Was coupon fraud shown on TLC's Extreme Couponing?

To my regular audience, we'll get back to grocery coupon talk very soon. However, this is an issue that cannot be ignored, as it affects the perception of all coupon shoppers who use coupons in an ethical manner. Many readers across multiple, respected coupon sites and blogs contributed to this report, and I will try to acknowledge them all at the end.

Earlier this week, I posted an article about Jaime Kirlew, one of the shoppers featured in TLC's new season of "Extreme Couponing." Jaime made a name for herself last year when she posted YouTube videos showing her shopping at Target and fraudulently using coupons for one product on another (coupons for Crest Whitestrips on Tide, coupons for Olay Body Wash on Secret deodorant, and so on.) When commercials for the new show began airing, many members of well-read messageboards among the couponing community recognized Jaime from her YouTube videos and raised concerns about whether she would use coupons in a fraudulent manner on TLC's Extreme Couponing.

The first clue that something was amiss with Jaime's shopping trip was her grocery list:

This list raised a lot of red flags with seasoned coupon shoppers because there are no products listed on it. Instead, the list consists of manufacturers' names, and in the next column, a list of five-digit family codes -- a portion of a product's UPC bar code. The header row of that column appears to end in a "C" (UPC.)

Why would someone create a shopping list consisting only of product family codes, plus the coupon's dollar value that shares that family code?

Unfortunately, there's really only one logical answer to this question -- to use a coupon for one product on another, knowing that the register will "match" that coupon to a similar product.

Note that I do not teach UPC decoding as a method of matching coupons to sales -- it is not only highly unethical, but using the information obtained via decoding to intentionally then misuse a coupon to buy something other than what is specified is coupon fraud -- a crime. Without explaining exactly how it is done, there is a portion of a coupon's barcode that matches a portion of the product's barcode. This is how the register determines if the product has been purchased. Because of the way that the older barcode on a coupon matched that coupon to a product's family code, coupons for one General Mills product might scan without beeping on a different General Mills product. (And, don't get any "clever" ideas that decoding barcodes to use one coupon on a different item to get a better deal might be "smart shopping" -- it's fraud, plain and simple. This family-code coupon fraud exploit is being eliminated with an industry-wide update to the barcode system this year. Safeway stores' registers have now received the update, as have many others around the country.)

I'm going to post the evidence that many readers found over the past few hours. Please feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Looking at the video of her shopping trip from Wednesday night's premiere of Extreme Couponing on TLC, a reader posted three screen captures of the cereal Jaime purchased and the coupons she used to buy it:

The cereals that Jaime was shown buying in the episode were Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Kix, which were all part of a good sale the week of February 4th (if Safeway's ads are the same as our Dominick's, which they usually are, those 3 cereals were priced at $1.99 per box that week when Jaime shopped.)

However, the coupons that she appeared to use were for .75 off Fiber One cereal.

As Fiber One is a more expensive cereal, General Mills typically issues higher-value coupons for Fiber One. That .75 coupon doubled to $1.50, netting her .49 cereal. A great deal... IF the Fiber One had also been on sale too. But it wasn't.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that perhaps she also bought Fiber One cereal and it just wasn't shown on television.


In the next set of photos, we see Jaime's box of coupons for her trip. Note the .50 coupons for Pillsbury French Bread and $5-off-2 Nivea Body Lotion:

On the show, we were not shown her buying any Pillsbury French Bread or Nivea Body Lotion. However, she did buy .99 small cans of Pillsbury rolls and bottles of Nivea Body Wash.

With the small Pillsbury cans on sale for .99, the .50 Pillsbury French Bread coupons applied to them would double to $1, making them free. The Nivea Body Lotion that the coupon is for typically sells for over $6/bottle. However, that week the Nivea Body Wash was much cheaper - $2.99 (again, if our Dominick's ad from that week is the same as Safeway's.) Using the $5-off-2 coupon made the body wash .49.

Great deals... IF the coupons had been for the right products.


But again, for the sake of argument, let's assume that somewhere, she also bought Pillsbury French Bread and Nivea Body Lotion, even though we never saw those products purchased on the show.

In this photo, we see Jaime has a paper clip full of coupons for .50 off 4-packs of Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt:

On the show, we were not shown Jaime buying any 4-packs of Yoplait Yo-Plus Yogurt. But she did buy quite a few single cups of Yoplait Yogurt, which typically sell for around .33 per cup:

With a .50 Yo-Plus 4-pack coupon being applied to a .33 single cup of Yoplait, each cup is free with possible overage. But again... it's coupon fraud to use the 4-pack coupon for an entirely different variety of Yoplait on the single cups.


So, again, for the sake of argument, let's assume she also bought Yoplait Yo-Plus 4-packs, which viewers weren't shown in the segment.

In this photo, we see lots of packages of Buddig Original lunchmeats in her cart:

These 2-ounce packages of Buddig Original meats were on sale for .89 per package. On Jaime's spreadsheet shown at the top of this post, she notes that she will be buying 63 packages of Buddig, and she notes that she has $1 coupons for each of them with the UPC family code 77400.

Looking at a coupon database, there were two current Buddig coupons in the inserts available during her February 4th, 2011 shopping trip. One coupon was a $1-off-4 2-ounce Buddig Original meats (again, the kind priced at .89 during this sale.)

The same coupon insert also contained a $1-off-1 Buddig Deli Cuts coupon. Buddig Deli Cuts is a more expensive variety of lunchmeat that comes in a larger, 12-to-16-ounce package.

Again, back to the spreadsheet. She planned to buy 63 Buddig lunchmeats priced at .89 each with 63 $1 coupons.

If she was using the $1-off-4 2-ounce packages of Buddig coupon (the correct coupon for this size product) she would have had to buy those lunchmeats in quantities of 4, again, as it is a $1-off-4 coupon. Couponers are notoriously good at math when it comes to figuring out trips!

It would make no sense to buy 63 of something that you needed to buy in quantities of 4, (you'd buy 64, an even number) unless...

She intended to use the $1-off-1 12-to-16-ounce Buddig Deli Cuts coupon on the Buddig Original 2-ounce variety that were on sale for .89. With a $1 coupon, they'd be free... but that would be fraud.

Which coupon did she appear to use for the Buddig Original 2-ounce lunchmeats?

The $1 coupons for Buddig Deli Cuts, 12-to-16-ounces.

Here is a photograph of the coupon, oriented the correct way so that the size and product can be read:

Because this coupon shared the same family code as the smaller packages, it scanned -- but the coupon is not for this product. It's for a different kind of Buddig that is also a larger size.


Why is this a big deal?

If the correct products were not purchased with the coupons used, it's coupon fraud. Coupon fraud is a crime.

The terms of a coupon state "CONSUMER: Redeem ONLY by purchasing the brand, size(s) and quantities indicated. ANY other use constitutes fraud."

  • Using a Fiber One cereal on Cheerios is a crime.
  • Using a Pillsbury French Bread coupon on Pillsbury rolls is a crime.
  • Using a Nivea lotion coupon on Nivea Body Wash is a crime.
  • Using a Buddig Deli Cuts coupon on Buddig Originals is a crime.

However, without seeing her receipt, and without seeing the entire contents of her trip on television, we do not know what else she may have purchased in this trip.

Unfortunately, there may be a few novice or non-coupon shoppers who, even when confronted with this, may think, "So what? She got great deals!"

And, they're out there. When this story started to break yesterday, a fan on Jaime's Facebook wall wrote,

"Gabby Paige - I don't even get why people are bothered by this??!! It does NOT affect YOU or any one else for that matter it doesn't take money or food out of any ones pocket whooooo carrrreessssss everything is so dam n expensive these days any way!"


Actually, this DOES affect all of us.

It affects the store because if the manufacturer wishes to audit the store for this transaction, and the manufacturer determines that the products that the correct products were not purchased with these coupons, the manufacturer can refuse to reimburse the store for them. Then, Safeway will "eat" the cost of this shopping trip, because the terms of the coupon were not followed -- the specified items were not purchased, so they don't have to pay.

It affects new coupon shoppers whose interest is piqued by what they see on the show. Seeing something on television validates it as "truth" for many people. If they see a "reality celebrity" using coupons in an "off-label" manner, for products that are similar but not, as the manufacturer puts it, "ONLY ..the brand, size(s) and quantities indicated," they will assume this is acceptable -- or else, why would it be shown on television? People assume that surely, the show must have an expert or professional on hand overseeing the kinds of trips that these shoppers are planning for the cameras, because thousands of viewers will want to duplicate what they see. Their other shows (My Strange Addiction, Hoarding) have a psychiatrist or therapist on board to protect and guide the people being depicted on the show, don't they?

This situation also affects anyone who isn't an "extreme couponer" but simply wishes to use coupons during a shopping trip. What kind of scrutiny are people like you and me going to face at the register, when cashiers assume "those darn coupon shoppers" are trying to put one over on the store?

One bright spot in this story is something I touched on earlier -- as the industry transitions away from the old bar code to the new GS1 Databar (the "funny-looking" barcode on the right side of your coupons) it will eliminate this kind of fraud, as the new barcode is much more specific to the type of product that it can be used on. The new barcode system upgrade is in place at most stores now and has been rolling out around the country since this episode was filmed. DO NOT try to defraud the system by decoding barcodes.

The evidence is the video is difficult to refute. It looks like coupon fraud was committed on television, in prime time, as a ratings-grabber. Coupon fraud IS a crime.

If the manufacturers refuse to reimburse Safeway for these coupons, Safeway will take a loss somewhere in the range of $1,800. Jaime's pre-coupon total was over $1,900 on the show, which she couponed down to about the $100 mark. How is that any different than shoplifting $1,800 worth of groceries from Safeway?

The answer: It isn't.

And "Extreme Shoplifting" isn't what this show should be about.


Readers from SlickDeals.com, AFullCup.com, The C.W. Night Owls, TelevisionWithoutPity.com, New Jersey Couponers and of course, this blog, contributed to this story. I sincerely appreciate everyone's input, observations, and screen captures. This is not a story written by one person -- it was written by many (especially considering that I don't have cable.) Special thanks to Alanisrox69, Timmsa, Debate, Holamelitta, with another round of thanks to the passionate crew at The C.W. Night Owls, and anyone else I am forgetting. Full size screenshots of all of these images are in the comments for the original story.



UPDATE: Since this story broke, a Safeway spokesman gave a statement to the
Baltimore Sun that Jaime told them that her "strategy" was to use coupons for products she wasn't buying:

On the day of filming, Kirlew told Safeway managers that part of her strategy was to use coupons on products for which they are not intended, said Greg TenEyck, spokesman for Safeway... "I did hear that's what happened, that she had said, 'This what I do,' and our folks said, 'That's not our policy. You've got to use the correct coupon for the correct item,' " TenEyck said.

UPDATE: On May 11th, Jamie Kirlew admitted to the Wall Street Journal that she did use coupons in a fraudulent manner on the show:

You matched barcodes, as long as they worked, rather than products, right?

Yes.

Do you believe that was the right thing to do?

Yes, I believe that I have done nothing wrong. I’ve even had managers take my purchase and check me out. They’ve told me, “If the coupon goes through at my register, I’m getting reimbursed for it.” I have never been approached by anyone in authority telling me to do something different.

Will you change your methods now that manufacturers are changing the barcode system?

I do not intend to change my shopping habits unless or until the code changes...

What do you want from this interview?

I want to stop being the Scapegoat. I used a Buddig Deli cut for a 12/16 ounce packet for a 2 ounce packet because the numbers matched. The coupons went through at the register and I did not have any problem.

Since this episode, readers have noticed other instances of apparent coupon fraud on TLC's Extreme Couponing (link to comments) as well as other situations that seem to push the ethics of couponing, with one shopper driving around town picking up "unclaimed" newspapers from the driveways of other homes.



UPDATE: On May 26th, Fry's Supermarket released a statement that during the May 25th episode filmed at their store, the store allowed the shopper to double ALL coupons in her transaction, even though their store policy is only to double the first three. Viewers began crying foul on coupon sites around the web, and Fry's released a statement about the show on its Facebook page:

We appreciate your comments regarding the recent airing of TLC’s Extreme Couponing that was filmed at our Fry’s Marketplace in Sahuarita. Fry’s was flattered to be asked to participate in the national show and showcase one of our stores. In addition, we also had the opportunity to show that we are running one of the hottest coupon promotions out there by making all manufacturer coupons up to a dollar and gladly accepting all grocery competitor coupons. We understand that some customers may have questions regarding the coupon policy after viewing the show and we welcome your comments. We do want to make it clear that the show was done for promotional purposes and that our coupon policy posted here on Facebook remains the same and is for all Fry’s stores.

The store's policy is to double the first three coupons, but all of the coupons were doubled for the show's taping. Other shoppers watching the show would have the impression that they, too, could enjoy doubling every coupon at Fry's, but Frys made it clear that they lifted their coupon policy as a "one-time" exception while this episode of Extreme Couponing was being filmed -- other shoppers will only be able to double the first three coupons at Fry's.

And they still call it "reality television...."


If you've arrived here while searching for information on "Extreme Couponing," it might interest you to know that the TLC coupon show was originally supposed to be "America's Coupon Masters," an instructional show intended to teach people the correct ways to use coupons.

If you're seeking information on how to learn to save 50-70% on your grocery bill each week without spending more than an hour a week, or filling your house with a crazy amount of groceries, Super-Couponing is for you.


Is it legal?

Hi Jill,

I watched that episode of TLC, and question is that having too many coupons of same products and manufacturer is legal? Or that shopper has fraud coupon?

May I use so many coupons at same store for same products?

Thanks

Not illegal

It's not illegal to use a large number of coupons, though some stores and coupons have limits, like "Limit 4 Like Coupons Per Transaction."

However, some of the shoppers on the show did use coupons that were known counterfeits. See these:

Confirmed: 200 more counterfeit coupons used on TLC's "Extreme Couponing"

Confirmed: 34 counterfeit coupons used on TLC's "Extreme Couponing"

Manufacturer: We're not providing free pizza coupons to Extreme Couponers

More products purchased with known counterfeit coupons on "Extreme Couponing"

TLC's Extreme Couponing returns for a new season... with more counterfeit coupons

And, a CBS News report on the counterfeit coupons on the show:

Yes Its legal

Thanks for your quick reply,

You're right, having multiple coupons is totally legal thing, as many store allow that.

So misleading!

I'm late to this party. I watched several episodes on Netflix last night.One woman claimed her coupons came from God. That's a fruity statement. I have no idea how people get 100 coupons for the same item. There has to be something shady going on. That aside, I think that what this Jamie person did is despicable. It is dishonest. Some of these checkouts took 4 hours. Assuming the cashier makes $10 an hour, the store is down $40 right off the bat. Yes, the cashier is getting paid because he/she is there, but monopolizing him/her for hours is not figured in to the store's budget. Add to that the fake coupons for which they won't be reimbursed, and the amount just keeps going up. It's theft. It's wrong. These people are probably the reason that coupon policies have become so strict in the last few years. The whole show rings false. 100 loose cups of yogurt in a cart? Wrong. When I want a large quantity, say a case of something, I ask them to bring a box from the stockroom. The cashier enters '12 quantity'and scans 1 can. It's fast. It doesn't waste bags or the stock person's, bagger's, cashier's or my time. The computer crashing in every episode? Hey, TLC, you know this happens. You would have asked the store about the number of line items allowed prior to cashing out unless 1. you are idiots or 2. you want to create suspense. Everyone knows it's 2. Furthermore, no cashier rings up 30 of the same item one at a time. They count, enter the quantity, and scan one. 30 items are contained in one line. As for the stockpiles... some people give things to charity which is great. The others are nuts. 75 bags of chips? They will expire if you don't eat chips for every meal for a week. One woman bought 100 bags of Dole salad. The narrator said she'd have enough for 6 weeks. In what world is bagged lettuce, or any lettuce, able to stay fresh for 6 weeks? 100 candy bars for a family of three? I hope you have a good dentist and excellent insurance. Type 2 diabetes isn't far away. That brings me to my next question. Some people say they won't buy anything without a coupon. They buy 50 Oodles of Noodles type things, 10 frozen pizzas, 20 blocks of cream cheese,10 bottles of mustard, and 20 bottles of barbecue sauce. Call me crazy, but I don't know how you can make a meal with those ingredients. I presume the mustard and barbecue sauce are going to be poured over something. What? There was no meat. So the person spent 10 or 20, or 60 dollars. Great. There is no mention of the next trip in which they buy meat and produce with few or no coupons. There is no mention of the cost of the clipping services, the shelving units, the extra fridges, or the electricity used by the 2 chest freezers and three fridges that one family has. When you factor in those things, the savings amount is much less than the discount at the register. I do use coupons for things I normally purchase.I do buy extra papers if there is a coupon for something I buy a lot of. I do enjoy a bargain, but I am realistic. I feel bad for the people who watch this show and believe that these purchases are legitimate or possible.

There is truth in extreme couponing

There are several coupon clipping sites that you can order coupons in bulk. I take advantage of this myself as they are all newspaper coupons an legit. FYI Florida gets very high value coupons in there area that no other areas ever see.

In violation of terms of coupons

Just because coupon clipping services exist does not make them legal, ethical or legitimate. Nearly every manufacturer coupon has the wording "Void if Sold." How do you justify buying a contract between the manufacturer and the store that is legally null and void the moment you pay for it?

Never thought about it that way

I never thought about it that way Jill. I thought they're selling pieces of paper & you can sell whatever you want. Manufacturer doesn't know they're being sold.

Are you always so moral?

Yes.

Along with love, there are a few other things money can't buy:

Manners, morals, and integrity.

Thanks to my mom and dad for instilling how important all of those are.

Yes she is! And she stresses

Yes she is! And she stresses this in every one of her classes.

Are YOU?

Donate!

It's a pity you don't have a donate button! I'd most certainly donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i'll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.

Comments on extreme couponing board

Hi- I was just on the extreme couponing website, and I was reading some of the comments on the board, and there was one woman who was proud that she was an extreme couponer. She said that she bought 20 coupons worth $25 each at one of those coupon clipping services fpr Sonicare. She then proceeded to go to Walmart, where they were on sale for $19.95, and used all the coupons. By the time she factored in the cost of the coupons, she made $93. She then turned around and sold them on ebay. Pwople were amazed about this, and wanted to know more. Nobody questioned whether the coupons were legit or not. I am sure they were not legit. Hope this helps, Nancy

Extremists

I think as long as the show is on the air and is glorifying some shoppers' coupon minsues (and extremism in general) there will always be a segment of the population who want to push the limits of what can be done just about as far as they can be pushed. Unfortunately.

It makes so much more sense now.

I did a search for "Extreme Couponing where did she get coupons" and found this article. First, I had no idea this barcode thing was even possible since the computers at my stores seem to pick up even a slight discrepancy. But now, the show makes so much more sense to me and I see why I've never been able to pull off a 90-100% transaction with multiple different items. Sure, I've gotten lots of free items when the coupon said free or the value matched the price, but not $1000+ worth of groceries. Now I don't feel as inept, lol. My original search though, was about a woman on EC premier last night (5/28/12) who had some weird, very high dollar coupons that were definitely NOT from Sunday inserts. Some of them were gigantic. Where did she get them? She's the one who kept them all loose in a big Ziploc...$2100+ of items for $0. They showed where all the other people got their coupons.

There's more

There have been even more developments since this story was originally written back in April of 2011. Since then, there have been numerous instances of counterfeit coupons used on Extreme Couponing.

The woman you're talking about indeed had a lot of free-product coupons that seem suspicious (100 coupons for free Freschetta pizzas? Last season, we saw shoppers use 700 free pizza coupons from the same manufacturer as the ones shown last night, which I've also been working with the manufacturer to confirm the validity of.)

Read more here:

In the media:

Thank You for the links!

I read every single link (and more). I can't believe I hadn't heard of this before now. My eyes are wide open. Now I understand why the stores act the way they do regarding coupons. I couldn't figure out why it was good for them to put such limitations on coupon use, but if bad coupon karma people are decoding, counterfeiting, and God knows what else, I suppose the stores have to look out for their bottom line. I don't blame them. Thanks for all of your hard work on the matter. It's too bad TLC can't give a more accurate, though less "entertaining," portrayal of how couponing works in real reality.

great read

I liked your post. I will keep visiting this blog frequently. Most of the words that you shared inspired me to write about this on my blog also.

thank you!

Thank you for writing this and all the people who contributed. I was originally inspired to take couponing seriously by watching the show. I figured there was something they weren't showing us.
I mentioned this post and wrote one in response about setting realistic goals for couponing. I hope people do not get discouraged and that everyone will think twice and do it ethically so couponing doesn't get ruined for everyone.
http://www.couponcrazykelly.ca/2012/02/realistic-expectations.html

I didn't realize for a while

I didn't realize for a while that they were using coupons for products other that what they were purchasing. But it was clear that they were working with some very liberal coupon policies that aren't available to me. Makes sense now if the store is lifting their real policy for promotional purposes. It'd be nice if they said that up front on the show. I can even understand a business taking a $1800 hit on purpose (if let's say for fun that they didn't redeem the coupons from the manufacturer because they knew it was fraud). I mean, think about it... that's a cheap commercial, for prime time no less!

But "reality" isn't obviously not.

Nice...

Yeah that's a contemptible profitable, for prime point in primetime no less.

Wow this article was truly

Wow this article was truly fascinating! After reading this I realize that I might have unknowingly done coupon fraud. I am a reformed fraudalent couponer. I use to go to major retailers and use expired coupons. They went through every time and I was not once stopped. I was even told at a few grocers that they accept expired coupons. However, I stopped, knowing I didn't need to. The guilt I felt deep down was not worth the extra savings. But this, i never knew was even wrong. Let me play devils advocate for a second. How do you know manufacturers do not want you to use coupons on their products, if its in the same family or expired ones for that fact? I am an MBA graduate of a prestiguous university that is well aware of manufacturing and marketing to consumers. I actually work some what in the buisness. Grocers mark up their products that they sell to consumers at almost 300%. So if a grocer accepts the coupon why is it bad. Just because a manager tells you something doesn't make it true. With the secrecy of the corporate headquarters of these grocers and manufacturers, how do you know they would rather you buy their product in the same family or one of their competitors. This whole thing really makes me think.

Illegal?

My question after reading this post and the comments is why have these fraudulent shoppers not been arrested? Granted, I understand the stores are enjoying the publicity but wouldn't an arrest also bring a ton of publicity?

Prosecution

The store itself has to do the prosecuting - they need to involve their local authorities and initiate fraud charges against the shopper. It's likely that no one will "go after" the shopper, so to speak, if the store isn't stepping up to say they were defrauded. To date, none of the stores shown on the show have brought charges up against the shoppers.

It's not necessarily good publicity for the stores if they start having the shoppers arrested -after- allowing them to commit fraud in the first place while they stood there and watched... all in the name of "good" publicity.

This woman is UNBELIEVABLE

I am shocked that there were actually comments supporting this woman! What did the Facebook fan say? Go after the real criminals? Are you kidding me? I wonder if they would have thought the same thing if she were shopping at their store? Kinda doubt it. I believe someone implied this was a Safeway store? Their policy specifically states "We will redeem coupons only for the specific items included in our customer's purchase transaction." How hard is that to figure out? This article made me sick.

With all due respect...

you are missing the point: the real fraud are the stores who bend their rules and allow the customers that are featured on the show to use coupons incorrectly. There's tons of information, the stores themselves for example, that confirms that they allow fraud for TV ratings and publicity. If they therefore bring charges against the shoppers, their own fraud will be revealed triumphantly during the trial, and then they will be in deep trouble themselves! THAT's why Kirlew has not been arrested, and that's why Safeway and Target both remain as silent as fish.

Now if a really pi$$ed off customer goes to the Attorney General and/or has the money and rage to sue a couple of those stores plus TLC for false advertising, etc., then it's gonna be soooooooooooooo funny, I would drop everything I'm doing to watch the whole show unfold!!

The only thing we as consumers can do is boycott TLC and the stores, protest the error of their ways, and, believe me, order will be restored.

Oh my gosh...

I'm new to couponing since my husband lost his job, and I have to say I've done quite well so far. Recently, I have become a fan of Extreme Couponing and couldn't wait to watch the next episode, but this has really messed it up for me. I'm grateful for this post, as a matter of fact, I saw this episode last night! I am still going to coupon, and I have learned alot, but I will do it with integrity. No wonder they called it "Extreme Couponing" instead of "America's Coupon Masters". I'm praying that we don't get couponing taken away from us permanently because of situations like this, double couponing in parts of south Texas has already been taken away. Thanks so much for the information.

Ohh thanx for sharing it !!

Ohh thanx for sharing it !! Hope people get awareness from this post !!

Disappointing

Reading this is so disappointing. I'm new at couponing and I was wondering what I was doing wrong because these women were walking out with so much basically for free. I'm relieved that I don't have to live up to these couponers and that I'm doing it correctly. No one is losing when I coupon and I can actually show my face in the store again.

Coupon Fraud

I have always suspected that coupon fraud might be prevalent in couponing. There is always people gaming business for an advantage and businesses gaming people for an advantage and of course I believe there is lots of fraud. Fraud being defined as extorting money for gain through services or products that are not what they are purported to be. In this case there was money extorted for a product not purchased.

This was actually th

This was actually the first "reality" show that I have actually enjoyed watching if you could say that.
This is just another reality show, just like all the others. It is human nature to get away with all that you can, not that I do that. I use coupons as they are intended and this show actually inspired me to at least start using coupons again. Do you really think that all those people on all those reality shows actually live that way? I'm sure there are some that just love the drama that goes on in these shows, but personally, I can't handle it.
I was just saying to my husband today, though, that I was wondering where those people got all of those $5 coupons because we NEVER find anything that great unless it's for something that's $25 - 30 at regular price.
Incidentally, I do not believe these people are hoarders, sick, maybe. But many of them intended to donate items to food shelves and shelters. Another reason I don't think they are hoarders is because most of the people who are hoarders mostly save junk that cannot be used by anyone. I didn't watch that show, but the one with all the dolls could have made millions selling them on e-bay. Too bad. . .
But, my husband and I are both dieting and that one lady with the 6 children was buying all of that processed frozen food and I was thinking that all of that sodium is going to kill them. We buy mostly fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and fresh meat and I guess I'm not lucky enough to find coupons for those.
Also, most stores do not allow you to get money back from a coupon, since most coupons say up to the value of the item and most say that they cannot be stacked with other offers and many of these people did this. I don't understand how the stores involved in this could change their registers to accept this.
I don't think it's bad to clean out a store of some item, though. How many times have you taken the last item they had off the shelf before someone else can get it? I know it's happened to me, and I'll bet you've done it, too. Just because these people do it by taking many of them rather than 1, doesn't make them bad people. In fact, many of them called the store in advance to order the items ahead so they would have enough of what they wanted without emptying the shelf.
The one lady I couldn't stand last night, was the one who made her husband carry the coupons around and she berated him when one envelope was misplaced.

I always suspected something

I always suspected something was up with this coupon show, but I never knew the extent of it. I figured the stores were looking the other way as far as their coupon policies, and wondered if people were stealing coupons, but I had no idea how far it was going. It is one thing to accidentally purchase the wrong version of a particular item with a coupon, but to deliberately manipulate the system by figuring out how to get a completely different product is wrong. People like this are the reason why store policies get more and more restrictive, ruining things for normal people doing normal shopping.

Learn something new everyday.

Because of Extreme Couponing I became a couponer. I new it was too good to be true, yet I decided to try it and see if I could save money since I went into bankruptcy recently. I would never had thought that it was fraud since I used to be a cashier for a grocery store and they always told us that if the coupon went thru it was ok to accept the coupon. Since I have been couponing I have asked some stores (not all but some) if they do the same and they all have said yes "if it goes thru we will take it". I only asked once to the first store I went to (for example, I shop at 4 Walmarts but I only asked the first one I tried the couponing on). And I only asked because I figured the store I worked at must not care cause they also accept expired coupons. After the other stores told me yes, I thought the manufactures wrote this as a "just in case" legal thing to cover their end. Once again I am new to couponing and I was educated wrong on how to use them before I started couponing. I would like to apologize to everyone since I have wronged and committed fraud knowingly but not intentionally (if that makes sense). YOU HAVE OPENED MY EYES. Thank you. Kind of feeling bummed out 'cause I can't really find any good grocery sales and now I don't think I will find any good household deals either =(

Thank you so much ...

Thank you so much for pointing out so many facts out!

I am a couponer and abide by all rules, policies and regulations by the manufacturers and stores.

People who break rules don't think about the future when they do things like that, and don't really fully understand how it affects rest of us.

Saving is great, but breaking rules are NOT.

We teach our kids to follow rules and directions ... shame on them!

Furthermore...

I live in the area where this self-proclaimed "Diva" calls home. You'll notice she uses the Safeway guide for a Damascus grocery store. She lives in Bethesda. The distance between the two towns more than makes up for any of her "savings." She's been banned from her local grocery stores for her extreme, fraudulent couponing, and she's making it difficult for Damascus shoppers to take advantage of the same sales. It's shameful...what she steals from the store, the store has to pass on to other customers. The store has a bottom line too. But this Diva is so self-absorbed she couldn't begin to understand how business really works.

Great article - Thanks!

I've been "extreme couponing" for over 5 years, and I am sick at what this show is promoting! (& that's even w/o the fraud). Who needs 100 boxes of ANYTHING? I have NEVER used a coupon for the wrong item (at least, not intentionally), nor will I ever. It's just plain wrong.

Since no stores in my state double coupons (although Target's web coupons & Walgreen's Register Rewards come pretty darn close), so if I save 45-65%, it's a good day. Of course, I'm shopping for a real family and not a TV one, so I buy things like meat and produce and dairy products and dried beans. Also, for all those thinking that this is too much work, spending 60 hours a week is insane (I spend 1-2 hrs/week max planning my shopping trips and organizing my coupons). AND, WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD SPEND 9 HOURS IN A GROCERY STORE (unless you work there - sorry). After an hour, I'm just plain DONE, and that includes checking out.

Then there's the mentality that the less they spend the better they are (the whole "buy the smallest size for the biggest savings" mantra they all seem to have). Sure, if it's free, it's a good deal. BUT, you have to do the cost/per analysis on every item. They're so happy that they've gotten some item for 30¢ for, say, an ounce. If they'd have done the math they could've gotten the same item for 25¢ an ounce if they'd bought another size. Bigger is not always better (I'll never forget the cheese sale they had at my local grocery one week - 8 oz. packages were $1, 1 lb's were $2.50 and 2 lb's were $6 - crazy!), but smaller is not always better either.

And then there's some of the crap that they buy. Who would buy more than 1 or 2 of something they'd never tried? What if they hate it? Where's the savings in having to trash it or give it away?

So, with all of that in mind, here are my recommended "rules" for couponing:
1) Ask family & friends for their unused coupons before wasting money buying additional copies of newspapers (especially important for newbies).
2) Always do a cost comparison on a per basis (per piece / per ounce / etc.) before deciding which size to buy (sometimes the one on sale still isn't the best purchase).
3) Clip only the coupons for things that you regularly use, for ones that you would try IF they were free, and for alternate brands IF you are willing to give them a try.
4) Never buy something just because you have a coupon for it. It's still an impulse purchase!
5) Never clear a shelf at a store, unless: they only have a few left (1-5) OR you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that your family will use AND enjoy all of them. (Don't take away another person's ability to enjoy the same sale - it's kind of selfish).
6) Don't get hung up on the savings % shown on your register receipt. Instead, keep track of what you were spending before using coupons and after.
AND - Golden Rule #7:
7) You save the most by buying nothing at all.

Happy shopping!

Lucky Rule number 7

yes, the best way to save money is not to spend it..a wise statement indeed..its like going to a rummage sale, buying other peoples junk, which now becomes my junk that I really don't need. and for people who are unemployed and on a tight budget, you still have to pay tax on the full price of a couponed item, so it really isn't free..Thanks for the updates..! :)

Never Heard of this. How can it be fraud

Most the items coupons are for processed foods, so I don't use many of them. Mostly looking for discounts or coupons for healthy foods, fruits, veggies, milk, meat, eggs, etc. Not much available for healthy foods. I mean, how many boxes of cereal, bread, pasta, catsup, mayo, salad dressing, barbeque sauce does one really need? I have gotten that stuff, and then it just sits on the shelf till I move and throw it out.

There are a few household items I use coupons for, and have lucked out a few times, and got a manufacturer coupon and store discount and got bags full of products of really nice face wash, bath soap, etc for free. So we gave everyone sets of face wash, bath soaps, etc for gifts.

I use natures anti bacterial white vinegar for cleaning, so I don't need coupons for toxic cleaning products. Most natural products don't seem to have coupons very much if any. But I see lots of coupons for very toxic cleaning products, which I don't want or need, as cancer is not my thing. I don't see coupons for the gallon jugs of vinegar but it is only $2 so it lasts a long time, does a lot of cleaning, and is useful for numerous things and vinegar is so safe, you can even drink it. It dries clean and non sticky. Vinegar for cleaning is safe around all children and pets.

I worked for JC Penneys years ago for about 2 months till I got a better higher paying job. I worked in the fine jewelry dept. For every sale, we had to go in an hour or so early to raise the prices before the store opened. If the sale was 20% off, we had to raise the prices of all jewelry 20% so to fraud the customer in thinking they were getting a deal. That was JC Pennys Fraud. Frauding the customer.

I expect this fraud has been going on since the beginning of time. If you bought goat milk on sale, they raised the price to cover the sale. Buy a goat, get one free goat. Bogo on goats, Bogos on chickens that lay eggs or so you hope. Maybe they rip you off and sell you an old chicken that can no longer lay eggs. So they frauded customers as long back as forever. But then you could go confront the frauder, and ask for a younger chicken that lays eggs. But with these big corporations, it is very hard to reach the president or ceo to explain how they frauded you and customer service is usually not too helpful.

So I wonder, do coupons really save money, or are most stores just raising the price to cover the coupon?

Of course, if you get both a manufacturer coupon and store sale and get the item for FREE, then you are ahead. If you have time to do this, the more power to you.

I haven't seen this much, but have tripped into it occasionally. Then we did drive from store to store to get all the free items to give as gifts or give away to those that need it. But it takes a lot of time, unless you can really use the product or use it as gifts. And with the cost of gas today, not likely to drive far, unless it is a really great deal and I really want it and can really use it.

The TV shows showing people getting all this stuff for free is so misleading. They get paid some $10,000 a week or per show, for new reality show actors. If they are popular and the show gets lots of feedback of who you like in the reality show, they get their pay doubled or tripled the next season.

Then the stores change the rules for the TV show, so they can buy lots of free stuff with coupons, but anyone else who goes to the same store can't get to use unlimited coupons. That is so misleading. Thats the problem with reality shows, they aren't reality. But TLC is selling advertising and making money if there is lots of controversy, so they want controversy because then the TV show gets free advertising on inside edition, entertainment tonight, news shows all over America, etc. And if the person or persons on the reality show get a lot of bad buzz, then they get their own pay from the show increased from $10,000 starting pay, to double or triple to $20,000 or more per show or per week. So they love all this controversy, it pays. I wish I was on this or any of the shows. The reality show pay is quite high for those that get chosen to be on the TV reality show.

Not quite accurate...

First, let me say, I have worked for JCPenney many years in the past, in the jewelry department,at two different stores. NEVER did we ever raise prices before a sale. There are thousands of items in the department, and it would be very unfeasible to do so as it would take way too much time to do.

Secondly, anyone who shops at the same stores all the time gets to know their prices and it's quite clear the prices aren't fixed ahead of time.

Now, when you stack a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon, the store does not lose out on both amounts. They get reimbursed by the manufacturer for the face value, plus a small fee. The only one they "eat" is their own, which is a tool used to draw people into the store.

However, it is quite clear the woman in this show was committing a crime. And it's also quite clear that the store that changes their rules just to be on TV are being fraudulent as well.

I am a coupon user, but not an extreme coupon user. I don't clear shelves, I don't use the wrong coupon for items, I don't hoard. Yes, I consider many of them hoarders. Anyone who must use several rooms of their homes for it is a hoarder.

These types of people are ruining it for the rest of us.

Re:

I have had a great time reading your posts.

Here's the radio sho

Here's the radio show - Living the Dream Mom J'aime Kirlew http://www.4shared.com/audio/KQyErMTA/radio.html
J'aime says she will continue to coupon the way she has always couponed in the past - she is denying that she used coupons fraudulently. Join us on Facebook - Boycott TLC's Extreme Couponing Show and sign the petition to end the show. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-TLCs-Extreme-Couponing-Show/14637...

Doubling coupons?

I apologize if I'm being off topic, but what does "doubling" coupons mean? That the store doubles a coupon's value? If so, I have never seen or heard of it in my area.

Yes

Doubling means a .50 coupon scans at a $1 value at the register. Doubling does tend to be very geographically regional throughout the country - some areas have it, others do not.

Never Heard of this. How can it be fraud

Has anyone noticed how the manufacturers are ripping everyone off. Food sizes are shrinking and prices have doubled and tripled.

How can a wheat or corn cereal be $4 for a tiny box. Wheat and corn are cheap and farmers get supplements from the government to grow even more of it, even though wheat and corn and sugar are what makes humans fat and causes heart disease and cancer. Farmers that grow healthy vegetables or fruits that do not make you fat and do not cause heart disease, do not receive any government supplement money. Why, because veggies and fruits are healthy.

Wheat and corn and sugar helps many corporations get richer. Wheat, corn and sugar manufactures are getting richer by raising the prices for no reason except for money. Heart disease makes the medical corporations and big pharmaceutical corporations a lot of money. These public corporations have shares that people buy in the stock market. The shares go up, if the medical and big pharma corporations make lots of money off of the bad health of Americans, eating crap like wheat, corn and sugar which makes up most processed foods makes a lot of corporations big profits and makes shareholders bigger dividend checks.

So extreme couponing isn't hurting anyone. The manufacturers, medical and big pharma are ripping us off.

Coupons makes some things a little more affordable.

Go to walgreens. I went there with a $1 off coupon. The clerk was raising all the prices of that product up $1, so the coupon was worthless. I could have bought the product the day before at the same price without the coupon. Thats ripping off the customers. Thats walgreens fraud. Frauding the customers.

Etc.

Thing that contribute to the high prices

It is wrong that is why it is fraud.
Also you mention the price of corn, sugar and wheat. These are all going up in price because there has been a draught. It is the law of supply and demand. Farmers do have to make a profit in order to provide for their families and the families they employ. Farming is a busines. Other things contributing to the high prices are quanitative easing or as many know the Federal Reserve's policy of printing of money and in general anything the president and the congress have done in the past 50 years to make things "better for the masses". Actually most of the policy have had the opposite effect, Do you own research and don't accept the liberal blue koolaid the government and media and public schools try to feed you. lastly, stop buying into the victom mentality. Believe and say to yourself you can do better and you will. Charles Capps has a great book about the power of our words. It is written from a biblical poitn of view and it is quite inspiring.

What my children knew by the time they were five...

If you have to resort to "they did it first", or some other lavish justification for your actions, it's likely that you're doing something wrong.

The world is seriously unfair, & those with the money are manipulating us to maximize profits. But, the reason we can't even make a simple transaction in good faith, without fear, is because of the staggering increase in the number of people who are willing to hurt anyone in their path to further their own agenda.

It's insane! Plenty of people complain about harm they think they've suffered at the hands of illegitimate, greedy, business practices {with or without proof}. But, it's fine to use the same tactics, hurting as many others as necessary, to get what they want. Since when did two wrongs make a right? When did it become acceptable to harm people as long as they were stupid enough to let us get away with it? When did it become so important to save $.50 {or $500.}that it's worth it to cause a checker to be fired for accepting a fraudulent transaction; or contribute to a loss of jobs because a company is unwilling, or unable, to absorb the losses?

Do these people honestly think that anyone reading these justifications would agree that they're worthy of the self-importance they've assigned themselves? WOW, just, WOW!

Oh I agree with you!

The big companies are making the big bucks and their earnings are disproportionately large. And yes, the prices of commodities, especially in this economy, are as you say, and there is no reason for them to rip us off. The problem is that they think that they can control everything, including the consumer, so what we can do is simply be informed consumers and boycott/take our business elsewhere. TLC has disturbed the balance which is very annoying, but it will be restored. And I agree with you, Kirlew did not commit fraud on TV, just showed unethical couponing practices. Or found a loophole, that's all. That's why no lawsuits have been filed. I am more worried about those who steal newspapers and inserts.

Stealing inserts

I have to check my paper every time, because I have actually seen people stealing inserts (usually they will take inserts from several papers, stash them into one paper, and buy that one); I have mentioned it to the store employees and they say they know but then they don't actually do anything about it. I don't switch stores because it is hard to find the paper I want at other stores (I do like to read it, too. :) ). I think it has gotten better because I stopped finding papers without inserts, but I still check through the whole thing whenever I get a paper. (Which makes me worry that people think *I* am stealing inserts, so I make sure it is obvious I am just looking at it). Something that was said on one of the episodes raised a red flag for me and got me wondering exactly how these people obtain their coupons. She made some reference to somehow obtaining multiple inserts that sounded sketchy, I wish I could recall exactly what it was.

It's fraud

A few times I've gotten the wrong item that didn't match the coupon. I've either put the item to the side, or get the right product. There have been times when the cashier somehow put it through. I thank the cashier and go on my way. But this woman is a crook. I cannot believe TLC didn't make a statement, and I cannot believe the store accepted this so easily. What is says is that if you can get away with it, by all means do so!

I recorded some episodes of extreme couponing a few weeks back and was watching them this morning. I couldn't get past the second recording before I had to come to the computer and look up info on this show. I was disgusted by the junk food that these people were buying. I didn't see anyone of them purchase meat, or fresh produce. Where does that come in? I also noticed that they bought so much that I'm sure the shelf life would expire before the could eat the food. I think someone had 60 boxes of ceral? One woman, a military stay-at-home wife, who home schooled her children bought tons of microwaveable meals. I thought, if you're at home everyday, why are your children eating this junk? Hopefully ths food is being donated to those who really need it.

Needless to say, I will delete the rest of the episodes. I don't like reality tv because it's so fabricated. This is just another example. I'm sure these people get paid, too!

Show encourages people to steal coupon inserts...

So I began watching the TLC show and got inspired. I’m a teacher who is off for the summer since I have a little more free time right now, I decided to give it a try. My first couponing Sunday my husband and I bought 4 Sunday papers. Two of the four didn’t have a coupon insert. I found out that one of my local papers no longer offers coupon inserts.
Last Sunday I bought a rather expensive Sunday paper and to my horror, when I dove in it to start my own match up to the flyers I discovered the coupon insert was missing again. I drove back to the store this time and spoke to customer service. After explaining my complaint she stated, “Oh she must be back again!” Apparently there is a woman in my area who purchases one paper at the grocery store but fills it with inserts from a bunch more.
I did see an article about woman doing the same thing using a self serve kiosk on a street. It is disappointing. I guess I’m naïve!
I also think that using coupon coding is fraud. I live in the greater Boston/New Bedford area and there was a person on the show from outside of Boston. Like the other commenters I have only been able to save 40-50% doing it the “right” way. It’s definitely better than not couponing at all. I hope after school starts back up again I’ll have the time to continue with my summer experiment!

Inserts

I had problems with missing inserts even before this show came on, so I definitely make sure to check my papers now. Store employees at my store were also aware, but it seems there is little they can do about it. (I even saw someone doing it once, and I know the employee did, too, but she did nothing about it). It seems to have gotten better in the last year, but with shows like this on the air, I'm being extra careful to double-check now.

I just make sure I look

I just make sure I look through the paper and that my coupons are in there before I purchase it. (I just make sure I stand close to customer service where they can see I am not looking to take them)