My local newspaper stopped carrying one of the main weekly coupon inserts. What is the best place to buy them online?”
While I’ve addressed the topic of purchasing coupons numerous times over the years, it’s still a hot topic with couponers. It’s true that there are plenty of websites selling coupons. However, I cannot recommend buying coupons online in any circumstance. There are several reasons why buying coupons is not a good idea.
Buying coupons online violates the terms set by the manufacturer. If you take the time to read the fine print on your coupons, you’ll notice that many coupons state that they are void if sold or purchased. While you may think it’s not a big deal if people buy and sell paper coupons, there are several reasons not to do so.
First, brands and stores consider the terms on a coupon to be a contract between the manufacturer and the store. The manufacturer will reimburse the store for the value of the coupon provided that the terms of the coupon have been met. As the manufacturer has created these terms, it’s not the consumer’s place to alter them by selling the coupons. Not only is this against the manufacturer’s wishes, it affects the redemption rates and areas where coupons are redeemed.
It’s no secret that brands offer different kinds and values of coupon offers to different parts of the country. Regional coupon offers may be used to boost sales in a specific metropolitan area, or they may issue specific coupons to one state and not another. If the brand offers a high-value detergent coupon to boost detergent sales in California, they won’t be too thrilled to see a spike of redemptions for their California offer in Atlanta, New York or Orlando. The only way large quantities of these California-specific coupons could have ended up in other states is if they were sold online.
When brands see spikes in redemption in geographic areas where their coupons were never issued, it forces them to rethink their promotion strategies. Why would a brand want to spend money to issue offers targeted at a specific audience, only to repeatedly find that the offers aren’t being redeemed in the area they’re offered?
Another thing to consider? In many cases, the coupon inserts are stolen property. Brands, manufacturers and publishers simply do not make coupon inserts available to the public to sell. The coupon inserts are only distributed directly to their affiliated publications. When you see a coupon seller online advertising that they have tens of thousands of identical coupon inserts for sale – often a week or two before the insert is due to appear in the newspaper – it’s a strong sign that the inserts may have been stolen.
You may not think that coupon sale is big business, but it is. In 2016, a Rhode Island police officer was arrested for stealing stacks of coupon inserts from a local newspaper, then providing them to his wife to sell on Instagram! If you enter into a business transaction with a reseller that is dealing in stolen property, you’re also linking your name and payment records to that of a criminal. Is it worth the risk?
In recent years, we’ve seen major brands pull coupons entirely from specific regions in retaliation against coupon sellers. In some areas where coupon sale is rampant, publishers have completely pulled the entire coupon inserts from the newspaper – effectively punishing both the coupon sellers and thousands of innocent households who simply wanted to get coupons in the paper each week. There are real, tangible consequences to supporting unethical coupon resellers.
Another reason to avoid buying coupons online is that you cannot be assured of the legitimacy of them. Just this week, a reader emailed me a list of phony “blinkie” coupons (similar to the kinds found inside in-store dispensers) being sold online. While we could again argue the ethics of selling coupons found on displays in stores, what was interesting about these coupons is that every one was counterfeit.
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Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.