WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: coupon fraud issues

Posted October 21, 2010

This week I received a couple of questions via e-mail regarding specific use of coupons.  I think they should be covered here on the blog - especially since they were asking about using them fraudulently!

The first person asked if she could photocopy coupons and use them at the store. The answer is a big fat NO! It's fraudulent to photocopy coupons and definitely should not be done. Many coupons  have encrypted codes that specify the date and time of printing so retailers can see if a coupon has been photocopied and redeemed multiple times. Guess what, they know if you used the coupon 100 times!

The second question I received was whether you could use a coupon for a specific item on other items not mentioned on the coupon. The reader said that a friend told her she could use some coupons for any of a brands products, even if they were not included on the wording of the coupon. The reader was concerned that something didn't seem quite right. Her instincts were absolutely correct!

You can only use coupons for the products listed on the coupon. Some coupons will sometimes scan for other items that are similar, but that is not the correct use of the coupon and most stores will not allow it. It's called bar code manipulation and is a very fraudulent use of coupons. You definitely don't want to be doing it. 

Now, sometimes a coupon will show a picture of a specific item, but the coupon states it is good on any package of that item. Even if the 8 pack was shown, you can still use it on the 4 pack or the 12 pack because a size was not specified. The key is to follow the wording of the coupon.

Fraudulent use of coupons affects the manufacturers negatively and will end up causing them to offer less coupons to all of us - a very bad result. So, if you know of anyone using coupons fraudulently, please pass on this information to them.

If you have any comments or questions about how to use coupons legitimately, please ask them here.


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  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 26, 2010

    If you follow the HT policy, you cannot get 2 items of a BOGO deal and use a .50/2 coupon. You have to be "Buying" 2 items to use the coupon. In that example you would have to have 4 of the BOGO item in your cart to use 1 coupon for .50/2. Lowes Foods policy is so much easier to understand and saves us more money with less hassle. You can use a coupon on any item, BOGO or not. So if an item is BOGO at Lowes and I have a .50/2 coupon, I can get 2 of the item and still use the .50/2 coupon.

    With that said, some HT stores will let you use the .50/2 on a BOGO deal - but not all. Can't hurt to ask when you get to the store. As dstrickland said - it really does vary from store to store.

  • candiking Oct 26, 2010

    Faye, reading dstrickland75's post and your response leaves me a bit confused. If an item is BOGO and I am getting 2 can I use a coupon that is say $.50 off two. I get that I can use a coupon for $.50 off one, but what if it is off 2 items. At Harris Teeter.

  • Faye Prosser - Smart Shopper Oct 24, 2010

    The Harris Teeter policy is that you can only use 1 coupon on a BOGO deal, even though each rings up at half price. It is the policy so there is nothing to argue. Most Harris Teeter stores will let you use one coupon if you only buy one of a BOGO item, which still rings up half price. Not all, but most will let you do that.

    Lowes Foods on the other hand will let you use a coupon on each BOGO item meaning you can use 4 coupons and buy 4 items of a BOGO deal and all 4 will ring half price and you can use a coupon on all 4. I use the example of 4 because LF will double up to 4 multiples of a coupon per transaction (as long as you have product for each coupon). LOVE that policy!

    dstrickland - so sad to hear of the fraud and difficult couponers. HT has one of the most clear coupon policies around. It leaves little to interpretation. Tell him to hang in there and that we thank HT for all the great deals!

  • dstrickland75 Oct 24, 2010

    Bohica2...I told my husband the same thing you said...but he said the end result is the same, you are getting one free no matter how they do it. I don't care one way or another, but its frustrating when you don't know the rules and if they are going to be enforced or what. It's just very inconsistant from store to store and manager to manager.

  • bohica2 Oct 24, 2010

    Dstrickland - I think in your example, the coupon should have been allowed as a matter of policy. Since HT (thankfully) sells BOGO items "by the each" - pricing them at half off, I think that customer DID buy two. Not so if they wanted to use a $off 4 when they bought a buy 2 get 3 free deal (like Progresso soup, etc).

  • dstrickland75 Oct 23, 2010

    My husband works for HT and he sees more fraud than good. He had a customer yesterday who was trying to use a coupon that required buying 2 of the item and the item was BOGO and he told her that she couldn't use that coupon because technically she was buying only one. She threw a fit and a manager had to be called and he gave in. It is hard to have integrity when the coupon abusers bully their way into getting what they want. She told the manager they did it last time. So he said he would do it this one time. Well, I'm sure it's not just this one time and not just this one customer. I want people to get good deals but it is so hard on my husband and other employess who have to deal with people being rude and mean to them day in and day out when they don't get their way.

  • this is my Screen Name Oct 22, 2010

    I'm confused by the fraud issue. When I have used coupons, the cash register seems to know if I have bought one or two, if the product is the exact one mentioned on the coupon, etc. I haven't tried to defraud the product on the coupons, there have just been times I didn't read it carefully, and was not able to use the coupon.

  • mmitchell1402 Oct 22, 2010

    Same thing happened to me with SS. I can't print them anymore and I promise I did not abuse them. I really think someone at a business where I used them may have copied them. It's aggravating when you follow the rules and then something that you have no control over ruins it for you.

  • Nancy Oct 21, 2010

    Thanks techbond :) However, since the house is networked and we have like 5 computers on it (yes, hubby is IBM/Lenovo employee) and he's a telecommuter, I'd have to ask him to take the system down when he's not online with China :( And given the time difference, well, we'd have to set the alarm to get up to do it LOL

    It's all good, one day when we need to update or there's a problem, then I might get another shot at it :)

    But wanted to share what happened to me so that others will be very careful or at least aware of what can happen with IP coupons :(

  • pirategirl12 Oct 21, 2010

    I hope a few dishonest people don't ruin if for those of us who play by the rules and have integrity!