Confirmed: Counterfeit coupons used on TLC's "Extreme Couponing"

When TLC premiered the first episode of "Extreme Couponing" in 2011, coupon shoppers around the country took to the web to voice their concerns about the rampant coupon misuse and fraud depicted on the show. Some of the show's shoppers appeared to be using coupons for products they didn't buy (and later admitted doing so) or used hundreds of coupons that are limited to one or four like coupons per transaction. Stores unfortunately played along too, with some agreeing to double coupons "just for the show" or allow the show's shoppers to utilize coupon overage, even when it wasn't their policy to do so for their other shoppers.

Coupon bloggers around the country have dissected the show, noting the sheer number of coupons that appeared to have been misused, the store policies that were disregarded during the taping, and numerous cashiers overriding registers beeping that coupons did not match the items being purchased. One supermarket chain even blew the whistle on the amount of rule-bending, policy-lifting and staging done for their episodes of Extreme Couponing. It released a statement to the media expressing the store's regret at participating in the show, acknowledging waiving part of its policy for the benefit of TV cameras, and apologizing to its regular customer base.

All of this is old news to anyone who's even casually followed the show. Judging from reactions on coupon blogs around the web, most coupon shoppers became so tired of the coupon misuse depicted week after week that they simply stopped watching. I did too for most of Season 2. But back in October, I tuned into an episode of Extreme Couponing entitled "Katherine and Joel."

Joel, a 16-year-old from Burbank, caught my eye because he was so enthusiastic about couponing. Who doesn't love seeing a teenager fired up about saving money? Joel shopped at Gelson's, a high-end California supermarket. And indeed, Joel had one incredible shopping trip. He had numerous coupons for entirely free products - five coupons for free bottles of All laundry detergent, six coupons for free boxes of Fresh Step cat litter, and then there was the toilet paper...

"There's a coupon that the manufacturer was giving out for a free 12-pack of toilet paper," Joel said in the episode. But he didn't have just one free coupon -- he had 34 of them. The on-screen graphics note that Joel purchased a total of 408 rolls of Quilted Northern toilet paper, and all of it was free.

As Joel and his family wheeled their seven carts of toilet paper to the register in this episode, I felt the proverbial red flag go up. Most coupon enthusiasts are aware of what current and legitimate coupons are circulating at any given time, but this trip seemed, well, unbelievable. While it's possible that Joel had obtained all of these free coupons legitimately from the manufacturers, it was hard not to consider another possibility. What if the coupons he was using were fake?

When Joel arrived at the checkout lane, he said "I am shaking, I am nervous, I need a restroom." The cashier began scanning Joel's toilet paper coupons, and then he said "There's something wrong with the coupon." The register's screen showed the following message:


The cashier brought an assistant over to look at the screen, and they said "It's not on file... it's not taking it." After some discussion, the cashier stated "The register doesn't accept the coupon for $11.99, so I need my manager to put his code in for an acknowledgment."

The manager overrode the register's warning, and the coupons' value was deducted from Joel's total. At the end of the episode, the show's voiceover boasts that Joel enjoyed a 93% savings on his shopping trip.

It all seemed a little too good to be true, didn't it? In this case, it was. The bar code on Joel's toilet paper coupon immediately looked fake to me. First, it's an older form of bar code on the right side that was phased out during the GS1 Databar transition (to the new form of barcodes now present on coupons.) The value field of the coupon is also miscoded.

I forwarded some screenshots of Joel's to the Coupon Information Corporation, the organization that fights coupon fraud. After researching the issue, the CIC has determined that the coupons Joel used in his Extreme Couponing shopping trip were indeed counterfeit (link to their press release.)

Here's what you didn't see on TV:

Once the counterfeit coupons reached the manufacturer, the manufacturer denied payment to the store. A representative from Gelson's contacted the producers of Extreme Couponing, outraged that they would absorb a loss of over $400. Joel's mother then paid the store the value of the product that her son "bought" with the fake coupons.

None of this has ever been aired on the show or released to the media prior to today. In fact, you can still view Joel's episode of Extreme Couponing right now on Amazon Instant Video.

There are a lot of questions. Where did the counterfeit coupons come from? Unfortunately, fraudulent, fake, and counterfeit coupons are extremely easy to come by online, either on auction sites or websites selling "free coupons." When a counterfeiter can turn a $2, $5, or $10 profit selling useless pieces of paper... and people are willing to part with their money and attempt to use these fake "free" coupons, fraud will continue. And, if you don't think counterfeit coupons are a serious matter, the CIC is currently offering a $100,000 reward for information on several counterfeit coupons that are currently circulating.

The other question that continues to run through my head is "Why?" Why would any honest couponer want to beat and cheat the system, especially when every detail of the shopping trip will be filmed for TV? What kind of pressure is TLC putting on the shoppers featured in Extreme Couponing to have the "most extreme" trips of their lives?

There are serious issues on many levels if Joel, a minor was encouraged to break the law and use fake coupons to create this incredible-for-TV trip. And we know from the show's history that there's already very little "reality" in this show. With the CIC's confirmation that Joel used on Extreme Couponing are counterfeit, TLC and Extreme Couponing are not only promoting a criminal act, they're profiting from it.

I reached out to Joel in an attempt to speak with him and hear his side of the story, but at the time of this writing, he has not responded. I welcome Joel and any of the Extreme Couponing participants to share their stories if they would like to. (Update: At 4:49pm on 2/14, Joel responded via email: "Due to my current agreement with TLC, I can not release a statement for an interview.")

If you've followed some of the controversy surrounding Extreme Couponing, you may remember that after shopper Jaime Kirlew's coupon fraud was depicted, TLC released a statement that they were opening their own investigation into coupon fraud on their show. That was on April 17th, 2011 -- 302 days ago at the time of this writing. Dustin Smith, vice president of communications for TLC, stated in an interview last April, "Any questions about specific strategies that have brought up, we're looking into them. We're taking any concern seriously and we're researching the specific allegations." (link.)

Where are their findings? Surely, after almost a year, with access to the full, unedited footage from their shoppers' Extreme Couponing shopping trips, they must have come to some conclusion. Instead, TLC has remained silent, continuing to churn out episodes of Extreme Couponing filled with coupon misuse, misredemption and fraud. And now, with the CIC's confirmation, TLC can add counterfeit coupon usage to that list too. This time, they promoted crime committed on TV, by a minor, for the sake of ratings.

The CIC has continued to suggest TLC retain the support of an independent industry expert to insure the integrity of future episodes, with a commitment to following all laws and rules pertaining to couponing. To date, TLC continues to decline.

Today, I also telephoned Dustin Smith, Vice President of Communications for Discovery Communications, parent company of TLC. I shared that the Coupon Information Corporation had determined that Joel used counterfeit coupons on Extreme Couponing and asked for his response. He stated, "Until I see their statement, I will not be able to respond." He asked that I forward the CIC's statement, and then if he felt it necessary to respond to it, he would.

I asked, "Prior to my phonecall today, were you aware of this situation?" Mr. Smith replied, "I will not comment on that at this time."

UPDATE: 2/13/12, 5:13PM: After forwarding the CIC's statement to Dustin Smith, Dustin emailed the following response:

From: Dustin Smith
To: Jill Cataldo
Subject: Re: Coupon Information Corporation releases statement on "Extreme
Thread-Index: AQHM6qUggNouXTBzmEiYnNcSwpprUg==
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2012 23:13:42 +0000
user-agent: Microsoft-MacOutlook/
x-originating-ip: []

Hi Jill,

Thanks for the note. We will not be offering a comment.


UPDATE: On March 6th, TLC featured Joel shopping for a second time in a new episode of Extreme Couponing. Meanwhile, TLC has yet to release a statement on Joel's counterfeit coupon fraud during his first appearance on the show.

Images from TLC's "Extreme Couponing" used under Creative Commons license.

More instances of stores bending, lifting, and breaking rules for TLC's Extreme Couponing:

Should Joel Take ALL the Blame?

Should Joel take ALL the blame?

I finally watched this show, and started googling all the people.

While I COMPLETELY agree that those using fake coupons should get in trouble, the on with Joel is different. Not because he was 16, but because the register DENIED the coupon, and then the MANAGER overrode the coupon, thus accepting the fake coupon. He had a warning, the machine did not take it, and then when he didn't get paid for it, he complained.

But, as a former manager and cashier, the blame in that case, seems to lie at the hands of the manager. Even the cashier didn't take the coupon, he couldn't, because he didn't have authority.

Other than that, I agree that TLC shouldn't promote such recklessness, but in this case, I feel that the manager took a risk for the sake of tv and forced the mom to pay for his mistake. He should have taken the responsibility.

Thank you for informing us.

Thank you for informing us. Really that scared! How anyone can do like this. Once again thank you for sharing your experience with us. Someone needs to take action against them...


That's very scary to know that I could come in contact with a counterfeit coupon and not even know it. I don't think people are aware that altering coupons and stealing coupons is against the law because we don't hear about it enough. People take extra newspapers because they think "oh it's just a newspaper" but they don't realize that a mother who did this, may go to jail for 1 year and they took her daughter away. So it's not just a newspaper.

This information needs to be on the local news and in all the magazines and on every blog to warn people. We as bloggers teach people how to coupon but not how to make sure they don't get into trouble with coupons even accidentally.

I can imagine if a family is struggling to put food on the table they may do things that are illegal with coupons but they think isn't a big deal and no one will find out because "it's just a coupon". But what people need to realize is you can get into serious trouble just as if you were to take something out of a store right now without paying for it and you could wind up not only going to jail but losing your kids.

There are so many conflicting reports on this subject. Who hasn't heard of Jaime Kirlew yet people hear about what she did and they don't see her getting into trouble with the law so they probably say "oh well the law wont bother me over some coupons, they didn't do anything to her", but then they did arrest a unknown lady for stealing coupons.

The law needs to be consistent with the whole coupon fraud thing. Jaime should have been brought up on charges and she wasn't so that sends out a message to struggling families that, they can do illegal things with coupons and not get into trouble.

Seriously, how can you have someone ON VIDEO commiting a CRIME infront of MILLIONS of people and that person have nothing happen to them? Seriously? How is anyone to take any of this seriously but they should.

This needs to be addressed more and thanks for writing this article to get it out there so maybe others will think twice before committing coupon fraud and now I know to be on the look out for counterfeit coupons.

I agree!

We don't hear enough people getting in trouble. I can't believe TLC has no statement about Joel and this. Instead they put him on a new episode again this week being rude to a kid shopping in the store too! It is all so fake.

If I were a less honest person I would say the same thing as you, here we have someone on video that now we have proof committed a crime with fake coupons they know are fake. Nothing happened. He did not get in trouble. Why shouldn't I try it too.

Possible explination

of why there haven't been any charges filed. (This is pure speculation.)

We don't know what happened behind the scenes while the cameras were off. Perhaps the store was paid in full for the products and the checkout was just staged for the show.

If I made a video of somebody loading up their cart and tell you they are walking out the front door without paying, did they really steal anything if I edited out their checkout?


TLC has not (will not?) release the full, unedited footage of her trip. Without it, it's impossible to know what happened during and after checkout.

The other thing to keep in mind is that either the store or the manufacturer MUST choose to press charges. An organization like the CIC cannot prosecute directly -- they assist companies wishing to press charges. The local police, in each case, are the ones who actually arrest the person for what they have done. And if Safeway ultimately decided the publicity of the trip was worth the cost of the groceries, they may have eaten the entire trip.

Keep in mind that nearly every store involved that has later discussed their filmings with the media has cited "free publicity" as a reason they allowed the show to film. Television advertising is expensive. Putting your store on TV, even if it means eating a few thousand dollars' worth of groceries, is cheap in comparison.

I Can See It Now...

"But your Honor, I was just trying to get some free publicity for the store when I stole the _______." (you fill in the blank)

More Fraud on Free Angel Soft on eBay

What a coincidence, Angel Soft is on sale at Meijer this weekend and I was searching for coupons on eBay. Guess what I say? Free Angel Soft up to $15 value ?!?! Such listing are obviously frauds, does anyone know how to lodge a complaint to eBay to takedown these fraudulent coupons???

Angel Soft

Those Angel Soft coupons are definitely fake - they're on the CIC fraud list too.

Ebay will not remove fraudulent coupons. We were discussing this in another thread, but I'll paste it here:

Ebay has a special policy specifically for coupon resale in which they state that sellers should review coupon terms to make sure the coupon CAN be sold... and then they go on to say that they don't usually remove coupon listings anyway. They also warn that stores may not accept coupons that they believe have been sold:

Make sure you review the terms printed on the coupon before you sell it. The terms on some coupons state that selling them is restricted or not allowed. While we don't monitor the site for possible violations, and we usually don't remove listings based on third-party contracts, we ask that you carefully review the coupon's terms and conditions when you're deciding if you want to list it.

Also, sellers can't claim that the price of the coupon is based on the value of the labor involved in clipping the coupons instead of the coupons themselves. Under eBay rules, the coupons themselves are the items being sold.

Coupon buyers should also note that retailers might refuse to accept coupons that have been obtained in a way that violates the terms on the coupon.

They do seem far more concerned with collecting fees than stopping coupon fraud, and they're placing the responsibility to sell valid coupons back onto the sellers. Even when completely fake/fraudulent coupons are on Ebay, they allow the auctions to continue. Check out this news report about people who bought fake coupons on Ebay. Ebay and Paypal do nothing and allow the sellers to keep the money in this situation, even when the people receiving counterfeit coupons file a dispute. As far as Ebay seems to be concerned, you paid for a piece of paper, and you got one.

Ruining it for the Rest of Us

So sad, and frustrating! Thanks for posting!
Just last night My mother (long time couponer 25+ yrs) calls me after her Walmart shopping trip all upset. She was denied overage for the $1.50 12ct or smaller breathe right coupon. They told her the ol we just had a meeting today not allowing overage speech. The manager came over and proceeded to tell her about some lady that used $10 crest coupons on trial size toothpaste (those whitestrips coupons) and got $250+ cash back!! So they all got in trouble, and now are not allowing overage. Of course they were all rude to my mother. I just cannot believe how some people can ruin things for the rest of us. This is the second time our local Walmart has told us about this coupon being used wrong there. Ugh…

I would not believe the $250

I would not believe the $250 cash back part. Mostly because the Wal-Mart coupon policy states that you can get overage as long as it doesn't exceed the cost of your basket (transaction). so, the other lady could get her transaction FREE but not the cash back.

Wal-Mart policy on overage

I just double checked the Wal-Mart policy and I don't see the wording you are referencing. It says: "If coupon value exceeds the
price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase." There is nothing in the policy that says your overage is limited to the cost of your basket. The policy says they give cash back....

Extreme Shoplifting

It's simple. Buy groceries with fake coupons = Extreme Couponing? Nope, Extreme Shoplifting.

I'd love to hand a useless stack of sheets of paper to my supermarket and see if they'd let me take a cart of groceries out in exchange.

Actually no I wouldn't because I have a moral compass.

Jill you need to look more closely at the last season of EC, those fake Quilted Northern coupons were used in at least 3 other episodes by other shoppers too.

It's not just the show

Ya know, I've been mis-lead just as much by the show as I have by the people who run some of these coupon blogs. I once read a post about a philips electric razor and how there was a coupon to get it free. I printed 4 and ran out to find them. In the city I lived in I had 2 Walmarts. The first had the razors at the price indicated by the blogger, but they were the wrong ones. I tried anyway, but was shut down by the staff at the store. After explaining their policy to them, I admitted defeat and left to go to the other store. Again, I found the wrong razors and tried again, but this time I was not let off so easily. I was escorted to the customer service counter while the presumable manager that lead me there made some calls. I immediately thought "OMG I am about to be arrested for coupon fraud, me, of all people". Thankfully some quick talking seemed to make her happy and she handed me back all my stuff and I left. I never shopped at that store again.

I returned home to comment on the post with my disgust at the way the blogger listed the "free" item, only to find that not only was I not the only one who had run into this problem, but that some people had actually gotten the WRONG items with no problem. This blogger told people it was okay to misuse the coupon, and only after 30 or so negative comments did she finally take the post down due to, as she put it "a misunderstanding". It's not a misunderstanding when you tell people to print a coupon and then give them a picture to go by and they go out and get into trouble trying to do what you - a supposed expert - tells them to do. Of course the show probably does not help, but still.... the bloggers have been just as bad. I follow several too and there have been quite a few times when one blogger, or several will post something and then another, or several will post about that something saying "I've done my research and this is fraud, do not do it".

After this experience I had to seriously re-evaluate my couponing and the different strategies I used and followed through others. After reading about how badly the show showcased and allowed fraud to occur, and mis-lead people into believing they too could do this, I now realize 2 things. 1. I will never be able to accomplish those extremes and 2. I am done trying.

Stick with this blog...

and you will be fine. I am baffled that people really follow a blog and try and purchase wrong items just because someone tells them it works. You didn't question them or the ethics? I am sorry, I am not trying to be rude or mean, but at some point right and wrong should kick in here... the crap that is on TV is crap. Supported and dominated by the advertisers and other agendas. Again, sorry for going off on this, but I am continually amazed that some still think if something is on TV it must be true or accurate. If someone posts unethical couponing information I would hope that you never visit them again. Aren't there enough deals to be had doing it the right way???


I remember the razor sale. It was a $30 coupon good for a specific kind of electric razor that sells for around $110-$120.

MANY blogs were advocating using the razor on a cheaper model priced under $30 to get it free. A few people posted the "deal" here too and many of us (gently) corrected them and stated why that coupon shouldn't be used "just to get something free" on a product that the coupon didn't match.

But yes, this has been shown SO often on the show that it's become glorified, and people start thinking, "well, they got away with it, I should too."

Just because someone else does it does NOT make it right. At times readers will send links over to other blogs that have written long justifications on why it's okay to ignore the terms of such-and-such coupon, etc... again, "any other use constitutes fraud" is a pretty direct statement. When you start talking circles around that and saying "well it was the same BRAND of razor, it was the same BRAND of cereal" and justifying misusing coupons, you're throwing the ethics out the window.

Fake coupons = fake money

Why don't they just film a show with people using counterfeit money? When you make and use a fake coupon to buy things it is the same as making fake dollar bills. Why does anyone even want to run ads on this show? I know Dove body wash advertises. Going to email them today and complain.

We all knew how fake this show is but it should not even be allowed to stay on with showing kids using fake coupons and passing it off as real. It makes people think it is ok to do and they never show his mom having to pay for the fakes!

Kroger/Brands GAINED - - Couponers LOST!!

CIC is funded and backed by the Industry - the BIGGEST STAR of TLC EC was Kroger. The big BRANDS sponsored commercials during the TLC EC show. Northern ALLOWED these FRAUDULENT COUPONS to stay on EBAY even after the show aired!! I posted on Northern's FACEBOOK wall in October/November alerting them to HUNDREDS of free coupon listings!! STORES and BRANDS chose to look the other way in return for the HUGE PROFITS and PROMOTION of this show!! Kroger has the most to gain by rushing coupons to digitals (distribution of FSI Paper coupons are DOWN - kids don't eat GAS or DOG FOOD!!( show taught fraud and clearing shelves. Kroger allowed over 1,000 cereals bought and CATALINAS for one TLC EC Star. Now Kroger LIMITS 5 LIKE coupons and Kroger cashiers were forced to sign a contract that will allow them to be fired if the coupon policy is not followed strictly. Who lost BIG - the customers that propped Kroger/Brands profits. Boycott Kroger!!

I was rejected because I wanted to do it correctly

Hello Jill,
I Have seen one of the shows, the first and that is it. I run several blogs and my main blog is a member of Coupon Integrity. Just after the begining if the first sersis I interviewed Natan Engle for a post on my blog. He seemed likeable and to talk to him he seemed to have good intentions. During our conversation my shopping habits came up and he suggested and refered me to TLC to appear on the show. Well I am a Walgreens shopper and all of us that shop Walgreens knows that you would not be able to do what these people do at one Walgreens store. I exchanged several emails with TLC and was finnaly dropped. I informed them I could and would produce the numbers that any of their shoppers do at a profit. I don't shop Walgreens unless there are deals to be made. I make a profit every time I shop Walgreens which is something the TLC shoppers do not do. Well Back to my point, They decided against me because I requested that I do the show the way I shop "By the rules" That was something they were not intrested in at all and it now is coming front and center in the media thanks to blogs like yours and many others. Keep it up they (extremes) will go away at some point.
The want to be Extremers took over Walgreens for a long time and I completely stoped shopping that store because I had some rather heated discussions with these people with their carts full of product. Standing in line while these people stood at the register screaming and demanding they get their deals with no reguard to the rules at all. Walgreens finnaly decided to enforce the rules that they already had and it stopped the extremers and yes I am back to shopping Walgreens at a profit and enjoying it. If the sale warrants I start shopping at 12:00 midnight on Saturday night and shop untill my coupons are gone. I have hit up to 30 Walgreens in 16 hours of shopping and gathered $1,600 of product at a $250 profit (in RRs) and never cleared a shel. The profit is used to get Groceries with coupons of corse at Walgreens. Last year I donated about $15,000 of product to freinds, family and charities. I say about because I do not keep track of my donations, I Just give it away. It is great to see all of the fraud starting to surface, Us honest couponers new from the start that this was not real and that there was never an attempt to make it real, it was "Made for TV"
Neal Miller

Walgreens Abuse

I've always loved shopping at my local Walgreens. But lately abusers are lining up at midnight gathering all the free deals and tying up the registers which are sparcely staffed at that hour.
Of course there's nothing left of the advertised deals by 8am Sunday morning, because one or two people were allowed to take everything.
One Walgreens near me posted signs on the "freebies" stating "One purchase per person per day." This was great because I actually got to try the product on Monday!
Hopefully Walgreens will incorporate simalar policies nationwide so that their 'draw' items can continue to be used to do just that -draw in customers, rather than discourage them.
CVS has a more reasonable rebate program because you have to use your card & can only get the deal once.
Its much more fair. I don't particulary like waiting in line for scalpers to clear the stores best deals out only to illegally resale the products.
Its disgusting.
Maybe Walgreens will change its policy soon so that it benefits more of its customers as well as its bottom line.

Can someone explain why nothing ever happens?

Hi, Jill,
I've often read your blog but just started an account so I can ask you why it is that no one ever seems to face consequences for fraud and misuse.
The CIC must have lawyers, and I know the stores have fleets of them.
Why no lawsuit against TLC? Why no prosecutions of people doing what-let's face it-is stealing?
At the very least, why no cease and desist letters to bloggers promoting fraudulent or illegal behaviors? Sure, the internet is a big place, but I bet we're all thinking of the same blog that benefited from this show big time and continues to promote the purchase of coupons, and a lot of other wink, wink scenarios.
I'm not meaning to sound negative. I just feel like it's a disservice to the honest, ethical couponers when folks who misuse them face almost no real consequences. I don't want to see this kid thrown in coupon jail, but I'd sure Love TLC to have to issue some sort of disclaimer at the start of their programs.
If you have any insight here, I'd really love it!

It costs too much

I think it would cost them way too much to go to court.
It's the same as what happened last year. Last March and April there were a LOT of debit card numbers stolen all over the country, including mine. I live in Illinois, but the money was taken out at the ATM in California. So I told them "Great, you have the picture of that person so you can catch them". And the bank told me that it is way cheaper to just give the money back to all the customers then to ever prosecute those criminals.
I think it's the exact same case with the stores and the frauds.

We had a similar thing happen!

A few years ago, my mother in law's debit card was stolen and used to drain her checking account. There was not much money in there at the time - under $200 if I remember correctly. We knew which ATM was used because it was on the bank statement, and we said the same thing to both the bank and the police -- you have a photo or video of this person, and you can prosecute!

No one did anything - the bank didn't even release the person's image to the police. It wasn't enough money for them to worry about. Just thinking about this now makes me angry again. I remember we asked why the bank wouldn't even turn over the photo, and one of the police officers even said "It's not like you see on TV, this isn't CSI."

It's cheaper to just let it go.

As it has been explained to me...

... Without being able to access ALL of the unedited footage, and without seeing the actual, paper coupons someone uses, it's difficult to watch the show and say with 100% certainty that "this IS what someone DID do."

While the CIC can research and assist with allegations of fraud, they are not a law enforcement agency. Any charges or action that is going to be taken needs to be instigated by one of the parties harmed by the fraud -- either the store, or one of the manufacturers.

If a shopper uses coupons fraudulently in a store, either the store needs to report the fraud to the police, or the manufacturer needs to want to take action against the store or person committing the fraud. Back when Jaime Kirlew told the media specifically that she used Buddig deli meat coupons for a 16oz. package on the smaller 2oz. size packs to get them free, Buddig Meats took to their Facebook page to ask their audience if they wanted to see Buddig pursue charges. Overwhelmingly, fans of Buddig stated that yes, they wanted to see some consequence come from her admitting the misuse. But for whatever reason, Buddig did not prosecute. Until a company steps up and realizes that they are not going to be viewed as "coming down" on coupon shoppers, but rather hailed for making an example of someone committing fraud... we haven't seen much in the way of consequences.

This situation with Joel's shopping trip is interesting in that there WAS a consequence to him using counterfeit coupons. While to the best of my knowledge, Gordon-Pacific has not gone after Joel personally (remember, he is a minor) the store in which he shopped, Gelson's, did. We don't know what legal action Gelson's might have taken against him had his mother not reimbursed the store for the counterfeit coupons that he used. It seems that getting the money back may have been enough to satisfy Gelson's. With the CIC releasing today's statement that the coupons used in this shopping trip were indeed counterfeit, it's also the most confirmation we've had as of late regarding the fraud being shown on the show.

(Unless again, you count Jaime's admitting her Season 1 fraud to the Wall Street Journal. Even with her public admission of guilt, none of the manufacturers involved, or Safeway, has decided to do anything about it. Yet.)

UPDATE: 2/13/12, 5:13PM

After forwarding the CIC's statement to Dustin Smith, Dustin emailed the following response:

From: Dustin Smith
To: Jill Cataldo
Subject: Re: Coupon Information Corporation releases statement on "Extreme
Thread-Index: AQHM6qUggNouXTBzmEiYnNcSwpprUg==
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2012 23:13:42 +0000
user-agent: Microsoft-MacOutlook/
x-originating-ip: []

Hi Jill,

Thanks for the note. We will not be offering a comment.


Just a thought...

What if the honest, ethical couponers decided to let Dustin Smith know that we will no longer be watching not only Extreme Couponing but all of TLC, and any other Discovery Communications channel and we will let the companies that sponsor programs on these channels know that we will no longer be purchasing their products? If they are about the ratings and advertising dollars wouldn't we hit them where it hurts the most?

It may sound crazy but I do believe that enough people coming together can make a difference.

I am in...


Not only am I in...

I am also going to stop buying DVDs with documentaries Discovery produces, and, since I have decision-making power at my institution, I will ask the library to stop buying their DVDs which we will no longer show in class. I will also dissuade students from using their documentaries, end of story. Through the associations to which I belong, I will spread the word so that my colleagues stop supporting Discovery too. If they doubt I can do that, they can go on believing what they will, if it gives them comfort.

How about that?

I wonder

I guess the thought is also creeping into my mind -- how much of this is the individual and how much is really the producers of the show? Meaning ... are those coupons really the individual's idea OR are the producers just finding someone willing and handing them a stack of coupons to "work their magic" with?? Just a thought.

And, if the individual did indeed gain the coupons themselves (and not from the show), maybe it wasn't Joel's doing. Perhaps another member of the family got them and used the child, knowing full well he was a minor and that if they were "busted", the consequences would be less for a 16 year old??

Also, I don't know about this particular kid, but I do know when I was 16, I wasn't couponing. I was in high school, working a part time job and in my free time spending it with family and friends (mostly friends because, hello, I was SIXTEEN). While I'm not saying there's no kid out there in this world, I just think there'd be better things they'd want to spend their time on. ;)

"Are you an Extreme Couponer?"

I get this question a lot, and my answer is "NO WAY! I hate that show! It has ruined it for the real couponers!" I also get plenty of heavy sighing, eye-rolling and such both from cashiers and other customers when I hand over my stack of coupons. Then again, I often impress people with the money I save, and I'm happy to spend the extra few seconds to do it. However, I do believe they have made it way harder for us to save. Shame on you, TLC, shame on you!


I understand that TLC is encouraging this fraud to get good ratings. Good ratings equals more ad revenue for the network. Why do manufacturers continue to buy ads during this show? I guess ultimately it's the supermarkets that are the end victims since they do not get reimbursed for fraudulent coupons, but I just don't understand why the manufacturers would continue to support a show which features people trying to rip them off. Maybe if the manufacturers and their ad dollars boycott the show, it will go away. Wishful thinking, I guess.

Extreme Couponing is supported by their advertisers...

Why not send a letter to those manufacturers and let them know what you think of them supporting that show? I'm curious who advertises with it .. I do not watch the show unless I lost the remote!

It is on TONIGHT at 10:00 - 11:00 CST on OWN channel for Comcast channel 182. TLC is not the only station airing this junk!

BTW - P&G and Google were showing commercials before the videos on the TLC website.

I hate missing a deal due to shelf clearers too. Let's stop encouraging this behavior with our favorite products' advertising dollars!


TLC coupon fraud

Somehow this doesn't surprise me. Coupon fraud does not seem to deter some people and makes all of us look bad. Very sorry they even had a minor on the show who was committing fraud. I stopped watching and hopefully their ratings will go down enough that they will stop creating new shows. That is the only way I can see this stopping unless the show itself is held liable. Thank you Jill for all that you do for us legitimate couponers. I have been at this off and on for thirty years and this old dog still learns new legal tricks.


I actually feel bad for Joel. I don't think he knew they were fake. He probably bought them on eBay and thought he was going to be famous for getting such great deals. I saw him on an episode of Anderson Cooper talking about coupons! Maybe Anderson should expose TLC! :-)

Joel on Anderson Cooper

Hi- I saw the episode of Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show that Joel was on, and he and Anderson went shopping at a grocery store in NYC, where groceries are a lot more expensive. Joel saved way more than Anderson did, but he still only saved I believe around 60%, due to the fact that the store they shopped in did not double coupons. I don't know if any of the grocery stores in NYC double coupons.

I agree that he probably bought the laundry coupons on eBay, and maybe did not realize that they were counterfeit. I am just curious if anyone knows how much they get paid for appearing on EC.

I watched the final episode for Extreme Couponing All Stars, which aired a few weeks ago. I believe two of the three finalists had a ton of free frozen pizza coupons. I think maybe some were for Freschetta. I wonder if they got the coupons from the manufacturer. At least the store they were at did not double coupons, and the only way they were able to save so much money, was because they had 100's of free coupons. Apparently none of the grocery stores in Nevada double coupons.

One of the finalists got disqualified, because she used the wrong coupons for an item that she purchased in bulk, and the store would not accept them. This was the vegan woman. She would not have won anyway, because she did not have 100 coupons for free pizza.

Hope this helps, Nancy

One of the fi

Cat Litter

He also had a bunch of $7.99 coupons for cat litter. I haven't seen those...anyone else?


They were fake and on the CIC's list of counterfeits.

Maybe not?

I'm not sure if the cat litter coupons on the show were fake or not, but you can get $7.99 off coupons direct from Fresh Step as a reward for participating in their Paw Points Program. Every box of the Fresh Step litter (that I've bought) comes with a code that you enter on their website. Once you get enough points, you can redeem them for coupons, merchandise for you or your cat, etc. I have gotten that particular coupon in the past. One thing though - that coupon has a "price tag" of 500 points and the boxes of cat litter usually give either 25 or 50 points depending on the size. It can take a while to amass enough points to get the coupon.

or if the above link doesn't work and scroll through the catalog.

Bought online

Three of the people who used Fresh Step free product coupons have stated afterwards that they bought them online. Those same Fresh Step counterfeit coupons were also on the list of free coupons sold by Savvy Shopper Site, which was a big counterfeit coupon ring in Phoenix that was busted last year. Many of the free product coupons used by the people on the show were the same coupons shown on that site for sale at the time those episodes were filmed.

Woah, many people are amazed

Woah, many people are amazed at these extreme couponing episodes. They sure glorify counterfeit fraudulent coupons.