"Gang-Cut" coupons hurt stores, manufacturers and consumers

Last week, I attended the Association of Coupon Professionals 2011 Industry Coupon Conference in Atlanta. This is the first in a series of articles written to share my observations from the conference on topics related to consumer coupon usage - Jill


What is a "Gang-Cut" coupon?

Whether you're familiar with the term or not, it's a problem that has plagued the coupon industry for decades. However, with coupon usage on the rise, gang-cut coupons are again causing issues for manufacturers and retailers alike.

"Gang-Cutting" refers to the practice of stacking multiple, like insert pages on top of one another, then cutting through the entire stack at the same time, either with a scissors or with a paper cutter. While this would seem like a time-saver to consumers, gang-cutting has a long, darker history as it relates to stores.

Many years ago, manufacturers were having problems with stores gang-cutting coupons from unsold newspapers, then turning them in for reimbursement. It had gotten so bad that one organization estimated that over 108 million coupons were redeemed fraudulently annually -- and that was back in 1977!

In a sting operation almost worthy of its own feature film, the industry fought back. Targeting an area in New York where gang-cutting and fraudulent redemption was suspected to be rampant, a new "manufacturer" offered a new product in the coupon inserts - Breen Laundry Detergent. The trouble was... Breen detergent did not exist. The 25-cent Breen coupon was designed solely to catch organizations that were gang-cutting inserts and submitting all of the coupons for redemption.

And cut them, they did. Over 117,000 coupons for the non-existent Breen detergent were submitted for redemption from that single ad campaign, giving investigators specific information as to which stores, retailers and firms were gang-cutting on a massive scale. (At the ACP conference, presenter Ron Fischer, founder of Redemption Processing Representatives, actually had one of these Breen detergent coupons in his hand while telling this story!)


What does this have to do with today's consumers?

The Breen sting raised awareness that large-scale gang-cutting and misredemption existed. Manufacturers naturally decided that they did not want to redeem gang-cut coupons, as gang-cutting was indicative that the coupons had not been distributed directly to customers in the newspaper. Gang-cutting still exists today, but the spotlight is also on consumer gang-cutting.

Gang-cutting is of concern to manufacturers for several reasons. One, if a number of identically-cut coupons are submitted for redemption, the manufacturer may assume that the coupons have been sold to the consumer, either via a clipping service or via Ebay auctions. Because resale of coupons violates the terms that the manufacturer has set, the manufacturer can (and often does) refuse to reimburse the store that submitted the coupons. Even if one single customer legitimately did buy 42 bottles of ketchup, if their 42 ketchup coupons are gang-cut, each coupon will bear the same cut lines, shape and markings as the one before it. If the coupons are identified as gang-cut, they're flagged, and the manufacturer does not have to reimburse.

How does the redemption agent identify gang-cut coupons, when thousands of loose coupons are processed each day by clearinghouses? Debbie Settle of Inmar, one of the largest redemption agents and clearinghouses in the country, gave a detailed presentation about the "life" of a coupon, from the time it's created until the time it reaches the clearinghouse. Along the way, several automated systems are designed to identify gang-cut coupons and remove them from the mix.

While most coupons are shredded at the end of their "life cycle," gang-cut coupons don't make it that far. They are identified, grouped together, and pulled from the rest of a retailer's particular submission. Again, because their gang-cut appearance indicates that the coupons may have been sold by a third party, the manufacturer does not have to reimburse. These coupons aren't shredded -- instead, they're kept together and filed for one year with the redemption agent as evidence. At that point, if the store wishes to be reimbursed for them, they may enter a back-and-forth process of having to show legitimate sales for that number of product at their store or location. This Proof-of-Purchase Analysis takes time and effort, and understandably, retailers may not wish to spend additional resources on it -- is it worth the store's time to chase the lost revenue on a case-by-case basis, paying one of their own employees to go back, audit and provide evidence for each claim? If they accept the manufacturer's decision, the store does lose money on the coupons that they accepted but will never see revenue from.

How many gang-cut coupons indicate a problem to the redemption agent? During the conference's presentation on misredemption, we were shown numerous slides of gang-cut coupons that had been identified and filed - examples of physical misredmption. The largest like number of gang-cut coupons shown on one slide was 113. The smallest? 12.

For consumers using coupons, many of whom purchase multiple newspapers to maximize their savings, the issue of gang cutting is important to understand. It is entirely plausible, feasible, and likely that one person choosing to buy ten newspapers, then stacking the pages together to cut them all at once, believes that their coupons will be accepted and redeemed by the store. But, that same store may ultimately never see the revenue from those coupons, simply because of the way that they were stacked and gang-cut.

Retailers respond.

While manufacturers are concerned with gang-cutting, stores are too. During the ACP conference, a panel of retailers held an open question-and-answer session with the industry audience. Representatives from Shop-Rite, Winn-Dixie and other large supermarket chains stated that the interest in "Extreme Couponing" has also resulted in an increase in gang-cut coupons appearing at their stores -- and they're not being reimbursed for many of them.

One retailer representative stated that they have tried to discourage "extreme couponers" from patronizing their stores, because they are also a chain that doubles coupons. When someone comes in with a large amount of gang-cut coupons, which are then doubled, the store is both losing money on the doubling (which the store "eats" and is not reimbursed for) but they then lose again when the shopper's gang-cut coupons are denied for reimbursement.

Another retailer said that they have tracked their "extreme couponers'" shopping habits throughout various store locations within their chain. He said that the store's closed-circuit television system has the ability to zoom to "fingernail level" and see what coupons are being redeemed at the register by calling up the date of a transaction on a computer screen and clicking that day and time's video. He said that they can also "follow" the same shoppers' path, again via in-store video, as the shopper goes from store to store to store, using up more multiples of the same coupon, often clearing the shelves in the process.

Rite Aid made some waves within the coupon community in March of this year, when it added this line to its revised coupon policy: "Rite Aid reserves the right to deny redemption for coupons that exhibit signs of misrepresentation, including, but not limited to: “gang cut”(coupons presented in bulk that appear to have been cut by machine – a form of coupon fraud), similar cuts and tears..."

Additionally, Kroger rattled Texas coupon shoppers when they recently announced that they were discontinuing coupon doubling in their Houston-area stores. While their press release did not explicitly state the reason for ceasing doubling, numerous consumer coupon boards voiced extreme couponing as a contributing factor. And, considering the retailers' statements made at the conference, stores are indeed feeling the sting of not being reimbursed for gang-cut coupons. It's a double blow if they're losing on the doubling as well.

Over the past month, shoppers from around the country have emailed to state that some of their local stores have begun limiting shoppers to the number of like coupons per transaction -- and the limits are small, 2 or 4 like coupons per transaction per day. This trend was first noted in late 2010 on the manufacturers' side, when Procter & Gamble added the "Limit 4 like coupons per transaction" text to its manufacturer coupons.

Where does this leave consumers?

It's important to understand how strongly the manufacturers and industry want to see the resale of coupons ended. During the Coupon Information Council's presentation, gang-cutting and coupon resale were also discussed, and retailers were advised to deny any coupons at the register that appeared to have been gang cut. Retailers were even told to deny coupons if shoppers casually mentioned that the coupons "came from Ebay." (Again, if the manufacturer ultimately denies them at the clearinghouse, they're not going to see credit for them anyway.)

It does leave consumers in an odd situation though. If I want to buy 10 of an item during a "10-for-$10" sale, and I have legitimately obtained 10 coupons from buying 10 newspapers, I don't want to hurt the store I'm shopping at by giving them coupons that they might not be reimbursed for. I've also never been a gang-cutter. I stack my inserts together in the same file folder pocket, then flip through individually -- but again, I usually have 2-4 sets of inserts most weeks, depending on whether I got a couple of extra papers or stuck to the copies I subscribe to. I'm an avid coupon user, but certainly not an extreme one.

The "best-practices" approach to help ensure that your store will receive redemption for the coupons you're submitting is to simply cut the coupons you use, individually, with scissors.

I realize this article's bound to rattle some heavy coupon users who've become accustomed to using scrapbook slicers or single-blade paper cutters to gang-cut their coupons -- certainly, many coupon sites around the web advocate these practices to save time and labor. Others go a step further, encouraging users to staple the inserts together in the middle of the coupon, then cut around it - resulting in a stapled stack of identical coupons. Unfortunately this practice provides the clearinghouse and the manufacturer with even more evidence that a group of identical coupons were cut by the same person -- and further raise the likelihood that the store will not be reimbursed for them.


That do not sound right to the average person!

What's wrong with being neat and cutting your coupons nicely? I can see if you have 100's of coupons for an item. Well say you have about 24 items. You buy 24 items and used neat cut coupons, you should not be in any trouble. If they don't want people to buy the products why make coupons. I shop for at least 3 other people sometime and I use coupons. I also give coupons away from my papers that I don't use. I sometimes just tare them out, so if they get neat cuts it should be a lot easier.

So hard now to just save money!

This is gonna make it really hard to clip coupons in a timely fashion! Let myself get just two weeks behind, but ended up spending most of my day off yesterday clipping... and that was only dealing with 4-6 copies of each insert, still stacking like sheets together and carefully cutting with scissors. I'm pretty picky about neatness and staying on the dotted lines, and hate when my papers get soggy or torn, but maybe a little mess might be a good thing so my coupons don't get rejected as being "gang-cut"? It's getting harder & harder to do this both properly and efficiently so I still have time for other pursuits besides cutting paper! Lol, I just realized how funny that would sound to anyone who knows me given that my main hobby is making greeting cards! Anyway, I hope that eventually it will stop feeling like we're in a war between frugal shoppers, stores and manufacturers, because for the last year couponing has been the only way for me to make ends meet...

...and I guess I'll have to

...and I guess I'll have to stop stapling together the coupons I clip but don't file in my binder because I give them away to friends or fellow shoppers who do use those products.

Wow, Learning so much!

Thanks so much for these articles. I am a couponer and have learned these practices that you are talking about through other sites, but I will not use them anymore. I didn't know how much it would hurt others in the long run, they seemed like "stratgegies". But NO MORE! I want everything i do to be on the up and up, someone God would be pleased with. I want my children to learn the same thing. I don't want others to be hurt for my own selfishness, nor do I want the stores to lose money on these practices. I can't tell you how grateful I am and I'm so happy to have found your site!

Dr. Pepper Ten coupons state "Void if coupon is gang cut"

Update - I've unlocked the thread to resume discussion of gang-cut coupons, provided it stays civil.

When this post originally went up back in April, many people wrote and posted that they felt this was just a joke or excuse. Despite the evidence, they felt that manufacturers rejecting coupons simply because of the way they're cut wasn't reality.

Have you read the wording closely on the Dr. Pepper Ten 2-liters that are current through 11/21?

"Void if coupon is gang cut or mint condition."

(And yes, mint condition is also a reason for deny-ability -- if a large stack of coupons is gang-cut and not "handled" enough by people, they can be considered too clean by the clearinghouse -- another indicator that they may have been sold.)

how many

coupons did Dr. Pepper issue? Thousands?
So someone back at Dr. Pepper coupon headquarters (or more like many many people) are sitting at a desk attempting to match each and every coupon to each and every one of those thousands of other coupons? What do you think that is going to cost them in manpower to do that? If several hundred coupons got redeemed that Dr. Pepper gambled would not be redeemed because they were sold or whatever, do you think the cost of redeeming those coupons is greater than the manpower expended to do all that matching and then all the additional cost to keep track of or track down where those coupons were redeemed (because in theory a coupon that was gang cut would match another across the country) and then notify the store, etc, etc, etc,......all taking manpower and costing $$$$. Certainly not a good business practice.

I could do a statistical probability calculation to figure out how many combinations of coupon to coupon matches they would have to do to make sure no two coupons were cut at the same time, but I know it is a ridiculously large number.

Clearinghouse

The clearinghouse has the technology and ability to automatically remove gang-cut coupons from the line as they come through if they're cut alike - that was included above in the original article. It is not being done by hand:

How does the redemption agent identify gang-cut coupons, when thousands of loose coupons are processed each day by clearinghouses? Debbie Settle of Inmar, one of the largest redemption agents and clearinghouses in the country, gave a detailed presentation about the "life" of a coupon, from the time it's created until the time it reaches the clearinghouse. Along the way, several automated systems are designed to identify gang-cut coupons and remove them from the mix.

At the event I attended back in April when I wrote this original story, Inmar did a whole presentation on this. Gang-cut coupons are automatically removed from the line, filed, and stored as evidence for a year. If the store comes back and asks why they weren't reimbursed for those coupons, the coupons are kept on file to show that they were gang-cut and not reimbursable:

They are identified, grouped together, and pulled from the rest of a retailer's particular submission. Again, because their gang-cut appearance indicates that the coupons may have been sold by a third party, the manufacturer does not have to reimburse. These coupons aren't shredded -- instead, they're kept together and filed for one year with the redemption agent as evidence.

I realize this may seem like "no big deal" to consumers, but manufacturers are taking it very seriously. "Void if gang-cut" isn't being put on coupons for no reason - and stores like Rite-Aid stating that they won't accept gang-cut coupons in their own coupon policies is also not being added randomly - it's there because the stores are getting burned when they can't receive reimbursement for these coupons. We'll likely see more manufacturers warning right in the coupon's terms that they will not reimburse if the coupon is gang-cut.

so

how do they match a coupon that was gang cut that was redeemed in LA with one from the same batch with one redeemed in NYC. Yeah if 10 come across the 'line' at the same time that would work (ala extreme couponing) but otherwise they would have to scan each coupon and keep it's 'profile' on record to match against every other coupon redeemed.....kind of like matching fingerprints - we have coupon1 fingerprint and then check thousands of other coupons to see if we have a match. Sure it could be done, but I am not seeing manufacturers investing the CSI type equipment.

Well, my dear Jill...

this decision is irrational and has no basis. There will be one day that some person will fell like suing a couple of people, or indeed groups who will boycott said stores and products, and that will be the end of the story. :) Because you should also picture this:

I have this unfortunate friend who, at the unfairly young age of 40, was struck by rheumatoid arthritis! Despite the meds and all, the swelling is terrible and the pain excruciating. I don't wish this disease to my worst enemy. Now said friend coupons, and yes, she will gang-cut. Not because she wants to mislead anyone, but because she is in pain and needs to coupon. And no, she cannot get someone else to do it etc., that's really a -forgive me- silly suggestion, if anyone wants to make it. My friend has never hurt anybody, has never cheated, nor stolen, so why shouldn't she?

I have read all your posts on your defense of manufacturers and gang-cutting in particular, and I am sure you are conveying accurately the arguments in the interests of big corporations. However, none of these arguments is logical. There is no way a counterfeit coupon can sneak in, if one gang-cuts inserts, as there is no way people can prevent the counterfeiting of coupons if they forbid gang-cutting. If a person is determined to break the law and counterfeit, believe me, they will do so no matter what, and they will take all preventative measures to make sure they are not detected.

You know I respect you, Jill and all, but hey! Logic is part of what I do, and there is no logic there at all! Nor lack of ethics. It's just a bunch of greedy people who need to keep the balance of everything in place, so they need the coupons. At the same time, they are concerned they will no longer earn one trillion gazillions per cent, but rather one trillion gazillions per cent minus a billion bucks at worst. For one individual maybe this sounds like a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things it is not. And no, nobody's job is at stake, jobs are usually threatened by more greed, as we have daily proof, alas!!

We consumers are not such morons, and we have the power! As long as we realize it.

The problem is...

... the manufacturers hold all of the cards on this one. Consumers can say "well, we just won't buy those products then," and certainly, there is power in that, but that's really the only thing we can do. We can't change the terms that manufacturers are putting on their coupons.

The ethics of what we do as coupon shoppers have always been important to me. You write, "My friend has never hurt anybody, has never cheated, nor stolen, so why shouldn't she [gang cut her coupons]?" But as consumers, honoring the the "no gang cutting" stipulation on a coupon is the same as honoring other stipulations like "Limit 4 like coupons per transaction," "Limit one coupon per item purchased," or "Valid only on the product and size stipulated." We can't pick and choose which rules to follow and which ones to ignore, or we're no better than the people on Extreme Couponing using 400 Marcal coupons in a single transaction when the coupons state "Limit One Coupon Per Customer" on them.

>>I am sure you are conveying accurately the arguments in the interests of big corporations. However, none of these arguments is logical.<<

I'm conveying what I know from attending informational sessions with many manufacturers while these issues are being discussed - and I've tried to simply present the facts. Trust me, I continue to receive a LOT of negative email about this, most along the lines of "well, they CAN'T DO THIS." But when "Void if Gang Cut" starts showing up on coupons, it's clear that manufacturers are taking it seriously and are doing it. They're warning stores right on the coupon not to accept them if they're gang-cut.

And the fact still remains that using gang-cut coupons ultimately hurts the stores when they're not reimbursed for them. The person who cut the coupon got the discount, so they're happy - but the store loses money, tightens its restrictions -- and then begins telling shoppers it won't accept their coupons if they're gang-cut in the future.

How can they tell the gang

How can they tell the gang cut coupon from my very cleanly and accurately cut coupon (my daughter has a PHD in scissors!)?

And how can they tell the gang cut coupon that I bought and recut sloppy from the rest of the hand cut or torn coupons?

I've not seen the coupon sort systems, but have worked around computerized distribution systems that deal with other paper materials that scan thousands of items a minute, and there is just no way these machines can accurately tell all machine cut coupons from hand cut coupons without making LOTS of errors. A CSI lab would need to make microscopic examinations of the edges to accurately tell the difference.

Exactly

I have even heard of people who have OCD and are very careful to cut along the dotted lines. Are they going to be punished for this? Besides, you cannot find these manufacturers anywhere: if you cut the coupons clumsily and destroy the expiration date, they are out. If you cut them nicely along the lines THEY put there, they are again out, what's the deal? HOW exactly are we supposed to cut coupons?

I'm telling you, that's why the whole thing is nonsense. I say, complain to consumers groups until some eccentric millionaire sues, boycott some stores and some products, and all will be well.

I'm also hoping that Extreme Couponing will not be renewed for a third season. It's starting to be too repetitive, and I understand that there has been some serious intervention in production...

Renewed

An industry friend of mine (so treat this as the "maybe" that it is) told me about two weeks ago that it was renewed for a 3rd season.

As the Dutch say:

Oh wee!! Helaas!!

(I don't think any translation is needed! lol)

more likely

the store will stop allowing coupons from particular manufacturers that are playing CSI and nit picking a small amount of coupons to not reimburse (yeah someone is going to try to make them prove that those coupons were cut together, otherwise it looks like the man is trying to get out of their responsibility to redeem). So when stores stop allowing that particular man. coupons, then the sales of those products will drop and that will affect the man.
Sounds like man. are crybabies because they are having to redeem more coupons than they 'gambled' on. If the man. does not want to redeem 10,000 coupons then don't print them.

Absolutely!

I couldn't agree more. And mark my words: in this land of litigation happiness, one day someone will sue, and we'll all have a good laugh. It's extremely entertaining to see how the whole balance stands and how stabilization efforts will play out. In the food chain we have manufacturers on the one hand, consumers on the other, and their liaisons in the middle. It follows a law of nature (yeah, I know, I'm an Enlightenment kid)! lol

I disagree :)

The CONSUMER has always held the cards since time immemorial. As long as said consumer is informed, he/she can steer the market. And believe me, in an era of lawsuits, there will be an interesting one filed one of these days. Not all couponers are low-income folks who are trying hard to make ends meet, just read The Millionaire Next Door for some great insights. As for my friend, she will continue to do what gives her less pain to the inconvenience of the greedy corporations. And no, she doesn't "gang-cut" hundreds of coupons, but hey, even three cut together are considered to be so. The whole "sour-loser" response on the part of the industry of greed is, frankly, nonsense. As I said, I know EXACTLY how much they make and their very questionable, unethical ways.

5/1 Update

After writing this story, I received a lot of outcry from fans of gang-cutting who sent me links to sites showing exactly how to staple and cut large stacks of inserts with paper cutters or scrapbook slicers, saying that it was "their right" to cut them however they want.

Understand that it is also the manufacturer's right to deny payment for those coupons to your stores too -because- of the way they're cut.

Others wrote to say "this isn't really happening." (To which, I ask, why would the industry's largest annual conference be devoting time to discussing it then? It would be difficult to find a more authoritative source than the ACP.)

Many of you know that I also work as a consultant to both manufacturers and retailers in various capacities. Last week, I spoke with a supermarket chain in the southern US who told me that they had over $15,000 worth of coupons from one single, cereal manufacturer denied by the clearinghouse...last month.

Anyone who does not feel that "this is really happening" has to ask themselves this question: Do you honestly feel that retailers aren't going to react to a $15,000 loss from a single manufacturer in a single month? They are.

Rite-Aid was the first to add "no gang-cut coupons" to their coupon policy this year, and they will likely not be the last.

Comments have been locked.

Unfortunately, I've had to lock this thread due to the conversation degenerating into personal attacks between forum members which diverted completely away from the subject of this article. (I do understand that fans of gang-cutting are very passionate about their methods, but the discussion got completely out of hand.)

Future disregard for civility will result in account suspension.

Tonight was the first night I watched Extreme Couponing..

And I was enraptured. Large family, if I could even save 200 dollars, I would think I was all that. But anyway...

I don't understand why it is illegal to use coupons that I haven't cut myself. If the coupon has been printed, who cares who cut it out? If I use a coupon on a product that hasn't run through the register, it beeps and they tell me that I didn't purchase that item or it is outdated. If I purchase the item, what does it matter where I got the coupon? Just curious...

possible solution?

Would it be possible for a store to "trim" all coupons before submitting them for reimbursement? Is that illegal to do? I know that part of the problem is that stores themselves are submitting coupons fraudulently. But if stores have used their best discretion in accepting coupons and are worried about not being reimbursed, then why not trim up your legitimate coupons before submitting them?

I call B.S.

I don't get it... takes 5 to 10 minutes to print a sales report in any chain store. Any chain store will always sell many, many more of a product w/out a coupon than with a coupon. Any major food company that ships directly to a chain also knows exactly, real-time, how much of a product they've shipped to a chain. They won't risk making a chain mad by not paying for some coupons. I will still stack my 6 inserts and cut. This sounds like some arena is trying to get some people to quit buying coupons and/or clearing shelves.

I work in a retail store and

I work in a retail store and I also use coupons. It is not just the stores that are hurt by illegal use of coupons, It hurts the employees as well. When a store doesnt get credit for coupons it comes out of their profit. If the store doesnt make a profit the hours get cut. If the hours get cut then the employees don't work. It is a cycle that doesnt always have a happy ending. As long as all customers follow a companys coupon policy and work to make sure they are couponing the legal way, every one can be happy. And it does hurt stores when one person wipes out a shelf because then the 50 customers after them are angry because the store is out of an item.

Thank you for the information!

I am brand new to couponing, so this is good to know. Not only did I learn about gang cutting, but you answered a question I had. I was not sure if I could clip multiple coupons for each items or if one coupon would cover all the items I purchased, so thank you for keeping this site informative.

Thanks for the information.

It is discouraging however that some of the blog followers are so head strong about not stopping their clipping method. I am quite shocked. I personally will do whatever little bit of effort needs to be done to make sure the stores I frequent are getting their maximum value back. I agree with the poster that said it is ridiculous to be informed of something by Jill that is a concern and will take a change in habit for some and then just completely disregard. Very interesting. I guess I do live in my own little world where I see this community as friends and family and when I see things like this I am just disappointed, that is all I can say.

If your time/pride/stubbornness is that valuable then who am I to say I suppose. I am very grateful for the information and couponing for me is a gift. Not a right.

what are the lines around the coupon for then?

I buy 6 papers at a time. I'm not going to cut them one by one nor will i cut sloppy. I cut along the dashed lines.

What is with the paranoia on this blog lately anyway? this is just making people scared and paranoid about using coupons.

Like you said...

You are not doing anything wrong so you should have no cause for concern. Jill is only suggesting we cut them individually, whether we do so or not is entirely up to us.

Moderators

There are several moderators here. (The site attracts over 30,000 unique viewers a week -- it would be impossible to maintain the blog alone.)

I do not think anyone accused anyone of anything. Moderators are capable of expressing their opinions here, just as anyone else is. I do not want to see the comments degenerate in this manner -- I always welcome a healthy discussion of the issues, but if things get out of control, the comments will be locked for posting.

FWIW

For what it's worth, she is openly stating that her opinion is just that, an opinion. She's not abusing her moderator powers to silence dissenting or critical viewpoints (unlike other bloggers out there *cough*j'aime*cough*) or questions raised.

I have no problem with additional moderators on the board, and frankly welcome them since it keeps the spam and real junk out.

Cutting on, of course!

So long as you cut your coupons on the lines (even six at a time) you should have nothing to fear and the stores will have no problems redeeming them. Again, as Jill explained in her article, the problem which the manufacturers and stores are trying to combat are the coupon resellers as many of them obtain their coupon inserts via less than legitimate ways, thus diverting the advertising effort (that is what coupons are -- advertising) away from the intended audience.

Something to think about: Notice how in all of the pictures above, the gang-cut coupons are recognized by their irregular-yet-similar cut edges. Here we're seeing a collision of economics and physics. For a reseller to turn a profit, they must cut as many coupons as possible as fast as possible, but the more sheets of paper they try to cut at a time the more those sheets will slide under the shearing forces of the scissors/guillotine. Sure, you can make cleaner cuts with regularly sharpened blades or specialty equipment, but many resellers apparently don't bother since maintaining quality equipment is expensive and besides it's not their problem since they have no intention of actually using the coupons themselves. Of course, for all I know (never having bought coupons) some sellers may do a bang-up job cutting cleanly. In which case there's not much that can be done to detect or stop them, but at the same time you don't have to worry about the manufacturers denying payment to stores either.

As long as you slow down enough to cut your coupons on the lines, it shouldn't matter if you cut one or two or six at a time for yourself. You bought those six papers through legitimate channels. It's the "big fish" that are causing the problems, and those are the people these policies are directed at. So, think of those coupon lines as a DUI field sobriety test or a CAPTCHA on a website -- a minor annoyance for the honest folks and occasionally "beat" by some playing the system, but still a good tool for deterring the more egregious offenders.

Jill was right.

...when she said that this would be a controversial topic!

Basically, the point I was trying to make in the previous post is that there are actual physical limitations to being able to cut coupons in bulk, and it is those physical limitations which provide the clues to manufacturers and stores that mis-redemption of the coupon may have occurred. Go back and carefully re-read the article. The manufacturers are not concerned about moms trying to save a minute here and there as they prepare for a shopping trip. They are concerned about people re-selling coupons in bulk and/or stores redeeming coupons that were not collected as part of the sale transaction. It is the reselling of coupons which is prohibited by the terms printed therein. Notice that the coupon itself does not proscribe the method in which the coupon is cut. Next, go back and look at the Rite Aid policy again. The policy does not forbid gang-cutting, but rather any coupons that exhibit signs of misrepresentation of which obvious gang-cutting is but one sign.

Bottom line: the act of gang-cutting in and of itself is not wrong, and it most certainly is not shoplifting.

However, because many people who violate coupon terms do employ gang-cutting as well, it can raise suspicion and cause problems for the stores. So, if you personally cut several coupons at once for your own convenience, you're not going to burn in hell. [<--- LOL at filter] You just run the risk of causing problems for the store. Jill strives to do the utmost to maintain an excellent relationship with her store, so she says to cut them individually, and for that I applaud her. However, at the same time if some of the readers here need to cut two or four or six at once for time's sake, we don't need to shout them down as being villainous cheaters either.

Thanks!

Your summary makes a lot of sense. :)

newsworthy

I would rather know what is going on in the world of couponing even if its not what we want to hear. Do you turn on the news at night expecting only happy stories? Besides if you are using coupons correctly there is nothing to worry about at all.

newsworthy yes

...but Jill is literally telling us to cut out our coupons one at a time so none of them look the same so we don't get accused of using bought/gang-cut coupons. I have done nothing wrong. I get my papers legitimately and bring them home and cut them myself. I didn't buy them off the internet. Like you said, if I'm not doing anything wrong, there is nothing to worry about, but she wants us to worry enough to cut them out one by one and make sure no one looks alike. come on... that is just instilling fear in people who aren't doing anything wrong.

Maybe they didn't know it's wrong.

When a store as big as Rite Aid puts it in their coupon policy that they will not accept gang-cut coupons, and calls them that by name? That is newsworthy enough for me. If the other major stores follow and do the same thing, Walgreens, CVS, Target etc are you still going to think this was not worth knowing about?

I have always cut my coupons out one at a time. I would not of thought to do it another way.

i get my coupons

i get my coupons legitimately. for them not to be accepted because of the way i cut them is preposterous and absurd.

The point isn't that if you

The point isn't that if you gang-cut your coupons, you're committing fraud, or shoplifting.

And it's not that the store might reject your coupons and prevent you from using them.

The point is that the manufacturer may reject the coupons when the store submits them for reimbusement. If you gang-cut, knowing that the store likely won't get reimbursed, you're saying that you don't care that the store is just losing money so you can get a discount.

I, personally, don't want to cause my store to lose money. So if I do gang-cut, I will be careful to cut exactly on the lines, or even only cut 5 at a time instead of 10 or more. Or I may choose to cut each one individually. It doesn't really matter.

Gang-cutting coupons that you legitimately purchased, being careful to cut on the lines, so the store will get reimbursed, is NOT the same as shoplifting.
Gang-cutting coupons that you legitimately purchased, not caring about cutting on the lines, and knowing full well that the store will most likely be losing their money because of it, then in my mind, yes, it is basically the same as shoplifting - purposefully stealing profits from a store.

Yeah

I'm not cutting mine out one at time either....if someone wants to volunteer to do that, let me know. I don't have the time.

No time k9?

No time to cut coupons out properly but plenty of time to snipe at people's comments? I wish you peace as well:)

THIS IS SO NOT TRUE

of all the comments you put on this site, this is the most absurd - I never replied to your posts before but you must spend sooo much time fighting with everybody that you absolutely would have the time, if you just STOPPED fighting publicly.

Do not bother replying - the article was very informative, I cut one at a time, and I am not reading further.

I wish you peace.

I agree

Although I do not post often either, I do read everything, everyday. I too have seen K9 attack certain members over and over again including icoupon2 no matter what the subject is. I think K9 is taking icoupon2's analogy and trying to turn it into something it wasn't. It seems icoupon2 is trying to say that if you know the store may not get reimbursed for your coupons, why would you even risk it?

Ok Coupon Savings, I think we both better duck because I'm sure we'll be next on K9's list!

What if your newspaper

doesn't include any of the inserts. The rural areas are unlikely to get the inserts in their local paper. I live in a rural area and the local paper doesn't have inserts and surrounding area papers are also without inserts. The large paper indicates that it covers the eastern part of our state but it doesn't do home deliveries. You can subscribe via mail but then it comes without inserts. I have been fortunate thus far to be able to get that paper out of the newspaper box on Sunday morning for the most part but there have been a couple of times that I utilized the clipping service to buy whole inserts b/c I missed out (those boxes frequently malfunction). I have also been in a position of being on vacation and running into the local CVS and buying a couple of that area's Sunday paper that has the inserts. I would prefer to buy my own papers and cut my very own coupons but I have found that sometimes it isn't an option. In the end......I prefer the name brand but I am not above heading over to Aldi's and buying what they have to offer without the coupons that the manufacturer obviously doesn't want to put in my hands.

Gang Cutters

I'm shocked by some of these responses. "The manufacturer and the stores need to work it out" "Who is really being hurt? The stores" "I'm not going to uphold their bottom line, I'm going to uphold my FAMILY'S bottom line". Newsflash...the stores and the manufacturers HAVE worked it out...and that's what they've decided, gang cut coupons won't be paid out. Period...end of story. You don't care about your store's bottom line? Will you care when their bottom line is affected enough for them to change their coupon policies not in your favor? Of course...you'll be up in arms ranting and raving and how dare they. How dare YOU is a bigger question. What makes you all so special, so busy so..whatever it is that you think you are that rules and policies don't apply to you? If there isn't a tiara on your head, you are not the Queen of Sheba and the rules do apply to you.

Using a coupon IS a privilege NOT a right, even here in the good old USA. Get out your Bill of Rights, and your Constitution....says nothing in there about "All men are entitled to save $1.00 on dish soap".

Keep gang cutting, but don't dare come back crying when stores & manufacturers clamp down even further and it affects your ability to coupon the way we currently do. It's what my mother would call cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Who is really being hurt?

Clearly the stores and manufacturers are so they are doing something about it. I am sick of reading comments about Extreme couponing on other sites that all have a "stick it to the manufacturer, they are a huge company!" attitude. Guess what when thousands of people purchase thousands of coupons from a clipper yes, they are going to feel that impact.

We have ALL noticed the things Jill talks about happening with our coupons lower in the comments, shorter expiration dates lower coupon values. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why that is happening.

Lower values are to discourage people from selling them. If the values hardly worth a stamp who will bother ordering them from the internet somewhere. Who wants a .35 Tide coupon??

Short dates also give the unethical sellers less window of time to move their "stock." This stuff was not an issue until people started dumpster diving to sell coupons they found in the recycled papers and now there are hundreds of sellers on Ebay and clipping services.

If you use what comes in your own newspaper you will be fine none of this stuff is going to affect you. If you order a coupon from Colorado and it doesn't work in Florida, well what do you expect. The game has changed because coupon sellers made it change. Why isn't anyone blaming the sellers who have made these changes happen by selling something that's not supposed to be sold. If the companies really didn't care they would not be doing what they are doing, point is, they do care.

If you want more coupons, buy more papers. That's easy. I get 6 Tribunes delivered and they were all .25 a week. Deal.

The only thing

This is the only thing that I have an issue with in what you said: "Guess what when thousands of people purchase thousands of coupons from a clipper yes, they are going to feel that impact."

My only thing is, didn't they put the coupon out there?

That's all.

Gang cutting

Very informative article!

Scrapbookers can use their pinking shears to customize cuts :-)

I will do what I have to do...

I have to admit, I started couponing thanks to the TLC show. However, I am someone who loves to hate the show. There have been reports of coupon fraud from one person featured on the show already. How many more are going to commit it because they aren't well informed on how to use them. Yes, tons of people have flocked to sites and forums about couponing. Those people have a chance to learn how to coupon properly, but there are many who probably are just clipping and going to stores unaware of how to use them.
With that said I need to comment on this post. I have not read through every reply, but I feel I need to add my two cents.
I lost my job almost two years ago. My husband has been struggling to keep this ship from sinking for a long time. We are a one income family with 5 children. 4 teenage girls and 1 teenage boy make up our brood. When I got laid off we had to move from a LARGE 3 bedroom house to a little 3 bedroom apartment in a very undesireable neighborhood where our kids can't even go outside unless they are going from apartment to car, car to apartment. Our kids (2 who are seniors this year) had to leave the schools they've been going to for YEARS, their friends, and their relative freedom behind.
Anyone with one teenage daughter knows the HBA expense involved with having one, now multiply that by 4 add in a son a husband and myself. We buy (on average)5 bottles of shampoo, 5 bottles of conditioner, 5 bottles of body wash, 4 all in one hair and body for men, 7 sticks of deodorant, 4 tubes of toothpaste etc. EVERY MONTH!! That's a lot of money when you think about it.
I've only been using coupons for a couple months. None of my stored double. When I find a great deal on HBA items you better believe I'm getting my hands on as many coupons as possible to get as much as possible. So, my closet has been turned into a mini HBA department, but I guarantee that within two months if I didn't buy more, we'd be out. So, I am guilty of stockpiling HBA products. However, I am not one of those people who go in and clear the shelves. I'm usually the one waiting on rainchecks until they get more in.
I buy 4 papers a week (that's all I can afford). On recycling nights, I can be found scouring neighborhoods for discarded inserts in other peoples trash. I do not feel bad about it at all. They are throwing those away, they don't want them, won't use them, and I do want them and I will use them. I used a clipping service once, because all of the papers I bought didn't have inserts (another annoying thing, how do these inserts just disappear from papers...theft). I cut them out one by one because when I try to do more than one at a time I usually end up cutting off the exp. date or something.
Long story short, if I can get all my HBA free/cheap, shop great sales using coupons to greatly reduce how much I'm spending on groceries, and not send my husband into a stress induced heart attack, I'm going to do by any LEGAL means necessary. I follow all the rules, and I learn something new everyday.
No matter what, I will find a way to get more coupons. If I have to dumpster dive, recycle bin dive, use a clipping service (I only order full inserts and cut them myself) I'm going to do it. I HAVE TO DO IT to survive.
Manufacturers, stores, managers, and employees can change the rules as often as they want. If it becomes too much of a hassle I'll find a different store, but I will get those discounts. If I don't, this ship will surely sink, and I won't let that happen.

this needs to be worked out between manufacturers and stores...

I do feel bad that the stores are losing money because the manufacturers don't accept gang-cut coupons but the fact is that many of us don't have the time to sit down and individually cut out coupons and I don't think that people should be penalized for using a paper cutter or even a clipping service for cutting out coupons. It is illegal to sale coupons and that is as it should be but it is not, however, illegal to pay for someone's time which I am assuming is what you are paying for when you pay a clipping service. So technically an illegal act has not taken place so it is not right for manufacturers or stores to refuse to accept these coupons. I know they want to prevent coupon fraud and that it perfectly fine but as it says above, just because a coupon was "Gang-cut" does not mean that fraud actually happened. Maybe the stores need to develop a better way to track what is purchased and what the coupons are used for. Don't penalize us because you have to prove that people bought the items that the coupons were for. It sounds to me like it is more of an issue that needs to be worked out with the manufacturer than the consumer. I think that setting a limit of ten coupons for like items is an ok policy. If I want to buy more I can do two transactions or just go back another day. If stores, manufacturers, and consumers alike would stop trying to take advantage of a situation then these problems wouldn't develop in the first place.

You've missed the point. It's

You've missed the point. It's not "the people" being penalized... it's the stores.

You're right, in that gang-cutting doesn't mean fraud was committed. But the manufacturer doesn't know that. And it will be tough for the store to prove. If they can't prove it, then they don't get paid. The store gets penalized for legal, legitimate, gang-cut coupons.

That's why they set up these new rules - so stores don't get screwed.

The "new" method of couponing

So I am one to say that maybe coupons shouldn't be cut in bunches of like 50, but if I use my scissors to cut 5 inserts, more than likely they are going to look identical. I have an issue with the possibly new coupon system because 1. as an ex military spouse, my grandmother lived in MI and I lived in FL. We many times did not get the best coupons. However, she would send me coupons for things that I could use like diapers, certain foods, etc. Why would you just all together not want a to generate sales for your company. The manufacturers make a TON of money on items because there are quite a few people that I know of myself who NEVER use coupons...pay full retail, thus the manufacturer making a huge profit. Especially since I am sure that to produce these 4-5 dollar boxes of cereal, it doesn't take them that much to make! There is only so much that a consumer can do. What if I have a friend who lives in a different state that doesn't have the money to purchase an item but i have a coupon? I, with the new system, couldn't send it to them!? That's absurd and very ridiculous! I use coupons quite frequently. I have gotten coupons from almost every means possible and have been happy to do so. There are many people who benefit from coupons. Why change things now? Because the multi billion dollar companies are "feeling the crunch?" Yeah right. We are as consumers with the constant rise in food prices. Especially in different areas. For instance, 4 years ago in FL a gallon of milk cost me almost 3.50 and rarely went on sale, but up in MI, it was always on sale. I used coupons to get it cheaper! If they want to try and cut out coupons, go ahead and see how much people switch to store brand. I know I sure will on almost every product I buy. Because the store brand cost just about the same to create, but in most cases quite a bit less!

Now for the stores that have allowed consumers to double more than 3 like coupons, not getting reimbursed for them is kind of your fault. Like on the show, if you have like 45 coupons and they all double, that's on them. Not doubling will just really push people to other stores that will. And I can honestly say that if my stores stop doubling, then Walmart will be my place of shopping because they have now made their store MORE coupon friendly with the new policy. Big retailers need to quit the bs. You make so much money that you don't know what to do with it. You're not hiring new employees (most of the store I go to up here, I have seen the same people working there with the exception of those high school workers that leave for college...which are replaced usually by more high school workers).

A stockpile of items that I can legitimately use is not a problem in my opinion. Like my family, we go through paper towel, so when it is on sale and I can get it for free or cheap, I stock up. Now for me, if that means trading coupons or paying someone for a few (literally a few) here or there, I don't mind. They have managed to get the coupons and sometimes through legitimate means. On the show, one woman said that her local newspaper drops off the inserts fro papers that we not purchased on Mondays to her house! Is that legal...technically she didn't pay for the papers, but she sure might have a ton of them! Is using those coupons committing coupon fraud? Couponing used to just be a "fun" thing for me to do, now it is 100% necessary for me to survive. If we all made as much as the presidents of those companies do, then coupons wouldn't be needed. But that's not the case. They need to look at the economy and not make it harder on the consumer.

Sorry for the long post (may be a little scattered), but I have had an interesting week for "news" and am really tired of a lot.