Couponing is exciting and a great way to save money on most things you need. However, with everything, there are rules and ethics when it comes to using coupons.
If you are a new couponer, make sure you understand these issues before you try to redeem coupons for the first time. Otherwise, you may end up frustrated and confused and want to quit right away.
Make sure you check out our How to Use Coupons page for the help you need to start learning to save more money!
IMPORTANT COUPON FACTS
Do not copy coupons
It is illegal to make copies of coupons. In fact, doing so can result in being banned from printing them at all. When you print a coupon, your IP address is contained within the code. Each time you print, the code keeps track of the number of times it was printed.
When you print from coupons.com, you will see this easily. The border of the coupon contains important information. When you print the coupon the first time, you will see 01. When you print it a second time, you will see it says 02. This is how companies can track the number of prints and limit them based upon either your IP address or your printer.
You can see here, the tops of two coupons. The first one shows 01 and the second one is 02. This is how the coupon is coded so that it is tracked as to the number of times it was printed.
Note that you can always print coupons in black and white and they should be accepted anywhere. However, it will allow for questions at the store and they may elect not to accept it as they cannot tell from first glance that the coupon is not an original.
Keep in mind that the UPC code will be identical on all coupons. That is because it relates to the product itself and not the print.
If you think that you can’t be tracked, you can. I had a reader who was banned from printing SmartSource coupons because she made some copies for her friends as she was not aware that it was not allowed.
Do not use fraudulent coupons
Years ago, there were coupons online for a free bag of Doritos. Sound like a good coupon, doesn’t it? The problem was that it was a fake. Someone had scanned in a coupon they had received in the mail and circulated it. There have also been instances of coupons for $9.00 off of Pampers or other diapers. Those too, sadly, were fake.
If the store accepts a fake coupon, they suffer the loss. It is not reimbursed by the manufacturer. This results in higher prices for everyone who shops, as the store has to recoup those loses in some manner.
If you aren’t sure if the coupon is valid or not, there are things to keep in mind:
- Most fraudulent coupons will be available via PDF. That means you do not have to print the through the site, such as you do on coupons.com. PDFs are images of coupons, which makes them simpler to share and distribute.
- Coupons that seem too good to be true often are. Free Doritos or $9.00 savings on diapers fall into this category.
If you need to ever find out if a coupon is valid or not, you can visit The Coupon Information Center as they have a list of the known fraudulent coupons out there.
Only use a coupon as intended
Coupons often include size restrictions. If it states it is valid for a 24 oz product, do not use it on a 16 oz item. In addition, if the coupon is valid only on diapers, do not use it to purchase wipes. If the coupon is item specific, such as Honey Nut Cheerios, it is not OK to use it on Original Cheerios.
This also includes quantity purchases. If your coupon states that you can save $1.00 off of the purchase of two products ($1.00/2), keep in mind you must buy two to use it. In addition, if you buy two with this same $1.00/2, you can’t use two coupons. You can only use one coupon on each item you buy.
Just because a coupon will scan for an item, that does not mean it is ok to use it on anything other than what it was intended for.
Expired coupons are just that, expired
Just as coupons are issued for specific products, they are also issued for specific ranges of time. Do not use coupons past the expiration date, no matter how tempting it may be.
Follow store coupon policies
Coupon redemption is always at the store’s discretion. Yes, it can be frustrating at times, but stores are not required to accept coupons. In addition, they are protecting themselves against potential fraud and loss.
If you find that the policy is confusing or you need to see if they will make a change to it, just speak to the manager (the cashier can not help you). If you run in to a cashier that seems to be making up their own policy as they go, that is a much different story.
We have a list with links to most store’s coupon policies to help you learn more about the store where you shop.
We all love a good deal – don’t we!?!? However, it is terribly frustrating to walk into a store and see a shelf has been wiped clean. While most people will purchase only a couple of items when they find a deal, there are some who will take every single item they can.
Some say they buy those additional items to donate. While it is incredible to want to help others, this type of clearing shelves practice takes away from the people who do not visit those centers. If you find a good deal and want to make a donation, just pick up a few items and leave some for others. Of course, if you pick up the last 2 on the shelf, that is different and not deemed “shelf clearing.”
If you find you need more than the quantity on the store shelf, talk to a store manager about what you could do to get more ordered so you can purchase them. That allows you to get the items you need, while still leaving product for others to purchase.
There moments when your coupons will not scan or the deal doesn’t go as you think it should. Rule #1 is to be polite. The cashier is not in control of the coupon not being scannable. He or she also has no control over the store pricing or offer.
If you have an issue, review the store’s coupon policy or ask to see a manager.
Don’t Hog the Coupons
When you see coupons in the form of booklets, on products or anywhere else in the store, take them in the right way. Here are tips:
- Booklets or Tearpads — take no more than 2 coupons.
- Coupons attached to the product (peelie or hanging on the bottle) — do not take it without purchasing the item.
As couponers, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are participating in honest coupon use. I was confused about some of these items when I first started to coupon, so if you’ve made one of these mistakes don’t be too hard on yourself!