Coupon clipping can help, but it has a dark side


The booty from Monday Morning's dumpster dive for one extreme couponer. Image: BY-SA

Anything that saves us money in this troubled economy is worth pursuing. Coupon clipping can help keep grocery and other expenses down, and those savings can add up. But there is a dark side to couponing. Popularized the a TLC reality show “Extreme Couponing,” for some the practice can become an obsession that consumes their lives.

Popularized by reality show

“Extreme couponing” is a phrase popularized by The Learning Channel’s reality show of the same name. According to TLC, it is a show about “the world of bargain shoppers who have mastered the art of saving. Get tips to help you save BIG.” TLC first previewed the show in December, 2010. It began airing regularly in April, 2011. A second season starts this month.

Can couponing lead to hoarding?

Allison Linn of MSNBC said, however, that it depicts, more often than not, “bargain-obsessed people coupon-clipping for hours, and in some cases even Dumpster diving for more coupons.” We see these people clearing out shelves in grocery stores and presenting huge stacks of coupons to the register clerk, according to Linn. Afterward, they are seen bragging about the pantry stuffed with several years’ supply of household goods.

Controversy over TV show

Recently, the show has sparked a backlash from retailers and manufacturers, who see more and more people taking bargain hunting to the extreme.

Bud Miller, executive director of Coupon Information Corp., said “a fairly large number of people are going into stores with really unrealistic expectations.”

The trade group Food Marketing Institute warned retailers last month of an increase in fraudulent behavior among coupon users. Behaviors cited included intimidating cashiers and attempting to redeem coupons for items other than what they were intended for.

Newspaper thefts

Newspapers across the country, according to Linn, are reporting increases in the theft of Sunday newspapers, which she attributes to coupon-clipping extremists.

Dan Schaub, a marketing executive for The Sacramento Bee, said many newspapers are taking measures to guard against these theft. He also attributed an advantage to extreme couponers. Wednesday and Sunday newspapers — the days that feature coupon inserts — have been selling quickly.

Coupon fraud

In April, blogger Jill Cataldo posted an article pointing out many unethical and even illegal coupon practices featured on-air by J’Aime Kirlew, one of the shoppers featured on “Extreme Couponing.”

TLC responded to the controversy in a statement, saying the company takes the concerns seriously and will look into the matter. The brief statement closed with: “We look forward to sharing the tips and shopping savvy from all the couponers featuring in upcoming episodes.”


Free From Broke
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Jill Cataldo

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