to you by friends. MANY pdf coupons in files are fraudulent. They have been altered by people and then spammed around the internet. Honest Friends send theses around, but many times they are not valid. Be VERY cautious, esp. if they are high value.
NEVER intend to return an item you buy with a coupon for full value. This blows my mind. You might as well just steal it from the store and not bother with the coupon in the first place. Also, stores will “tag” you and keep track of anything that you do in their store, with good reason. My CVS will tell me stories about people like this, they know exactly who they are. They have refused to sell them anything with a coupon.
If you want more information on what you can and can not do with coupons, go HERE.
Fortunately, most people don’t do these things. I have to admit that I have mistakenly used an expired coupon and not realized it, only to have the cashier catch it. I am really embarrassed and apologize. We might make a few mistakes, especially when you are first starting, but knowingly taking advantage is completely another story.
The future of couponing and finding great deals depends a lot on the people using coupons. If people are stealing and manipulating coupons, manufactures will stop using them to entice us into buying their products. They are hoping that we like their products and tell our friends. They want us to buy that product in the future even if we do not have a coupon.
Off my soap box now… what do you think? How do you feel about coupons?