Friday, November 8, 2013

Coupon Fraud and HOT DEAL glitches and scams...

The first time I heard the term "coupon fraud" I laughed. Seriously? Coupon fraud? This is a REAL problem??? REALLY??

Yep. It is. Because sadly there are far too many lazy, dishonest people out there. Look... I'm ALL for scoring a good deal. A good LEGIT deal. What I have a HUGE problem with is people using coupons and on line discount codes in a fraudulently manner.

In the last two days alone I have seen TWO major "glitches" on store web sites which resulted in a handful of people getting hundreds of dollars in merchandise at up to a 98% discount OR for FREE by using a code of some sort to earn $10 "gift cards" over and over and over. Both retailers, Wal Mart and Macy's, caught the glitch and cancelled most of the orders. This resulted in an outcry from hard core couponers and deal seekers. "It's not fair!!!! They should have honored the orders!!!It wasn't OUR fault."

Reading comments like these sets my teeth on edge. I have no time nor patience for people looking to cheat the system. They are little more than thieves and are beneath me and I'm SURE all of you feel the same way. My feelings on Wal Mart aside (I don't really shop at Macy's), both stores are in the business of making money not losing it, and I think they were well within their rights to cancel the orders. Wal Mart gave everyone who'd had an order cancelled a $10 gift card for their troubles. Hmmm.. lost nothing, GAINED ten bucks... Sounds fair to me. But what do I know??

So take this as a little warning... Be careful.. scams are out there and things that seem just WAY too good to be true probably ARE too good to be true. Yes, you CAN get free stuff in small quantities from places like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid using each store's rewards program. You are most likely NOT going to find a $1500 hi-def flat screen TV for $30 with free shipping on It's a scam or a glitch and you're either going to lose money or have your order cancelled. Hope for the latter if you fall victim to this.

Coupon fraud is loosely defined as using a manufacturer's coupon on an item it was not intended to be used on. For example you have a coupon for $3/1 (three dollars off one item) Gillette refillable razor. A few years ago coupon bar codes were less sophisticated and often, as long as the manufacturer of the item was the same as the item on the coupon, the coupon would scan without that dreaded beep. I'm going to use random numbers for demonstration purposes only, these are not the ACTUAL prices. Let's say the Gillette refillable razor costs $9.99 so that using the $3/1 coupon makes it 6.99. BUT the Gillette three pack of disposables is only $3.99 (I have NO IDEA if it is, don't buy disposables) so that using the $3/1 coupon (that is NOT meant for this item) makes it $.99. This is coupon fraud. Plain and simple.

THIS is how a lot of dishonest couponers were/are able to "buy" hoards of stuff for pennies on the dollar. They use coupons meant for a higher priced item on a lower priced item made by the same company. These women (and men) will defend their practice by saying "who does it hurt??" or "these companies can afford it" or "if it (the coupon) doesn't beep it must be ok..." or they justify their CRIMINAL behavior by donating mass quantities of toiletries, canned and dry goods, etc to needy families or the military or a homeless shelter or the like. Nice idea IF YOU'RE GETTING THE DEALS LEGALLY and not, in essence, STEALING these things. If you are doing it fraudulently, then you've just cancelled out all the good you're trying to do, in my ever so humble opinion.

Coupon fraud DOES hurt someone other than the big corporations. When retailers start losing money they start raising prices. So it hurts us, the consumer. It also makes couponing more difficult for those of us who do it honestly. Cashiers are now trained to scrutinize every coupon, bar codes have become more intricate and sophisticated, computer systems are set up to throw back coupons that don't match an item in the order and glitches in the system make it so some coupons that SHOULD go through, don't and then there's MORE scrutiny to deal with. Some retailers have stopped accepting internet printed coupons because people were/are photocopying them over and over (illegally) and still other retailers have stopped accepting coupons at all or have such stringent rules and regulations that checking out is a nightmare. Cashiers can be rude and hostile with couponers because we've gotten a bad reputation from all of fraud going on.

We all want to save as much as we can. Some of us NEED to save as much as we can because we live on a shoestring budget. If we all commit to couponing the RIGHT way we all benefit. Think about it...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

ECB's, RR's, UP Rewards, stacking, rolling... Coupon lingo explained...

Couponing is like a subculture. For some I think it's a little bit of an addiction... (ahem:cough:cough:me:cough:cough)

You almost get a high from that AWESOME deal that nets you $45 worth of shampoo and condioner for FREE. But I digress... there's a whole lingo in the world of coupon. The abbreviations alone can be overwhelming. So I'll keeo this post simple. Just a short, little... err... list of the most commonly used abbreviations...

BOGO or B1G1 - Buy One, Get One (followed by Free or % off )

BRP - Walgreens Balance Rewards Points

Blinkies - Little "machines" mounted on the edge of the shelf (usually with blinking lights, hence the name) that dispense coupons.

CAT - Catalina or a coupon that prints at checkout.

DND - Do Not Double

ECB - CVS ExtraBucks (see CVS 101)

ETS - Excludes Trial/Travel Size

GC - Gift Card or Gift Certificate

GM - General Mills (newspaper coupon insert)

HBA - Health & Beauty Aisle

IP - Internet Printable

MFR - Manufacturer

MIR - Mail-In Rebate

MM - Money Maker (the amount of the coupon exceeds the cost of the item resulting in "overage"... more to come on that later)

MQ - Manufacturer's Coupon

NED - No Expiration Date

OOP - Out of Pocket

OYNO - Off Your Next Order (as in Catalinas... again, more on that later)

P&G - Procter & Gamble (newspaper coupon insert)

PM - Price Match (SOME stores will price match another store's advertised price)

POP - Proof of Purchase

Peelies - Removable adhesive-backed coupons that are sometimes found attached to products

Q(s) - Coupon(s)

RA - Rite Aid

RP - RedPlum (newspaper coupon insert)

RR - Walgreens Register Rewards (see Walgreens 101)

Stacking - Using a store coupon in conjunction with a manufacturer's coupon on one item.

SS - Smartsource (newspaper coupon insert)

VV - Rite Aid Video Values Coupons

WAGS - Walgreens

WYB - When You Buy

YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary, (In essence sometimes a scenario will work for one person and not another. Individual stores within a chain an differ from state to state and even town to town)

UPR or +UP - Rite Aid +UP Rewards

NLA - no longer available

Extreme Couponing Debunked...

We've all watched it. TLC's "Extreme Couponing". We've all stared at our TV's in awe at women who walk out of their local grocery store with $347 worth of groceries for a mere forty-two cents. HOW did she do that???? And HOW THE HELL can I do it?? The answer is I probably can't. And you likely can't either. Well... maybe can't is the wrong word. We probably won't, at least not all of the time.

In order to coupon to that extreme, ALL of the time, you need to make it your full time job, in my ever so humble opinion. I don't have that kind of time. Nor that kind of patience. With that said it IS possible to get a whole lot of things at ROCK BOTTOM PRICES and... quite often... FREE. On a smaller scale then reality TV portrays. I'm not getting twenty-seven bottles of dish soap and thirty-six bottles of laundry detergent for free all at one time.

I DO get smaller quantities over several weeks and build up a good sized stock pile slowly. Every once in a blue moon I find a "money maker" or an MM in coupon lingo. A money maker happens when a coupon exceeds the actual cost of the item (which does happen). Most stores, in my experience, do not allow overages. They will adjust the coupon down to the actual cost. Whatever. Free is free.

If you're just starting out I HIGHLY recommend choosing one store at a time to master. Every store has different coupon policies which can be found on their web sites. I print these out and check them regularly to see if there have been any changes. If there are, I print them again and toss the old ones. I suggest carrying these with you in your binder or whatever vessel you choose to carry your coupons in. All too often store employees, including managers, are unfamiliar with their own coupon policies.

The level to which you want to take your coupon adventure will determine just how overwhelmed you'll be in the beginning. I have a large family. Six kids, four still living at home, two who drop in unannounced and an assortment of fur kids rounds out the bunch. I'm also divorced living on child and spousal support and a low paying job. So I've taken a more extreme approach than some of you may want, or need, too. And I COMPLETELY overwhelmed myself in the beginning. I tried to master CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens... I nearly drove myself MAD. Learn from my mistake. Take a deep breath and take it one coupon at a time. :)

I purchase 20-30 inserts per week (ten of each insert in the Sunday paper) at a cost of approximately $10-15. Ten Sunday papers would cost me $17.50. I know it seems like very little in savings and a lot of money to spend to save a few bucks. However, I save $2.50-$7.50 per week by not purchasing ten whole papers(depending on the number of inserts that week). And I don't just save a couple of dollars when I shop. This past week alone I saved $101 using coupons (in multiple shopping trips). So, I got one hundred and one dollars in FREE stuff. That's IN coupon savings alone. NOT including store card savings. I spent $15 on inserts this week. For a net savings (so far) of eighty-six dollars.

AND I'm not done yet. There are still two whole days of this week's ads left. :) Now... I want you to remember something... you are likely NOT going to see HUGE savings like this the first time you shop with coupons. The savings will build gradually as you shop and build up a stash of coupons as well as extra in-store savings opportunities. We'll talk more about that later. I learned the hard way that plowing too fast into this venture can end up disastrous and cost more money than necessary.

The last thing I want to touch on right now is the notion that all couponers are hoarders whose homes have been taken over by ginormous stashes of shampoo, laundry detergent and toilet paper. I only buy things I need and know we will use. I'm not buying and stockpiling diapers simply because they were twenty-three cents a pack. Great savings! Really! FABULOUS!! For a family with a baby. I don't have a baby. And though I know I will someday have grandchildren I'm not going to stockpile diapers for them. Dry rot would likely set in before they'd get used... I hope.

I don't clear the shelves, buying fifty bottles of shampoo and fifty bottles of conditioner at one time, because it's just RUDE to do it. My standard rule is usually one item per family member (living IN my home)plus three. Making it an even eight. I do buy less than that at times, often as a matter of fact, but that's my max. The exception being if I find a REALLY good deal on an item we use A LOT of quickly. For instance if I find deodorant that comes down to thirty-five cents each after coupons and store savings I WILL buy a lot of it. Usually no more than twenty. I ONLY do this if doing so won't clear the shelf. If need be I will do multiple transactions at different stores.

A perk of the area I live in is the abundance of shopping choices, there are ten CVS's within' about a seventeen mile radius of me. Seven of those are a distance of seven miles or less. There are also multiple Wal Marts, Targets, Family Dollars, Dollar General and an odd assortment of grocery stores. With a little work and determination the savings potential is huge.

So... decide how much of a project you want this to be and go from there.

First things first, you need something to keep all of your coupons, ads, lists, etc in. I started out with binder. That became heavy and awkward to travel with quickly. I'm guessing here because I don't count coupons as I cut them, but I likely have at least 1000 coupons, probably more, stored in my binder. I trade a lot of those and give some away as well (for things I don't use). No. I don't use all of them. A lot were going into the recycling pile. I have since found that I can send my expired coupons to an organization that distributes them to military families overseas. Because these families do not have easy access to these coupons like we do, by the time they do get them they're often nearly expired or expired. As a courtesy, commissaries accept coupons up to six months after their expiration date. Google (or search FB using words like "expired coupons" and military. At the moment Blogger is being temperamental and the links I've attempted to include here don't show up when I publish the blog.

So the binder has become a burden so I started asking fellow couponers what they used to store and carry their stash in. One gal told me about a bag she'd purchased and posted a picture of it on one of the numerous FB groups I'm a part of. Her rave review coupled with others I found through some research sold me and I HAD to have it. It wasn't RIDICULOUSLY expensive however, I'm cheap and I spent less on my last purse and wallet COMBINED but I expect I'll use this bag more often than I have any other bag I have owned. To locate this bag Google "Jenn's Coupon Box" and the first two or so links that come up will be what you're looking for. Again I apologize for the lack of links but there seems to be a Blogger glitch at the moment...

The shipping IS a little high on the bag in my ever so humble opinion but I think it will be worth it in the long run.

SO do some research figure out what is going to work best for you and then jump right in...