Super-Couponing Tips: Being a coupon crook doesn't pay off at all
Every once and a while I'll get questions from readers about controversial coupon practices, from "gang cutting" coupons to photocopying and more. This reader has a question about one of the most controversial topics of them all: the buying and selling of coupons.
Is it wrong to buy or sell coupons? I see coupons for sale on some websites and on auction sites. Are these okay to buy and use? - Danielle P.
To many couponers, it seems illogical to pay for coupons. Yet it's easy and tempting to buy coupons on the Internet. There are several coupon-clipping services online where shoppers buy coupons, and popular auction sites often have coupon listings, too. With all of these coupons for sale, it must be okay to buy them, right?
Even though many places sell coupons online, you should never buy them. I have never purchased coupons from a clipping service or an auction site.
Years ago, when I first started to coupon at an enthusiastic level, I noticed online clipping services. There were many of them and I assumed they were legitimate and legal.
But the more I learned about the legal terms and ramifications of buying and selling coupons, the more I understood that coupons should never be bought or sold. Here are some examples of the fine print on coupons in my wallet:
Coupons may not be combined, sold, auctioned or otherwise transferred or reproduced.
Void if transferred, sold, auctioned, reproduced or altered from original.
Coupon cannot be bought, transferred or sold.
Here's an argument I often hear: I bought the newspaper or printed the coupon. It's mine, and I can do whatever I want with it. The websites of many clipping services often state that you're not actually paying for coupons, but rather paying for their time to clip them. If that is true, why do they charge more for a $5 coupon than a 50-cent coupon? Does it really take longer to clip a higher value coupon?
Unfortunately, neither justification is legitimate.
It's important to think of a coupon as a contract between you, the manufacturer and the store. While you may own the piece of paper that you cut from the newspaper insert or printed from a website, you do not own the contract. If any of the terms on a coupon's contract are violated, the coupon is considered void and the manufacturer does not have to reimburse the retailer for that coupon.
How does the manufacturer know if it's redeeming coupons someone purchased? Coupon redemption houses and clearinghouses have several ways of determining if a coupon has been sold at some point.
One method is to look at the physical condition. The term "gang-cutting" refers to the practice of stacking multiple insert pages, then cutting through the entire stack at the same time with scissors or a paper cutter. Resellers often gang-cut coupons before posting them online. Even if the store accepts the gang-cut coupons, the manufacturer may refuse to reimburse the store. The retailer is forced to take a financial loss. If you wouldn't shoplift from your store, you shouldn't give them coupons they won't be reimbursed for, either.
In next week's column, I'll go over the other reasons it's not a good idea to buy or sell coupons.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.