Photo courtesy of Zechariah Judy , via Flickr
For those unfamiliar, "extreme couponing" is the practice of
strategically combining and deploying loads of coupons. If done
correctly--that is to say, if done fanatically--one can save 97% on a
huge haul of groceries.
is also the name of a reality show on TLC. As Savings.com blogger Diane noted, it didn't take long for claims of extreme couponing fraud and lawsuits
to surge after the premier of the show.
How could someone break the law with only a few coupons? Some coupon
extremists have gone so far as to make counterfeit copies of coupons, decode the barcodes on coupons
, redeem coupons after their expiration dates, and even steal coupons from Sunday papers
Not all extreme couponers have crossed over to the Dark Side, of course. In fact, many have used their couponing powers to donate to charity
. Just the same, the acts of a few rogue couponers posed a threat to couponers everywhere. Mindi Cherry of Moms Need to Know even predicted an extreme couponing backlash
Now that backlash has arrived. Read on to discover some of the highest profile merchants to change their coupon rules in response to the extreme couponing trend. Target Puts an End to BOGO Stacking
BOGO stacking is when a savvy shopper combines, or "stacks," multiple buy-one-get-one-free offers. Typically, this would mean using both a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon, so that both items are free. Now, as The Consumerist reports, Target will not allow BOBO stacking
. Customers are still free to combine coupons on the first
item purchased, however.
Schick No Longer Allows Overages
It's not just stores, but also manufacturers, who are altering their coupon policies. For example, Schick has begun printing coupons that do not allow overages
. An "overage" is when a coupon is redeemed for an item that is cheaper than the amount discounted, so that the shopper will actually get the item for free and also some cash back.
Now, shoppers will have to settle for just getting something for nothing. Walgreens, and Others, to Adopt New Barcode
As mentioned above, barcode decoding is a fraudulent tactic used by some extreme couponists. Here's how it works: the standard 12-digit barcode contains a string of numbers to identify the product or products to which the coupon can apply. Some manufactures print coupons that will unintentionally work on cheaper products that aren't listed on the face of the coupon. A clever shopper can decode the coupon, use it on the cheapest products, and walk away with some incredible savings.
That is, until the DataBar barcode
is widely adopted. Walgreens, Target, and many others are planning to switch to this kind of barcode. It contains much more data and much less text that can be read without a scanner. It can also be used to track whether or not the coupon was redeemed for the right products. This all means that decoding barcodes will soon be a thing of the past.Rite Aid Makes Numerous Coupon Policy Changes
Rite Aid has decided to forgo the one-change-at-a-time trend, and instead unleash a whole set of coupon policy changes
meant to slow down the antics of extreme couponers. For one, Rite Aid is now using a similiar no-BOGO-stacking policy as Target. They also did away with overages, just like Schick. Finally, RIte Aid customers can no longer use more than four of the same coupons when buying a particular item in bulk. Fortunately, that limit still seems pretty generous.Kroger Will No Longer Accept Competitor's Catalinas
Tiffany Ivanovsky, Savings.com DealPro and featured couponer on TLC's Extreme Couponing, notes that the Houston-area chain of Kroger supermarkets made some changes to their coupon policy
. The big takeaway is that Kroger will no longer accept Catalinas, those coupons printed out at the register when you buy something, if they came from another store. These Kroger stores will also no longer allow any doubling or tripling of coupons. It's not clear whether these changes will be adopted nationally. There's a chance they're just intended to slow down Tiffany Ivanovsky. Walmart Unleashes Comprehensive Coupon Policy
After Walmart's announcement, the chain will no longer allow a shopper to use Catalina coupons that are good for cash off an entire purchase, or a percentage off an entire purchase. This should surprise no one. What is surprising is that Walmart has decided to make public a very clear, easy-to-comprehend policy for coupons
Some coupon enthusiasts actually see this as a welcome change, as now they won't be left guessing whether their coupon tactics are legitimate. Despite what this backlash might lead you to believe, many extreme coupon users are conscientious people. For evidence, see DealPro joiligirl123's post on ethical couponing
Did we let any coupon policy changes slip through the cracks? Or do you have tips for responsible couponing? Please let us know in the comments.