By Jill Cataldo
Last week, I shared an email from a couponer anxious to determine if it was OK to photocopy coupons. It isn’t. Photocopying coupons violates the “Coupon may not be reproduced” clause in coupon redemption policies. It’s also the most common form of coupon fraud. The reader said she learned the photocopying “technique” from a coupon instructor, but she confessed that she wasn’t sure if, ethically, it was the right thing to do.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard from couponers who learned less-than-ethical methods from someone teaching couponing techniques. Listen in:
Dear Jill: A $1 coupon good for a 128-ounce, 54-load or larger size of laundry detergent worked for me last night when I purchased a 33-load bottle for $1.99. I was so excited! I figured I would at least see if the store would take the coupon and it did, no questions asked. I am new to this whole couponing thing, just started earlier this month. I asked a friend of mine who has couponed for years and years to help me learn all the ins and outs. She told me that if the coupon scans, no matter what it says on it, it can be used. – Sandra T.
Dear Sandra: Using a coupon for a specific product on a less-expensive, similar product made by the same manufacturer is a common form of coupon fraud. Most coupons carry the statement, “Valid only on the brand and size indicated.” Manufacturers often release coupons for larger sized products with a correspondingly larger dollar discount to offset the higher price of the larger item.
The new GS1 bar code on coupons is designed to help prevent this kind of fraud. In addition to making sure a coupon is used on the correct product, the bar code can also determine whether the shopper purchased the proper size and variety to qualify for the coupon savings.
I replied to the reader, gently explaining that this was a form of coupon fraud. I’ll share a portion of her reply to me: “If I had known that it was fraud,” she wrote, “I never would have done it. I cannot begin to express how truly awful I feel! I already had a talk with my friend this morning and told her how mortified I am for listening to her. She did admit to me that she knew it was wrong, which makes me even more angry!”
If you’ve been engaging in this form of coupon fraud, it’s time to stop.
Email couponing victories and questions to jill