Recently I heard a story about unethical and fraudulent coupon usage that has hurt many couponers in my area, so I felt the need to explain some things. While I am certainly not the coupon police, I do feel compelled to comment on this activity because it is so intrinsic to my business. Let me start by pointing out that I try to point all questions about ethics to God’s Word. I believe, and the passage below confirms, that if we allow Him to, the Holy Spirit will guide every believer’s actions as they relate to moral and ethical behavior.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” ~ John 14:26
Here is what happened:
Apparently a shopper came in to a local Publix store with the Food Lion printable coupons, and got 90+ bags of trail mix. Because of this shopper’s actions, I was prohibited from using the two coupons I had printed off of my two computers when I shopped at Publix later. You see, these coupons are supposed to be printed one time per computer. It is actually coupon fraud to print a coupon and then reproduce it en masse. And, though I and many others followed the rules, we suffered for one person’s selfishness. With that being said, I think the following post deserves fresh attention. Below is an excerpt, go here to read the full post.
A few tips and guidelines with coupon usage:
1. Printable Competitors Coupons - Be sure to read the fine print and use the coupons as directed. Most only allow one print per computer. I purposely do not post links to PDF files, in an effort not to tempt you to print multiples. It is too much of a temptation, and I feel there are so many great deals, there is no need to be unethical. Also, unless they are posted on a manufacturer’s or retailer’s site, most online PDF printable coupons are a violation of the terms of the coupon. This is a slippery slope that leads to more misuse, so stay above board at all times!
A rule of thumb I have tried to adopt is that if there is a PDF file to print a coupon, I only promote or use it if it is on the manufacturer’s website. Most that are floating around loose have a high probability to be fraudulent. See my post on Fraudulent Coupons to see if a coupon is fraudulent or not.
2. Grabbing Coupon Booklets - Now I am the first to want to grab 20 of a coupon booklet when they are laying out. So, I want to encourage to grab a few and leave some for others.
3. Expired Coupons – I used expired coupons in the beginning of my coupon journey, until I was convicted by the Holy Spirit. One thing I have learned is that deals and coupons are offered for a reason, and we should try to use them for their intended purpose, which includes respecting the expiration dates. While I have heard tons of stories on the coupon redemption process and when they get reimbursed, I will promote proper coupon usage, which means discouraging the use of expired coupons. (There is an exception for the military at overseas commissaries.)
Note: If you post a deal promoting the use of expired coupons, I will delete it to prevent confusion for readers.
4. Zip Code Specific Coupons - Some coupon sites offer ZIP code specific coupons for certain regions. I know there are places that list ZIP codes you can use to get certain coupons, but these coupons are only meant for certain ZIP codes, so I choose not to post them. I figure the manufacturers have their reasons for restricting the promotions and we should choose to play by their rules.
5. Purchasing Coupons – Lately I have had a lot of questions about purchasing coupons online. Again, I point you to the fine print. Many of them say “void if sold.” There are a couple of ways to look at this, you are either paying for the service of clipping them or paying for the coupons. I’ll let you decide! I personally don’t purchase coupons because I have so many I can’t use them all!!
In closing, I want to say that in my sinful nature I have tried to explain away what I now see was abuse and misuse of the system, trying to claim I was doing it in the name of generosity. (“I’ll have more to give!”) But one thing I have learned is that God hasn’t just called me to give to others, He has called all of us to live generously. If we ignore the Spirit’s nudge to hold off, we are taking away giving opportunities from others who are wanting the chance. What I have experienced is that most of the time, giving most greatly blesses the giver — an open hand leads to an open heart!
Another great post on Couponing Ethics here.
How about you? What are your thoughts on my post above? Any areas I have forgotten to list? I would love your positive feedback and ideas on proper coupon usage and ethics!!