Going to the extreme with coupon clipping
April 22, 2011 9:58 AM   Subscribe

Was J'aime Kirlew, self-proclaimed "Diva for Coupons" and participant on TLC's Extreme Couponing shown committing fraud? Many couponers (discussion begins with second comment on the page) think she's done it before going on TLC (youtube links in thread may be broken). Bud Miller from the The Coupon Information Corporation says "This whole thing is kind of sad.". Fraud may be reduced with implementation of the GS1 databar (wikipedia) which contains more data than the traditional UPC code.
posted by vespabelle (137 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Discount bread and 2-for-1 circuses on sale now in aisle 102786.
posted by hincandenza at 10:02 AM on April 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


It's a criminal act. You need to use the coupon only within the terms and conditions printed on the coupon. In English and Spanish or whatever the local language is. A coupon is a contract and an offer. You have to follow those terms. Bar codes are a method of processing coupons.

Violating the conditions of a coupon is a criminal act? Really?
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:04 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm no coupon expert, but it looks like the coupon experts have put together a pretty detailed case. And I'm no tv expert, but I think that a how-to show about committing coupon fraud (if I'm reading right, you can use coupons for other stuff with the same starting UPC digits, or from the same manufacturer, or something? I had no idea) sounds more interesting than Extreme Couponing.

Create a system, and people will game it.
posted by box at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait, is J'aime her first name? I'm much more upset about that.
posted by LMGM at 10:06 AM on April 22, 2011 [47 favorites]


Violating the conditions of a coupon is a criminal act? Really?

I'm guessing that conditions of a coupon are a contract. In using it, you accept the conditions of the contract.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:08 AM on April 22, 2011


Create a system, and people will game it.

This is exactly it. Same thing used to happen when priceline had deals on food. Your Priceline printout said "Quaker Oats Oatmeal" you buy "Steal Cut Oatmeal" that is 10$ more, inattentive clerk scans it through since they both say oatmeal.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find it difficult getting too upset at a consumer once in a while defrauding a major corporation back.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm guessing that conditions of a coupon are a contract.

Even so, breach of contract is generally not a criminal act.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


It's the end of the sale as we know it

in alise 9.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on April 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


I don't know about the US but here in Canada, the cashier reads the coupon, checks the expiry date, matches the product name, matches the product size, and THEN enters it.
posted by storybored at 10:12 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait, is J'aime her first name? I'm much more upset about that.

J'aime... moi non plus tax minus triple coupons
posted by mintcake! at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


storybored: I don't know about the US but here in Canada, the cashier reads the coupon, checks the expiry date, matches the product name, matches the product size, and THEN enters it.

Goodness, Canadians are a polite bunch! I'd imagine the people behind you throwing a fit in the US, should you bring more than two coupons and the cashier applied such scrutiny.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2011


Or, in this case, two HUNDRED coupons.
posted by m@f at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2011


I don't know about the US but here in Canada, the cashier reads the coupon, checks the expiry date, matches the product name, matches the product size, and THEN enters it.

Uh, yeah, here they usually scan it and then frown at the machine if it beeps.
posted by vorfeed at 10:15 AM on April 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I hate coupons. When I am using them they are a hassle, and when I don't have one, like when the item says, "49¢ (with coupon)" and I don't have said coupon I will often not buy that product, even if it was only a few cents. I am not a big coupon user, so I often feel like I am subsidizing people who are. It's enough to make me hate people who use coupons.

Huh, now I understand Republicans' aversion to welfare.

And storybored, in the US there are often "self-check" lanes. You scan everything yourself, and there is one checker for 4-8 lines. They don't do much of anything other than make sure you run everything through and help out when something goes wrong.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:16 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If supermarkets didn't want people to use coupons that way, they'd implement GS1-only coupon scans at the checkout counter. The technology has been commercially available for more than a decade, and they still refuse to.

Retail/POS outlets generally profit from coupon decoding, because they get the reimbursement-plus-handling-fee back whether the coupon is used properly or not. In fact, the only prosecutions on record for coupon-based fraud have been not against individual consumers, but against stores. (In specific, the defendants were accused of not having sold the products at all, but simply clipping the coupons from the inserts in their unpurchased newspapers, and sending them in.)

Even the manufacturers themselves have been kind of meh about the whole issue. Yes, they'd prefer that their targeted marketing remain targeted. But, they ultimately benefit because even if you buy a different product with the same manufacturer code, you're still buying something from the company. The subsidy is still being used to move their product, not someone else's. They're aware of the problem, but they can't really justify putting any real money toward enforcement.

So, in summary, yeah. Hack the coupons. If it results in any real economic loss to any of the entities in the sales chain, they'll shut it down quickly. Otherwise, no harm == no foul.
posted by Citrus at 10:17 AM on April 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Goodness, Canadians are a polite bunch! I'd imagine the people behind you throwing a fit in the US, should you bring more than two coupons and the cashier applied such scrutiny.

I was that person with a fistful of coupons not too long ago and the clerk did exactly as storeybored said and people kindly waited. I can't recall ever seeing anyone have a sh*tfit at a grocery store.

Sadly I was also that person who took 30 items through the express line. A man behind me admonished me and then laughed and was OK with my mistake. I just didn't notice that it was the express line because this particular Safeway keeps moving the self-checkout and express lines around.
posted by Calzephyr at 10:20 AM on April 22, 2011


And storybored, in the US there are often "self-check" lanes.

We have those too, but I didn't think you could use coupons through them. Where do you stick the coupons, do you give them to the attendant?
posted by storybored at 10:21 AM on April 22, 2011


Please let Bud Miller's middle name be "Coors".
posted by cortex at 10:22 AM on April 22, 2011 [29 favorites]


Retail/POS outlets generally profit from coupon decoding, because they get the reimbursement-plus-handling-fee back whether the coupon is used properly or not.

Right the main problem here is that the stakeholder who cares about whether the coupon is used properly or not (the company issuing the coupon) is not the one that directly enforces the rules. Unless there is a robust auditing system that keeps the stores honest, they don't have much of an incentive to make sure all of the coupons are valid.

Violating the conditions of a coupon is a criminal act? Really?

I doubt the conditions of the coupon would have much to do with it, other than that they clearly state the specific products that they are valid for. Systematically exploiting the barcode scanning system to pay less than the correct price is definitely fraud in some cases (such as printing your own barcodes and sticking them on the products you are buying), I don't know enough abut the relevant laws to know if it would be fraud in this case as well.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:26 AM on April 22, 2011


I can't recall ever seeing anyone have a sh*tfit at a grocery store.

Wow, people here lose their shit if you pay with cash or have trouble keying your pin. God help you if you are trying to return or exchange something. I have seen actual fistfights at Fairway.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:27 AM on April 22, 2011


Where do you stick the coupons, do you give them to the attendant?

There is a hole for you to stick them into. It's usually near the cash slot.
posted by Nomyte at 10:28 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


storybored: You scan the coupon yourself, and then deposit it into a slot after it's been read. In my experience, if the machine presents an error, it will alert the attendee who will then come over and authorize the coupon. I haven't seen them check the product, but this might just be due to where I shop.
posted by hijinx at 10:28 AM on April 22, 2011


Thanks for that, I'll have to see if they do the same here at my local store.
posted by storybored at 10:31 AM on April 22, 2011


I find it difficult getting too upset at a consumer once in a while defrauding a major corporation back.

Yeah, unless you do actually use coupons more than once in a while, and now you're looking at your local stores basically ending coupon acceptance all together, all because TLC decided that the people who are doing it "right" weren't exciting enough, so they had to give this woman the spotlight.
posted by anastasiav at 10:32 AM on April 22, 2011


Gotta like this from an article on J'aime Kirlew:
"TLC released a statement saying they are investigating the matter. Kirlew is currently looking for a law firm that accepts discount coupons."
posted by ericb at 10:33 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"In fact, the only prosecutions on record for coupon-based fraud have been not against individual consumers, but against stores. (In specific, the defendants were accused of not having sold the products at all, but simply clipping the coupons from the inserts in their unpurchased newspapers, and sending them in.)"
Citrus
Thanks for reminding me, the only time I was ever questioned by the FBI was when I was a bag boy in 1977. I was a kid, and didn't think there was anything weird with the night manager having a few employees sit in the breakroom cutting out coupons from the old Sunday papers. Seems he was turning them in and pocketing the cash. Probably would have worked, except the redemption rate at our store was 2,000% higher than at other stores. The FBI came in because it was a major interstate fraud.
posted by Marky at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


JE NE L'AIME PAS.
posted by everichon at 10:37 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This "J'aime": Does she pronounce it "Zhehm" or "Jaimie"?
posted by rusty at 10:38 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah. It's "Jamie". Lock her up then.
posted by rusty at 10:41 AM on April 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


oh my god my they're going to put my grandma in jail
posted by HumanComplex at 10:42 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know about the US but here in Canada, the cashier reads the coupon, checks the expiry date, matches the product name, matches the product size, and THEN enters it.

I can't imagine.

In my experience there is a lot of pressure on you to just scan the coupons and accept them no matter what. The biggest one is the person standing right in front of you: more often than not, they are willing to pitch the biggest fit in the world if you don't accept their coupon. I suspect that the more fradulent the transaction, the bigger the fit the customer is willing to pitch. "The customer is always right" and most retail chains take the position of eating a few unreimbursed coupons rather than potentially lose the business of a single customer. That's not a position I agree with, but that's life in these United States.

The pressure of the line is the other major pressure. I feel like I can safely say that every major mistake I made as a cashier was a direct result of being in a hurry: when the line starts to build up, you start to sweat, because you know people are rapidly getting pissed off. Most people can wait in line at the bank, at the post office, at the DMV, and still act like rational human beings, but put them in a line at the supermarket and somehow they turn psychotic. It's horrifying.

Another problem is the register system; it encourages you to ignore whatever it says. I can't tell you them number of times I've scanned a coupon and have the register tell me "no match found" when I know for a fact I rang up the exact product displayed on the coupon. What are you going to do? Argue? Maybe the coupon was fraduently produced or something else, but I don't know that; I have no way to know that, and no reason to suspect it--we're talking about little old ladies with one $1.00-off coupon for frozen waffles, not extreme couponers with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of coupons. The "no match" message is an operator-override, which means it takes me two simple keystrokes to erase the message and process the coupon anyway. It gets to be a habit pretty quickly; unless a problem jumps out at you--the customer obviously didn't buy whatever's on the coupon--you process it without even blinking. (Contrariwise, "quantity not matched," like when a customer has to buy two or five or whatever, is an alert that can be trusted; I've never seen the regsiter mess that up.)

I think these extreme couponer types are pretty far and few between; I mean, I sure never met one, thank God. I don't think anyone at the retail level is much on the alert for this "UPC decoding" scam because customers aren't that likely to take advantage of it and it isn't likely to cost the store much money if they do. It's the scale that's the issue here, I think, but it kind of astounds me that anyone could get away with it for precisely that issue; if I ever had a transaction of that size with so many coupons, you better believe I would have been calling a manager over to help verify everything.

That is, if I didn't run screaming first.
posted by kjh at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


What do 'extreme couponers' do with all the products they buy? Do they go on to sell them, return them for cash, use them or is this just a feeder show for "Hoarders"?

Given the hours and effort invested, does it make more than a minimum wage job? Coupons - at all levels - seem to me to be incentives for people who can't afford it to buy shit they don't need. It so very rare that I even see a coupon for something I'd buy anyway.
posted by rh at 10:52 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Damn I hate self-checkout lines (at least the local Jewel ones) I can't imagine couponing in one:

PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA
PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA


"How the fuck does the machine know?"
(places item in bagging area)

PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA
PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA...

(looks for nonexistent "bagging area)

PLEASE PLACE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT
PLEASE PLACE WAIT FOR ATTENDANT


(leaves all groceries and walks out the door).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:53 AM on April 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Obligatory.
Coupon: The Movie.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:55 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


rh: What do 'extreme couponers' do with all the products they buy? Do they go on to sell them, return them for cash, use them or is this just a feeder show for "Hoarders"?

They have whole rooms full with tons and tons of products. There was one show where this woman had a years supply of diapers and formula stocked up but she didn't have any kids yet. Some people donate some of the products to food pantry's or to their neighbors but most just stack up in the house, because you never know when you might need 42 bottles of shampoo. Some of their rooms are like looking into a bomb shelter supply.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:57 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing that makes this story interesting to me (and I admit it's interesting to me) is that my understanding is that this woman was very well known in the online couponing world (which, believe me, is a capital-T Thing), because of the videos she'd already posted. The claim -- though it's hard to prove without a time machine -- is that Googling J'aime Kirlew before making her the centerpiece of an episode like this should have turned up this stuff and hinted at the potential for a problem.

That means one of two things -- either they don't even GOOGLE participants in these things to see if there's anything to worry about, or they Googled her and they knew and they didn't care. Either of those things, to me, is noteworthy. Not insofar as I am outraged, but because when someone is telling you that she can get a thousand dollars worth of groceries for a dollar (or whatever her numbers were), that should perhaps cause you to spend FIVE MINUTES on Google to make sure she's not a thief before you use her as an example.

Oh, also? She was a jerk, if only because she cleaned the store out of mustard, leaving none for anyone else. MUSTARD HOARDER.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Why is there so little talk about the shortcuts television producers take? There's entirely too much trust on the part of the debunkers that the shown video is reliable. Was it recorded at another time? Is it a single take? Did the producers reshoot it in order to make it look better -- and then use different coupons (because of carelessness or some other reason)? Was this the actual moment of genuine purchase in the videos or was it all staged?

Television fakes reality all the time in order to make video that looks better than reality. Before any of this could possibly be proven you'd need the original uncut footage -- or you'd need to have been there in person when it was filmed. Especially as someone is being accused of a crime.
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can you imagine getting in line behind that coupon lady? Does she also pay by check, too?
posted by crunchland at 11:07 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why is there so little talk about the shortcuts television producers take?

I think it's because J'aime is well-known among the couponing community to advocate fraudulent coupon use in her Youtube videos. So yes, it's possible that she did not commit coupon fraud on the television show, but I don't think it's plausible to say that in this case all the errors are due to continuity and not, you know, the fraud she has allegedly been perpetrating in the past.
posted by muddgirl at 11:08 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your Priceline printout said "Quaker Oats Oatmeal" you buy "Steal Cut Oatmeal" that is 10$ more, inattentive clerk scans it through since they both say oatmeal.

Guilty conscience?
posted by nanojath at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


is this just a feeder show for "Hoarders"?

TLC seems to think so.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:09 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have heard that many extreme couponers will sell the non-perishables at yard sales and flea markets, which is quite entrepreneurial.
posted by muddgirl at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2011


PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA

"How the fuck does the machine know?"


The bagging area is often a scale. If the running total weight of what you're scanning doesn't match the running total weight of what's in the bagging area, the machine gets testy and calls over the attendant (who will usually override the machine without even glancing at what you're buying because, really, why the fuck should they care).
posted by dersins at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Where did I read that it's appropriate that couponing to this degree now has its own cable show because its just another form of hoarding? That.

on preview, I swear it was before this thread
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2011


Guilty conscience?
IPad autocorrect, probably actually typed something like syeel. Never did it myself.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2011


Interesting, it never occurred to me that coupons could be abused this way. On a thirteen digit UPC The first six digits correspond to the company,the next six to the specific product (size,color, weight, flavor etc..) and the final digit is a check digit. I can see where it could be difficult to have one coupon that covered multiple SKUs from the same company while excluding similar but slightly different SKUS. What she's doing there is only a small step away from the recode thing.
posted by MikeMc at 11:13 AM on April 22, 2011


My mom tried to become one of these type of shoppers when we were living paycheck to paycheck back in the 90s. She said she lasted about 15 mins trying to do it and gave up. She could make more money in the amount of time it took for her to do all of it (one show the whole checkout time was 5 hours plus the time to plan and collect coupons) then she could with the money she saved.
posted by lilkeith07 at 11:16 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It might sound silly that improper coupon use is a crime, but consider it's kind of like the salami slice bank fraud; you steal fractions of a cent from millions of people and pretty soon you're talking real money, and if it's too easy and there's no penalty more and more people will do it, and soon enough there are enough fraudsters that even the individuals are getting noticeably soaked. So yeah, it's illegal. Which makes doing it so extensively and so publicly for such trivial gain especially dumb. It's like blowing through a red light right in front of a cop and waving at him.

Back when casinos gave things away like crazy one of the smaller and more out of the way Gulf Coast boats had frequent drawings for things like cars and boats, for which you collected entry slips by gambling (and, to keep it legal, you got one entry for just showing up). There were several people who won those drawings multiple times even though they were known to actually gamble very little. After several years it developed that they were printing their own counterfeit entry slips and stuffing the drum; when the casino finally decided to audit the drum after another improbable win it turned out over half the entries were from this small group of people. And yeah, they went to jail for it.
posted by localroger at 11:16 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find it difficult getting too upset at a consumer once in a while defrauding a major corporation back.

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

I'm guessing people who think it's okay are assuming it was buying a couple boxes of cereal, when the incident was something else entirely. Grocery stores may be large corporations, but I have a hard time accepting the principle of this fraud, especially when it's an accepted fact that these stores are running on low profit margins, typically 1-2%.
posted by l2p at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It so very rare that I even see a coupon for something I'd buy anyway.

Wow rh, you don't use deodorant, shampoo, or toothpaste? ;-) If you aren't brand-loyal and watch the sales, you can often get those items free or close to it with coupon.

That said, the "extreme couponers" just make me sad. Many do seem to have hoarder tendencies (at least they way the TV shows present them). And clearing out an entire shelf of the sale item is rude and self-centered. But I guess a "non-extreme couponer" like me getting a few free tubes of toothpaste and cereal for a dollar a box doesn't make for good TV.
posted by superna at 11:17 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


For the self check out questions, I'll note around my area, at least the Bloom/Food Lion self-checkout counters specifically state "NO COUPONS ACCEPTED" ..

(Farmfresh doesn't have self-checkout, and I don't go to Harris Teeter often enough to recall)
posted by k5.user at 11:22 AM on April 22, 2011


MikeMC, I used to produce coupons for a food manufacturer and it was a pain to order barcodes for each individual product so we never did. In our case, technically, a coupon issued would work for anything in our line of products. You figure that between the customer reading the coupon and the cashier checking the coupon, it usually gets used on the correct product. There are always people that figure how to game the system. As for looking for fraud, in our reporting, we usually just looked for weird places redeeming a ton of coupons.
posted by iscavenger at 11:26 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Self-checkout? I'm not in the union. Hire another front-end employee.
posted by mikelieman at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


This story drives me crazy, because half the time I can't get a damned coupon to work for the RIGHT item.
posted by ErikaB at 11:37 AM on April 22, 2011


From the committing fraud link: "Using a Pillsbury French Bread coupon on Pillsbury rolls is a crime." (emphasis hers) Wow, I suppose doing it intentionally and at this level, it is, but that still makes me giggle.

When I started to read this I thought it would be about the woman who called friends to come in and check out $50 worth of groceries for her because you got $10 off but only one per person. This was the first episode we watched, but my fiance actually got mad at the woman and we have not watched another one. I recently saved $50 on $260 worth of groceries by using the store coupons Cub Foods (Part of Supervalu) sends out, plus we got 26 cents off gas. I doubt they have the same UPC issue because I have seen people bring the wrong size product to the register and the coupon will not work.
posted by soelo at 11:39 AM on April 22, 2011


I watched an episode of Extreme Couponing. She buys 50+ containers of mustard.

OK. I like mustard. (She was buying shitty yellow mustard, but whatever. Let's assume it's the mustard she likes.) I use mustard all the time! On sandwiches. As an ingredient in chicken salad. As a savory accompaniment to a slice of delicious ham. And between the three people in my household, we make it through two large jars of Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard a year. OK, let's say three. Mustard-intensive year. At 24 oz a jar, our mustard depletion rate is 72 oz per annum. She's purchasing around 700 oz of mustard at a go.

A ten-year-supply of mustard.

OK, it's mustard, it lasts forever. But still. A DECADE OF MUSTARD.

In 2020, she'll get out of her flying car, step into her floating house, remove her UV goggles and pollution filtration device, and make herself a hamalogue sandwich with ten-year-old mustard.

Is this really a victory, J'aime?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:40 AM on April 22, 2011 [61 favorites]


200 coupons in one shopping trip? Wow! All the places I shop have a 20 coupon a day limit (and you can't use coupons without a loyalty card.)

I once dabbled in extreme couponing and ended up with a lot of food that never got eaten just because it was so cheap-- like brownie mix for 39cents a box. Pantry moths got into the boxes and I had to call corporate headquarters to get coupons for free replacement boxes. I've still got boxes of brownies in my pantry and that was at least 2 years ago.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:42 AM on April 22, 2011


kjh writes "The biggest one is the person standing right in front of you: more often than not, they are willing to pitch the biggest fit in the world if you don't accept their coupon. I suspect that the more fradulent the transaction, the bigger the fit the customer is willing to pitch. "

Canadians are often tolerant of this kind of thing more than our perception of Americans. For example Canadians will self assemble in queues outside stores having boxing day sales (like Black Friday). In many places in Canada this means queuing quietly in -30° weather for hours at a time on almost the darkest night of the year. The crushes in the States that make the news when some one dies would be an extreme exception.

A few years ago in Calgary a guy died while driving around looking for a hospital without a queue (and I don't mean across town, IIRC one of his legs was Calgary to High River). Sentiment was pretty well against the guy in agreement with the first hospital statement that he wouldn't have died if he'd just waited rather than being angry over wait times.
posted by Mitheral at 11:43 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Continuing that derail, I don't mind the IDEA of self-checkout. I can probably move my crap through the line pretty fast if need be. But the REALITY of self-checkout is that it takes 5 times as long as having a cashier do it, because they cripple the hell out of the bar code readers. There's some kind of 45 second timeout on those damn things, it takes FOREVER to scan products. I spend most of my time in the self-check line waiting impatiently for the effing thing to reset so that it will scan the next item. Pair that with the godawful voice prompts* and it's a recipe for an anger aneurism.

Attempting to get back on track again: Using coupons effectively can lower your grocery bill. Every person who grew up in a household with limited income knows that. But this kind of crap is insane. Extreme couponing is just ridiculous. It isn't saving, it's a game. Anyone with half a brain knows that you don't SAVE any money by buying 40 items you don't need, even if you get them for a penny apiece. You wasted hours of your time, for what? A room full of cereal that will expire before you eat the first 4 boxes? Way to go, you really stuck it to the man. Slow clap.

*I used to always choose the Spanish language mode at the prompt. It pissed off my wife. But I did it because I would end up with a male voice, terse prompts, and (it seemed to me) many fewer interruptions. I always found it interesting in a cultural sense that there was such a difference. It was like English speakers needed the nice, soothing female voice to avoid flipping our shit, while the Spanish speakers didn't want some woman telling them what to do.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:46 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, I totally get the thrill of extreme couponing. A couple of weeks ago, I used my CVS Extra Care Bucks on some floss, swiffer refills, dish soap, and tampons, and paid a total of $0.12. It felt AMAZING. Then there's that moment where a cheeky grin comes on your face, and you feel like you did something wrong because, 12 cents? How does that happen? But you know you did nothing wrong, and then walk out feeling all "Awwwwww yeah!"
posted by raztaj at 11:50 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mustard and cereal make excellent gifts
posted by Flashman at 11:51 AM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I used to always choose the Spanish language mode at the prompt. It pissed off my wife. But I did it because I would end up with a male voice, terse prompts, and (it seemed to me) many fewer interruptions

Oh man, I don't know why this never occurred to me. I take advantage of other features of self-checkout--I usually sign my name "Spider-Man"--but I am really going to enjoy the hell out of some Spanish-speaking guy telling me to put my habichuelas on the cinturon.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Tax Loopholes = good business.
Coupon loopholes - STOP THIEF!
posted by Lord_Pall at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


It just goes to show that if you give any case to the internet at large, someone will have the time to solve it. Police departments should get in on this.
posted by xingcat at 11:58 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The self-checkout at our local grocery (HEB, because I live in San Antonio, and there's really only 1 kind of grocery store here) is pretty decent with a little practice - definitly faster than a cashier if you only have a couple items, no produce, and have your credit card ready. Pro-tip: Most of the time you don't have to wait for them to finish speaking before you push the Yes/No button.

But the self-checkout at stores like Lowes is awful. Just terrible.

Coupon loopholes - STOP THIEF!

It's not a "loophole", it is in direct violation of the terms of the coupon, and the store will not be reimbursed for that coupon if it is discovered. A loophole is doubling up in-store and manufacturer's coupons. Using a coupon to cover a similar item because the barcode system is out of date is coupon fraud.
posted by muddgirl at 12:00 PM on April 22, 2011


storybored,

At least in my part of Ontario, if you want to use a coupon at a self-checkout register, the attending cashier takes the coupons, checks the expiry date and the items purchased and then rings it in at her till.
posted by sardonyx at 12:01 PM on April 22, 2011


"I doubt they have the same UPC issue because I have seen people bring the wrong size product to the register and the coupon will not work."

The more specific the coupon is the harder to commit fraud. If you can tie the coupon to a single UPC (say 12oz plain yogurt) you're golden, if the coupon covers multiple items (say all 5oz flavors of "Lite" Yogurt) inside of a product family the task becomes much, much harder.
posted by MikeMc at 12:08 PM on April 22, 2011


"Does she also pay by check, too?"

Yes. And she doesn't bring her own pen. And she waits until it's all totaled up before asking the clerk if she can "borrow" one.

Which she then tries to walk away with.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:08 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA
PLEASE PLACE ITEM IN BAGGING AREA


IT PLACES THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN
posted by sexyrobot at 12:16 PM on April 22, 2011 [32 favorites]


One of the first tasks I was charged with when I went to work for the marketing order for California peaches, plums, and nectarines was contacting retailers as we received batches of coupons from the redemption service and letting them know we would no longer reimburse them for the coupons we'd issued, which had been expired for years at that point.

The expiration date on the most recent one was 2000, I think. This was the end of 2003, and we were getting volumes of them from the same retailers - with the expiration dates cut off - on a regular basis. And some of the retailers were accepting obvious photocopies. I don't know whether this was retailer fraud or five people who'd somehow stockpiled an enormous amount of coupons.

To add insult to injury, they also came rolling in during the winter - when there is no California stone fruit for sale, only Chilean.

My previous job had been at Kellogg's, where I knew all of the company codes from the UPCs in my categories because part of my job was producing planograms. It never occurred to me that those codes would be an avenue for coupon abuse, but it makes perfect sense.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:22 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I know, there's no contract involved, so this wouldn't even be a civil matter as far as J'aime is concerned. She loaded a bunch of goods on the conveyor, she handed in a bunch of coupons, and she and the retailer agreed that the coupons were worth $X off her purchase. She didn't alter or deface the coupons, she presented them intact, and the retailer chose to honor them.

There might be a case for going after the retailer, since he/she probably DOES have a contract. Redeeming coupons for stock that wasn't purchased probably IS fraud, since an active misrepresentation is taking place. But I think the customer is in the clear no matter what. She was not misrepresenting anything; the fact that the register gets it wrong is something she knows happens, and is taking advantage of, but even the most consistent of errors is still an error by the retailer, not a crime by the consumer.

If a retailer chooses to automate a process, and does so poorly, that doesn't somehow change the nature of the transaction. In the effort to save money on labor costs, he/she failed to exercise due diligence.

I am definitely not a lawyer. But I see nothing actionable here, either civil or criminal.
posted by Malor at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I work at a large chain liquor store (in the US). We accept manufacturers' coupons, but our ancient scanners won't scan the coupons. We have to manually verify the item, date, quantity, etc. I would say half the coupons I see are not valid for the current transaction. It's not the correct item or size, or they didn't buy all the necessary components. People seems genuinely surprised when I refuse coupons, but most are pretty nice about it, because hey!, liquor store.
posted by lizjohn at 12:31 PM on April 22, 2011


she handed in a bunch of coupons, and she and the retailer agreed that the coupons were worth $X off her purchase. She didn't alter or deface the coupons, she presented them intact, and the retailer chose to honor them.

The cashier chose to honor them. The store can penalize the cashier all they want, I suppose.

I home J'amie's local stores exercise their right to refuse service.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on April 22, 2011


caution live frogs: I used to always choose the Spanish language mode at the [self-checkout] prompt...

I do that sometimes for passive language practice. But the self-checkout machines in Seattle have the handy type-the-name-of-the-food feature for when you don't have a PLU code, and it also changes languages. I end up having to switch back to English because I can't remember the spanish word for mushrooms, green beans, or the like.
posted by JiBB at 12:35 PM on April 22, 2011


Harris Teeter lets you scan in the coupons at the self checkout, but then you have to give them to the clerk, who looks bored and sticks them in the drawer.

We used to stick them in the self checkout machine itself but then there was some kind of local scandal about people photocopying coupons so they changed it.
posted by winna at 12:44 PM on April 22, 2011


As far as I know, there's no contract involved

It's printed right there on the coupon, although you need a microscope to read it. You accept it by using the coupon. It's just like the EULA you agree to when installing software, and if you think that's not a contract try installing one copy of Word on all the computers at your workplace and invite the BSA over for a visit and see how that goes.

Yes, it's a very trivial crime, and the industry windbag said outright that the occasional honest mistake is not a crime. What makes it a crime is doing it deliberately and at large scale. What J'aime did on the video was essentially the same as shoplifting $1,800 worth of product, and she went to a great deal of careful planning to make it happen.

It's no more legal than burglary would be if you piously limit yourself to places that have been left unlocked.
posted by localroger at 12:45 PM on April 22, 2011


Meanwhile, NOT A SINGLE BANKER OR HEDGE FUND MANAGER HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH RAPING OUR ECONOMY. So yeah, you can focus on a couple of coupon clippers on the teevee if you want to.
posted by crunchland at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Haha, found a link to a Yahoo! article called How Not to Commit Fraud When Using Coupons.
Also, you don't have to print off your coupons or buy the newspaper. Several coupon-clipping services are available on the web that will send you any coupon you want for a small handling fee.
Buying/selling coupons is also against the terms of use, according to Bud Miller, who I admit has a biased stake in this particular conflict.
posted by muddgirl at 12:48 PM on April 22, 2011


Meanwhile, NOT A SINGLE BANKER OR HEDGE FUND MANAGER HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH RAPING OUR ECONOMY. So yeah, you can focus on a couple of coupon clippers on the teevee if you want to.

OH MY GOD YOU ARE RIGHT I CAN ONLY CARE ABOUT ONE THING AT A TIME.

But why care about hedge fund managers when corporations are paying zero dollars in taxes, or when mass genocides are being committed, or when Martians are secretly controlling the thoughts of our leaders to prevent knowledge of their secret invasion? Surely one of these should be the one issue I think about!
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on April 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Martians are secretly controlling the thoughts of our leaders to prevent knowledge of their secret invasion? --- OMG!
posted by crunchland at 12:51 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


THE BAGGING AREA IS FOR IMMEDIATE LOADING AND UNLOADING OF GROCERIES ONLY. THERE IS NO BAGGING IN A SERVICE AREA.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:52 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


BitterOldPunk: "A DECADE OF MUSTARD. "

It seems she spent $27.30 on that mustard. If she'd invested those funds in a non-mustard-based account earning 8% a year, in ten years she would have $185.00.

Admittedly this does not account for the occasional jar of mustard she would have purchased in that time, but I still have no urge to break into my kids' college funds and invest in jars of condiments.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:56 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I still have no urge to break into my kids' college funds and invest in jars of condiments

How else are we supposed to stimulate the econdimy?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:58 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


[The contract is] printed right there on the coupon, although you need a microscope to read it. You accept it by using the coupon....

Yes, it's a very trivial crime....


Once again, breach of contract is a civil cause of action, not a crime. If you want to try to make a case that what she's doing is fraud, then that might be a crime, but that's a separate issue from breach of contract.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:00 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mustard and cereal make excellent gifts

But make a lousy breakfast.
posted by cropshy at 1:00 PM on April 22, 2011


If she'd invested those funds in a non-mustard-based account earning 8% a year, in ten years she would have $185.00.

I was going to invest in mayonnaise futures, but the broker seemed kinda oily.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:12 PM on April 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


THE BAGGING AREA IS FOR IMMEDIATE LOADING AND UNLOADING OF GROCERIES ONLY. THERE IS NO BAGGING IN A SERVICE AREA.

LISTEN BETTY, DON'T START UP WITH YOUR BAGGING AREA SHIT AGAIN.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:12 PM on April 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


THERE'S JUST NO BAGGING IN A SERVICE AREA.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:14 PM on April 22, 2011


As far as I know, there's no contract involved, so this wouldn't even be a civil matter as far as J'aime is concerned. She loaded a bunch of goods on the conveyor, she handed in a bunch of coupons, and she and the retailer agreed that the coupons were worth $X off her purchase. She didn't alter or deface the coupons, she presented them intact, and the retailer chose to honor them.

Again I have no idea if this would be considered fraud, but I disagree with your conjecture that once the retailer accepts the transaction they have no legal recourse against the customer. There are plenty of online stores for instance that have policies where if you use a coupon in a way that ends up being invalid, they will charge the coupon amount on your card after the fact. I don't know the specific laws well enough to no what would be decided if it went to court, but I don't think it's as simple as you are presenting it.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:14 PM on April 22, 2011


Meanwhile, NOT A SINGLE BANKER OR HEDGE FUND MANAGER HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH RAPING OUR ECONOMY.

OH MY GOD YOU ARE RIGHT I CAN ONLY CARE ABOUT ONE THING AT A TIME.


And if we're gonna go there, how about we stop using the term "rape" for something not involving the forceful sexual assault on a person. Thanks.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:18 PM on April 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Ravage is a much more descriptive word.
posted by muddgirl at 1:26 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It seems she spent $27.30 on that mustard. If she'd invested those funds in a non-mustard-based account earning 8% a year, in ten years she would have $185.00.
Really? I think Mustard Seed Futures are really where you want to be in a condiment based economy.
posted by MikeMc at 1:29 PM on April 22, 2011


Really? I think Mustard Seed Futures are really where you want to be in a condiment based economy.

Obligatory: Once again the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays off for the hungry investor!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:36 PM on April 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'd argue that by presenting something which appears to be valid voucher from the manufacturer for the items she's trying to purchase when she is completely aware that it is not, she is indeed committing a fraud. I don't expect that she'll ever be prosecuted for it, but I have to join the "crime" chorus.
posted by tyllwin at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2011


It seems she spent $27.30 on that mustard. If she'd invested those funds in a non-mustard-based account earning 8% a year, in ten years she would have $185.00.

She'd have only $58.94 after ten years. But where on the planet do you find an account that yields 8% a year consistently over ten years?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2011


But where on the planet do you find an account that yields 8% a year consistently over ten years?

She has a coupon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:51 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


'But where on the planet do you find an account that yields 8% a year consistently over ten years?

She has a coupon."


And if you open the account on a Wednesday they'll double your initial investment up to $25.
posted by MikeMc at 1:58 PM on April 22, 2011


> She'd have only $58.94 after ten years

I miscalculated. To the grocery store!
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:04 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I'll be me-mailing some mustard recipes to The corpse in the library!
posted by vespabelle at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, this is the first time I've done this…

Metafilter: NO BAGGING IN A SERVICE AREA

I'm participating!
posted by LMGM at 2:12 PM on April 22, 2011


I;ve been watching this show with some confusion as couponing isn't really a thing in the UK. We have sites like Hot UK Deals and Money Saving Expert which share reductions and online codes, but there are no circulars, no real 'store coupons' - what you get are the odd one in a magazine and sometimes a £2 off £20 with your receipt, but nothing that would get you that amount of money off.

The doubling of coupons doesn't happen here. Scanning coupons for items you haven't bought (as in, one brand of McCain chips and not the other) won't work. Travel sizes are rarely eligible for offers, when there is one on a range or product category. If it's been reduced or there's a multibuy, the coupon doesn't work (a friend worked in a supermarket and it's pretty common.) Many multibuy offers are limited to 6 deals per customer for the popular ones, and when I used a free bag of chips coupon worth £1.50 and the chips were on offer for £1, the cashier had to take the extra 50p discount off the coupon so that the store wasn't giving me 50p for free. I honestly can't fathom how people can game the system to the point where they literally have a cupboard full of toothpaste. The closest we get here is the voucher one drugstore gives you for filling in a survey that knocks 25% off the bill (so handy for stocking up).

Also - the bottle of French's mustard in my fridge has an expiry date, so it must go off, surely? Lotions and shower gels certainly do. And do stockpilers never pick up fruit and veg? It just seemed tons of processed, long-life goods, like £4 boxes of instant mash.
posted by mippy at 2:34 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The doubling of coupons doesn't happen here.

I've never seen it here in the Bay Area, either. Is it a regional thing?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2011


Also, the amount of mediation (go me and my Media Studies A-level) on US reality shows amuses me. 'THE MOST EXTREME CHECKOUT YOU WILL EVER SEE!!!'

Over here we just get a picture of one of Alan Sugar's aides grimacing to camera whilst some jaunty music plays.
posted by mippy at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


But where on the planet do you find an account that yields 8% a year consistently over ten years?

The hedge funds that raped the economy, where else?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:38 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


mustard in my fridge has an expiry date, so it must go off, surely?

Open or unopened it will loose the yellow color and get brownish.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:48 PM on April 22, 2011


It seems she spent $27.30 on that mustard. If she'd invested those funds in a non-mustard-based account earning 8% a year, in ten years she would have $185.00.

See, that's part of the real tragedy here ... I just bought 6 bottles of Mustard a week or so ago, and they were free (with doubled coupons). (Actually, they were $1.49 and my .75 coupons doubled to 1.50, so technically I made six cents profit.) No hardcore couponer in their right mind pays anything for mustard. So, not only is she committing fraud, but she's doing a piss-poor job of it.

I've never seen it here in the Bay Area, either. Is it a regional thing?

Its a chain-by-chain thing. Do you have Safeway out there? Some Safeway's double coupons. Ralph's supermarkets double coupons up to .50 cents.
posted by anastasiav at 3:01 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


What on earth are you going to do with 6 bottles of mustard?
posted by crunchland at 3:06 PM on April 22, 2011


Who. Who on earth are you going to do with 6 bottles of mustard?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you as a retailer induce your employees to hate and despise you, by working them so hard under such stress, with no sense of security, and paying them so little, then don't put them in charge of making sure you don't get ripped off. Half of them won't even notice problems, and half of the rest don't care or are passively in favor of it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:20 PM on April 22, 2011


Once again, breach of contract is a civil cause of action, not a crime. If you want to try to make a case that what she's doing is fraud, then that might be a crime, but that's a separate issue from breach of contract.

Deliberately entering into a contract whose terms you have no intention of observing is practically the definition of fraud.
posted by localroger at 3:27 PM on April 22, 2011


Who. Who on earth are you going to do with 6 bottles of mustard?

The Colonel in the library. It'll be part of a pay per view special. And if a corpse results, then part of the evidence at trial.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:28 PM on April 22, 2011


Deliberately entering into a contract whose terms you have no intention of observing is practically the definition of fraud.

And yet, people offer up a 'verbal contract' all the time "I will do this if elected" and never do.

Has anyone asked America's next President AND suck-sez-ful businessman Donald what he thinks about this Kupon Kliping Kerfuffle?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:31 PM on April 22, 2011


I can ask him if you like. He;s popping round tomorrow for a french fancy.
posted by mippy at 3:40 PM on April 22, 2011


What on earth are you going to do with 6 bottles of mustard?

I'm pretty confident we'll go through about a bottle a month between now and October. We have a lot of cookouts. And, of course, my son will waste half a bottle mixing it up into something he then dares his cousin to drink.
posted by anastasiav at 3:47 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha - every time we used up a big bottle of bubble bath, I would sneak it into the kitchen and pour in a bit of everything to make a 'potion'. And then I'd hide it in a secret place under the bathroom skirting board in case I got into trouble. (Either my hiding place was totally ingenious, only discovered when the bathroom was done up when I was 12, or my mother just quietly disposed of them.)

Ketchup is the magic ingredient that will turn ANY combination of condiments and sauces into a vile shade of brown.
posted by mippy at 4:19 PM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of one of my favourite Alex Gregory cartoons from the New Yorker a few years back.
posted by Flashman at 4:39 PM on April 22, 2011


I've only recently started using more coupons, and monitoring sales at grocery stores. To the people who always say - "what about fruits and vegetables? Aren't coupons all for heavily processed crap?" I echo a comment above and expand it to say....if you buy:

tampons
trash bags
organic foods
sporting goods
apparel
batteries
linens
shoes
diapers
baking supplies
toiletries
makeup
skincare
toys
office supplies
almost anything else

.....you can save at least a few cents off if not many cents off or more by finding a coupon for it*. It isn't all King Dons and Tubbb. A lot of it is just about having the patience to collect some coupons and wait for things to go on sale, combining the two for maximum savings. It isn't really about hoarding gigantic stockpiles of Doritos and Coke, although I'm sure you can find great deals on both those things if you like.

*in the US. Can't speak for anywhere else, wouldn't try.
posted by pinky at 4:40 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got that part, but wouldn't people want to use up the stockpiles? I'm a renter, so I kept thinking 'what would happen if you had to move house'? (Though I am a recovering hoarder/packrat.) It just seemed to be people buying things they didn't need, multiples of them (one childless woman had packets and packets of nappies) which makes the saving seem something of a phyrric victory. Maybe it's, as I said, that we don't have this couponing culture in the UK. I rarely pay retail for things I buy online because I wait for the sales/a good discount code, but that's less true for consumables - 3 for 2 on eyeliner or BOGOF on tampons is the best you'd get.
posted by mippy at 5:06 PM on April 22, 2011


My girlfriend became a wannabe extreme couponer because of this show. The evidence posed in this FPP made her cry.

Me, I think the money saved from couponing is outweighed by the entertainment value of playing Demon's Souls for an equivalent period.
posted by spamguy at 10:39 PM on April 22, 2011


REMAIN CALM. KEEP CONSUMING. EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.
posted by doublesix at 10:40 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll note around my area, at least the Bloom/Food Lion self-checkout counters specifically state "NO COUPONS ACCEPTED"

I think it depends on the model of self-checkout machine that the store is using. Some of them have the coupon-acceptance slot, others don't. I'd guess it adds on to the cost of the machines so some stores (maybe in areas where coupons aren't a big deal) don't spring for them. No sense in adding an expensive feature onto the machines if only 1% of your customers will ever use it...

Interestingly, at least on the one self-checkout that I've ever used a coupon at, the slot isn't just a hole ... there's some sort of sensor in it, to detect when you've dropped something through. You scan the coupon on the laser scanner like any other barcode, but then you have to drop it into the slot, and the machine has to recognize that you've dropped it in, to move on to the next item. It's a bit obnoxious. I only learned this because I put in the coupon in such a way that it didn't register going into the slot and then the attendant had to come over, poke at the machine for a while, and then eventually just told me to drop some other bit of paper down there to trick it.

There's a grocery store in my area (Harris Teeter) which will occasionally do triple coupons, but only if the face value is 99¢ or less. I've never really taken much advantage of it, but I guess something like that would give you some opportunities for free products if you really combed through the flyers.

My understanding is that when a store does double/triple coupons, it's basically just a sale: the store is giving you the discount beyond what's printed on the coupon (the doubling or tripling), and probably isn't being reimbursed for it. (Same with competitors' coupons; i.e. Harris Teeter honoring a Safeway store coupon isn't doing it because Safeway is going to reimburse them.) So when you get free stuff via doubled/tripled coupons, it's probably the store rather than the manufacturer who is really contributing.

Buying/selling coupons is also against the terms of use

That seems like a First Sale issue to me; I'd be surprised if they have much of an argument there if they really tried to pursue it.

The odd part about coupons that I've never really understood is why they need to have a notional "cash value" (typically 1/10th or 1/100th of one cent). Supposedly it has to do with laws in some unnamed states that classify coupons as "trading stamps" that have to have a cash redemption value... maybe as some sort of anti-scrip provision?
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:02 PM on April 22, 2011


caution live frogs writes "But the REALITY of self-checkout is that it takes 5 times as long as having a cashier do it, because they cripple the hell out of the bar code readers. There's some kind of 45 second timeout on those damn things, it takes FOREVER to scan products. I spend most of my time in the self-check line waiting impatiently for the effing thing to reset so that it will scan the next item. "

I've never noticed an enforced delay in either Safeway or HomeDepot here. The only glitch is per unit goods at HD requires the intervention of the checkout monitor and they apparently put the least competent checker at that position. Safeway is a breeze; not only can I whip that stuff through faster than the checkers as I'm not making chit chat at the same time there is also never a line. It's turned grocery shopping for a few items from a gruelling chore to something almost pleasant.
posted by Mitheral at 11:35 PM on April 22, 2011


First of all, in all the grocery stores I've been too they scan all your products first then scan the coupons. They sure as hell are not going to go back through your bags to make sure you bought the right product, ffs. Why would the stores even care?

This woman could probably have saved more money buying generics.
It might sound silly that improper coupon use is a crime, but consider it's kind of like the salami slice bank fraud; you steal fractions of a cent from millions of people and pretty soon you're talking real money.
Yeah, but in this case you're stealing fractions of a cent from, like, 10 or 12 people tops. All these businesses account for "Shrinkage", they expect some product to get stolen.
posted by delmoi at 11:51 PM on April 22, 2011


They sure as hell are not going to go back through your bags to make sure you bought the right product, ffs. Why would the stores even care?

Where I shop (Food Lion) they actually do this. Not all the time, but if there is a problem and the coupon doesn't scan, then they go through all the groceries even if the line backs up. The last time it was a coupon for buy 2 cans of beanz get 50 cents off. We could only locate 1 can of beanz even though I was sure I put two into my cart, so I ran off and got another can and added to my total. Then as we were walking away from the checkout I spied a can of beanz in the bagging area next to the plastic bags. So I had to go back to the cashier and have her check to make sure I had actually paid for 3. Arrrrrgh. Naturally there was an enormous line of customers backing up because of all this.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:30 AM on April 23, 2011


And yet, people offer up a 'verbal contract' all the time "I will do this if elected" and never do.

The coupon contract is not surrounded by scare quotes.
posted by localroger at 5:35 AM on April 23, 2011


If, as I gather from the article, the manufacturer issues the coupon with a UPC that scans across multiple families of products (including those not explicitly defined on the coupon), who really is at fault? It's a pretty damned easy thing to do to issue the coupons with a UPC that is restricted to ONLY the intended products. As I see it, the manufacturers are being willfully negligent here, and these super-couponers are merely taking advantage of this.

IANAL, but it seems to me that any company wishing to actually sue a couponer for violating the usage restriction printed on the coupon would find themselves having to explain why they left this barn door hanging wide-open, if they wanted to restrict the coupon's usage.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on April 23, 2011


"It's a pretty damned easy thing to do to issue the coupons with a UPC that is restricted to ONLY the intended products."

Actually it's not easy to do. This has been discussed a bit upthread but older barcodes (12+ Check Digit) really don't contain much information so the coupon is tied to the first six digits of the UPC which represents the company (or product family). Newer technology is being implemented but that takes time.
posted by MikeMc at 7:19 AM on April 23, 2011


I am sorely tempted to make a sockpuppet named "A Non-Mustard-Based Account" right now. Sorely, sorely tempted.
posted by rusty at 8:20 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad writes "If, as I gather from the article, the manufacturer issues the coupon with a UPC that scans across multiple families of products (including those not explicitly defined on the coupon), who really is at fault?"

The bar codes are supposed to be a convenience for both the store and the consumer allowing for a faster check out than manually checking each coupon. Not a paper money level verification on the validity of the coupon. Weak security isn't an excuse for fraud.
posted by Mitheral at 8:34 AM on April 23, 2011


> we make it through two large jars of Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard a year. OK, let's say three.

Y'all need to up your mustard game. I guzzled a gallon of Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground for breakfast. In free packets from the salad & sandwich bar. I ain't proud, that's amateur hour.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


VIDEO: 'Coupon Diva' Answers Her Critics.
posted by ericb at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


At the stores around here, some won't take computer printed coupons without first intensely scrutinizing them. There are few if any stores that double coupons. And the cashiers almost always glance at the items to make sure you purchased what the coupon is for.
posted by cass at 8:12 AM on April 25, 2011


And yet, people offer up a 'verbal contract' all the time "I will do this if elected" and never do.

While there is such a thing as a verbal contract, a campaign promise is not a verbal contract. (What exactly is the compensation you are offering the candidate? Your vote? In that case you're engaging in vote-selling, which is illegal.) A promise is, in general, not legally enforceable, regardless of whether it's a politician's campaign promise or your Aunt Betty's promise to bring potato salad to your pitch-in.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:53 AM on April 26, 2011


So yeah, this:

My mom tried to become one of these type of shoppers when we were living paycheck to paycheck back in the 90s. She said she lasted about 15 mins trying to do it and gave up. She could make more money in the amount of time it took for her to do all of it (one show the whole checkout time was 5 hours plus the time to plan and collect coupons) then she could with the money she saved.

and this:

OK, it's mustard, it lasts forever. But still. A DECADE OF MUSTARD.

The "value" of this kind of couponing is really just de-valuing your time. I wonder what the savings breaks down into as an hour rate for all the work that goes into it. Yes, it's clever, yes you get some stuff for free. Meanwhile you are spending hours and hours "investing" in these savings and buying a ton of stuff you don't actually need (see aforementioned mustard) which is never actually a savings. Imagine what life could be like if you focus that kind of intelligence and energy doing something else!
posted by Kimberly at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2011


I wonder what the savings breaks down into as an hour rate for all the work that goes into it.

I have here on the table next to me a grocery store receipt from my shopping trip this afternoon. I spent about $24.32 (with tax and bottle deposit) and saved $87.90. In order to do this I a) read the entire grocery store flyer, b) spent perhaps 15 minutes a day each day dealing with coupons (sorting, printing, finding, cutting, etc.), c) spent perhaps 30 extra minutes in the supermarket dealing with coupons and checkout and making sure that everything was correct.

I bought: cream cheese, butter, laundry detergent, dry pasta, kielbasa, organic apples, organic tomato paste, pepperoni, milk, fruit juice, some chicken, and some bread machine yeast.

Do some people spend hours and hours? Sure. But I don't. And its nice to both be able to bring our grocery bill down so significantly AND also have food (and stuff) on hand rather than being running to the store every couple of days.
posted by anastasiav at 5:00 PM on April 27, 2011


Yeah, that wasn't a comment about average coupon clipping activities--I was referring to the extreme stuff being discussed in the thread.
posted by Kimberly at 7:19 AM on May 4, 2011


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