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Extreme Couponing Fraud

Last week, TLC debuted its new series “Extreme Couponing“, featuring people who save extreme amounts of money using coupons. Deals like scoring hundreds of dollars worth of goods for as little as $10 were featured.

You can either be inspired or depressed after watching this show. How can the average person get these kinds of deals? The truth is they can’t.

After some discussion on forums, I learned that some of scenarios shown on the show were exaggerated to get the best deal. For instance, some of the stores featured on the show don’t normally double or triple coupons. But for the show, the store made an exception for publicity reasons.

One extreme couponer was shown doing 18 separate transactions, taking an hour to get through checkout, in order to use all of her coupons and get her “deal”. She had to get permission from the corporate headquarters of the grocery store to do this many transactions, meaning this wasn’t a normal scenario. She can’t get this kind of deal regularly and neither can any of us.

As I dug deeper, I uncovered this story about extreme couponing fraud. Basically, one of the extreme couponers featured on the show, used coupons to save money on other items, items the coupons were not intended for. For example, she had a coupon for 75 cents off FiberOne cereal, but instead of using it for that cereal, she bought Honey Nut Cheerios, Kix, and Lucky Charms, because they were on sale. And she got the 75 cents doubled, saving $1.50 on each box of the wrong cereal! Each box of cereal ended up being 49 cents each. So she cheated to get her savings!

I had no idea that coupon fraud like this existed! Did you? I didn’t know that you could use a coupon for a different product but for the same manufacturer. Don’t get any ideas. It’s still fraud. Manufacturers need to do something about this.

What’s the big deal? Well, as couponing fraud becomes more prevalent, stores will start to suspect honest couponers and not honor legitimate coupons as freely. This would hurt all of us.

You can’t believe everything you see on TV. The extreme couponers featured on the TLC show spend weeks putting together these extreme deals for TV. They don’t really shop like that every week.

Don’t be discouraged though. There are legitimate extreme couponers out there who put together great deals to share. Some of them were featured on Extreme Couponing.

Check out my Resources page for Extreme Couponing Tips and a printable  guide to Grocery Sales Cycles РWhen Do Things Go on Sale?

Featured in the Totally Money Carnival #17: Celebrate the Green hosted by Money Beagle.

47 Comments on Extreme Couponing Fraud

  1. Tammy
    April 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm (3 years ago)

    I like watching this show and I always wondered how’d they do it to save so much.

  2. Fanny
    April 14, 2011 at 11:55 am (3 years ago)

    It’s still a good show. But things aren’t always what they appear. I still watch it though.

  3. patty
    April 20, 2011 at 1:05 am (3 years ago)

    I thought it was all too good to be true, and when I tried using coupons I ended up spending more than I normally do at a regular trip to the store. I actually didn’t like watching the show, I don’t like someone having that much stuff stored in their garage. How much cereal can you eat? and how much deodorant do you really need. It seemed like an addiction more than a savings. I just don’t like people who get a kick out of people who have so much stored.

  4. Lisa
    April 25, 2011 at 8:35 am (3 years ago)

    They are no different than Hoarders!

    • C.K.
      October 6, 2011 at 7:15 am (3 years ago)

      I so agree with the comparison……..who needs 100 bottles of mustard ???

  5. jessica
    May 1, 2011 at 12:42 pm (3 years ago)

    I’ve watched the show, and i was like OMG! Can that really happen? I mean i use coupons but i don’t think i save no more then just $10.00, plus sale items. That show was crazy. Oh, i don’t think you can use the same coupon so many times. I mean doubling.

  6. jessica
    May 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm (3 years ago)

    It’s like having your own supermarket in house, and what happens to the things you don’t use? Don’t they expire? Tooooooo much food.

  7. JulieDB
    May 5, 2011 at 12:40 am (3 years ago)

    I like to keep extra non-perishables in the house but even those things expire and from time to time I have to throw some out. But keeping a hoard like that? Makes no sense at all.

  8. monica
    May 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm (3 years ago)

    I think the show is FREAKING AMAZING!!! You can gripe and whine all you want but it is a testament to folks who will do whatever it takes to keep their families fed, clothed and clean. I’d rather coupon and be able to save the money I would’ve FOOLISHLY spent on groceries to send my child to a great summer camp. Maybe some of the folks take it overboard and have too much stuff but the fact is that ANYONE can do what they do on a smaller scale. Hoarding or not they are finance teachers! Since the show I have started couponing, spending a few hours at a time, instead of watching mindless television, and have seen DRAMATIC savings! Now we can go on a family vacation this year and not feel like we wont be able to pay other bills. The secret is to purchase what’s on sale while allowing the store to double your coupon. You can get an item costing $1.49 down to $0.30 if you do it right. That extra 80% saved is money in the bank! Think about it!

    • 1st-Time Mommy
      June 6, 2011 at 11:12 am (3 years ago)

      I, too, got really into couponing as a result of the show, and I feel like I’ve been doing a decent job, typically saving 70% or more per shopping trip (and without buying unnecessary items or creating a huge “stockpile”). Admittedly, I’ve even become a bit obsessive, and do feel a kind of “thrill” at the register as I watch my total run down.

      However, I do have to agree that I find it inappropriate for TLC to air footage of a woman who is, quite literally, committing a crime. They wouldn’t broadcast someone teaching others how to shoplift, so why (silently) endorse coupon fraud?

      It’s especially troublesome to me because you can achieve fantastic savings AND play by the rules. It may take more time and be a little more work, but you can save incredible amounts of money, and not break the law.

    • JMan
      June 9, 2011 at 10:48 am (3 years ago)

      yup, the 56 boxes of Pop Tarts and 78 bottles of hot sauce is indeed amazing

      too bad the show doesn’t focus a little more on the types of food they’re purchasing…high sugar/corn starch, trans fat, whether or not they eat all of it or not isn’t exactly promoting good health

    • Molly
      July 5, 2011 at 7:21 am (3 years ago)

      Yes saving money and doing what it takes to provided for your family is awesome but they aren’t really doing that they Stores on this show are bending the rules just for those people on the show and everyone else has to abided by rules.

  9. btm
    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm (3 years ago)

    I am disgusted with the women on this show. They are mostly FAT
    - from all the GREEDY HOARDING they do!!! There is NO LEGAL way to save as much money as they are depicted doing – NO WAY!
    This show is phony.

    • amm78
      June 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm (3 years ago)

      While I am not as extreme as the ones they show on TV, there is a legal way to save that much on groceries. I usually save between 80-99 percent. But I do it the right way and only stock up on what my family can use and what we need. With a family of 7 if I can save on my grocery bill I can pay for braces, summer camps, sports, etc. I buy what is on sale and if there is an overage I can apply that to meat, produce and other things. My children do not eat a lot of bad foods but they do have a variety of snacks to eat when they want. We donate a lot to the food banks and homeless shelters in our area because they are always in need and being a military family making care packages is always a priority for us. Just because some people hoard or make it look bad doesn’t mean that all people who have stock piles are the same. I donate more than 75% of the things that I get and I do get a lot of stuff free because I am patient and dedicated to giving my family the things they need and a lot of the things they want. I work hard for the meager salary I earn and I have to stretch it as far as it goes.

  10. Natalyia
    May 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm (3 years ago)

    I agree that it seems literally impossible to do as well as they do on the extremem couponing show , however, I have been a loyal Grocery Gamer for 3 years now and I can honestly say I do extremely well, the only bill that I have never paid anything on was one time at Tom Thumb my bill was over 526 dollars and when I was done with all the coupons tom thumb owed me 20 dollars and since they wouldnt give me the cash I turned around and just got another pkg of diapers for the baby at that time! we do get s bit of a stock pile and I donate what I will not use, but its never been anything like the show ! Also about the coupon fraud, the registers will not let you use a coupon for an item that you did not buy reguardless if it is the same company! so whomever told you that, its not true! I have all my recepts and I religiously do grocery game, come home with alot of free stuff or stuff for 18 cents etc and my bill will always be around 600 but when I am done with the coupons its about 120!! I love it but Kroger did tell me that the extreme coupon show is ruining it for everyone, becasue the stores that do double and triple will stop becasue of that show, so its not benefitting anyone to air that show!

    • Molly
      July 5, 2011 at 7:24 am (3 years ago)

      Wrong you can use a coupon for an item if the barcode family matches. Look it up before you speak.

    • TY
      August 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm (3 years ago)

      You can actually scan one coupon for an item that it is not meant for. I’ve worked as a cashier at CVS and I’ve seen this happen ALL the time. Usually, people use it on beauty items ($3 off $15 beauty items and they use it for body wash, etc).

    • Trish
      August 24, 2011 at 4:19 pm (3 years ago)

      You can use a coupon for the wrong item. I’ve been a cashier for many years and the customers usually know they are doing it, because they get all pissy when I tell them I won’t take their coupons. On many occasions people will toss up something like 20 tubes of cheap toothpaste and give me floss coupons. Some manufacturers have already fixed this by using a different format of barcode.

      • Fanny
        August 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm (3 years ago)

        Thanks for the insights. Glad they have fixed this.

  11. Peggy Riley
    May 18, 2011 at 8:35 pm (3 years ago)

    Where I live they don’t offer double off coupons. And if you read the fine print the stores off a bonus amount for using their product. Total rip off.

  12. paula
    May 19, 2011 at 1:20 pm (3 years ago)

    I do NOT watch this show because, one-I can’t afford cable, which may be to my benefit and two-I’ve seen enough of the kinds of things some customers at stores try to get away with first hand particularly at Walmart. For instance, when a customer with a wad of coupons and two carts full of groceries will talk to the checker while he/she is ringing up their order in an effort to distract the checker and have them scan the coupons without carefully checking to see if the item the couupon is intended for is actually purchased. Thank goodness at our local Vons and Pavilions stores the checkers are more careful and will point blank tell the customer that their coupon is NOT for any of their purchased items and they cannot use it for something else. If not for this who knows what customers might be able to get away with. Even my older brother’s ex-wife used to take expired coupons and use them where she knew the checkers wouldn’t even bother to check the expiration dates on them.

    I, myself rarely use coupons unless they’re for something I actually NEED at the time and if they might be on sale at a particular market, Target or Walmart when I’m shopping there, so much the better. I am NOT rich and don’t shop unless it’s absolutely necessary for me to do so. I have a conscience and care about the fact that it is we, the comsumers who are honest who pay dearly for the fraud of the people who are committing it. It’s not enough that grocery prices have risen drastically in recent years, but to have to pay for someone else’s greed is totally WRONG.

    • C.K.
      October 6, 2011 at 7:27 am (3 years ago)

      I live in Canada and all our coupons say “only one product per purchase per customer” on them and when you check through in some store you have to place the coupon right on the product and or they will check the bill to make sure you purchased the right product as we dont scan the coupon here and besides coupon fraud is a form of stealing and guess who pays for it? WE ALL DO !!

  13. Paula
    May 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm (3 years ago)

    Sorry about the typos in my previous comment. Stuff happens.

  14. Beckie
    May 23, 2011 at 8:05 am (3 years ago)

    I’ve recently started using coupons. And the most I save is about 50-60%. The biggest deals I get are on hygenie products. I have gotten a few free things but the items were on sale and I had a good coupon. I refuse to buy things I don’t use. Like on the episode where the lady bought 50 something bottles of Malox. Who has that much gas? And as far as talking to the checkout lady, I am to busy making sure the price on the screen is correct. I will also shop during times I know aren’t busy esp if I have two orders. I write out a detail list of what I’m buying and I stick to that list. That is the biggest way to save. If I’m doing price matches at walmart I keep it separate from the rest and I have my ads ready to go and the items circled to help things go faster. If it weren’t for coupons and sales we couldn’t make ends meet. But I haven’t figured out how to get my savings down to what they do on the show. And most stores will not double a coupon over $.50. But with gas prices so high it has forced our family to save as much as we can where we can. I don’t feel I’m being greedy.

  15. Liz
    May 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm (3 years ago)

    @ Natalyia, your comment of:

    “Also about the coupon fraud, the registers will not let you use a coupon for an item that you did not buy reguardless if it is the same company! so whomever told you that, its not true”

    You are totally and completely INCORRECT. Look up bar coding and coupons. It is very possible to use a coupon on a product it was not intended for, where the coupon will not be automatically rejected by the cash register. One company this is a problem for is Proctor and Gamble–the company featured coupon user Jaime Kirlew has defrauded time and time again–where those are using high value coupons, such as $10 Crest White Strips coupons, but purchasing Tide, Bounty, or Charmin.

    Please do your research before spouting off falsehoods.

  16. Pam
    June 4, 2011 at 9:28 am (3 years ago)

    I was shocked with the massive purchases… this is why when other “couponers” are trying to get deals they aren’t available. Shelves are bare….

    Everywhere I shop the cashiers are trained. If the coupon is not accepted they ususally call a manager over to check it out. They don’t do it blindly. Now I know there are stores where the cashiers do things illegal. They will unltimately lose their jobs.

    I don’t know how this one woman went to Kroger and got the deals there. I never have such luck. My Kroger will not allow you to stack coupons and they check them carefully. I acutally got into an arguement with a manger about using a coupon on a sale item that would make the purchase free. I gave up and left. He told me that was illegal wouldn’t approve it. I am so confused about the whole thing.

    Extreme couponers have made Publix change their coupon policy.

    I only hope these grocery hoarders give some of their “pirate booty” to the needy. There is no way for one family to consume everything these people stockpile. 50 containers of laundry detergent! They purchase more… please! This is almost becoming an illness for some.

    I really believe the manufacturers will be making changes thanks to this show.

  17. Nubianrockerchick
    June 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm (3 years ago)

    That show is a mess, the women are way too dramatic and over compulsive…40 things of yogurt, really? They’re messing it up for the true couponers out there. Damn this ridiculous show and the producers of it! 8 seperate transactions—> Bullsh*t, they would have kicked my black butt out of the store for trying to make a scene, and probably call the police, lol !!!

  18. james
    June 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm (3 years ago)

    do any of u read coupons??? every coupon i have ever seen clearly states
    “NOT AVAILABLE WITH SPECIAL OFFERS” so most coupons are not valid in the show, nd most coupons are for things u dont use…

  19. gibbs172226
    June 22, 2011 at 7:24 am (3 years ago)

    I recenly watched Extreme Couponing where this freak had ONE THOUSAND tubes of toothpaste stockpiled in his garage. I agree with a previous poster who said these people are hoarders.

    Then there was the overweight mother of two who snagged over 20 turkey-stuffing-gravy pre-packaged meals for her kids. They were something like, #3.00 each; coupons got them each under a dollar. Also got deals on cookies and candy to ensure her kids would suffer from obesity just like her.

    Does this show ever feature scoring deals on healthy items — fruits, veggies, etc. or just a load of crap?

  20. lyn
    July 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm (3 years ago)

    It is possible to find coupons on almost anything you need, it takes a lot of work. It is very rare you can find coupons on produce, I have a few but not many. I believe people using coupons should do what is legal, ethical, etc. In our state dumpster diving is illegal, that is one thing often encouraged to get coupons. Also, making deals to get just coupon inserts from newspapers isn’t considered legal either. Most newspapers require you to pay for the whole newspaper, often a limit of 10 newspapers through the company. Some people steal coupons out of other newspapers, again making couponers look shady.

    The people featured on the shows are hoarders and the whole thing is ridiculous. They must end up with a lot of spoiled food, shameful waste that other people could have used. If they are so good at that they should share their bounty with the food banks. Most stores are now cracking down on coupon rules and use. We will see a lot less available if that keeps on.

    • Fanny
      August 2, 2011 at 10:20 am (3 years ago)

      I’m getting into couponing too. We get a free Sunday paper delivered to our house and it has most of the coupons but not all. We used to throw this paper away. Now I realize we were throwing money away. It’s so nice to have a free Sunday paper.

  21. Linda
    September 18, 2011 at 3:18 pm (3 years ago)

    No , I have only seen ONE or TWO who actually donate items to the needy .

    Even if I WAS needy , so you are going to donate your fat laden chemical ridden YAKISOBA noodles and your ancient toothpaste that has been sitting in your basement for god knows how long ?

    Thank you , but NO , keep it you whacks . Plus, I would rather donate my time to local food drives and food banks and buy them bushels of potatoes and produce like we do many times a year for our church .

    Our church has a free dinner once a week and when I volunteer to help cook and serve , I show up with REAL food , they tell me what they need for that day , usually what they are low on , and I bring it , and guess what ? It is never Gatorade or Yakisoba noodles .

  22. Sarah
    September 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm (3 years ago)

    This extreme couponing has caused a big hoopla between so many different people. I personally feel like if people were really doing this and I know some who are, the stores are going to limit coupons. It is technically stealing if you have a thousand dollar order and you get it for ten dollars. I just want to thank all of those idiots out there who do extreme coupon for doing this and having the stores limit so many coupons. My idiot sister in law does this and she goes to a class that talks about it. Instead of wasting your time clipping coupons why don’t you go out and get a job, maybe then you can afford your groceries! I don’t disagree with using a couple coupons here and there to save a little but not to this dramatics.

  23. Shanny
    September 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm (3 years ago)

    I watched the show and it was a little over the top. My husband was so upset that he threw my few coupons in the trash. LOL. I just want to save a few dollars on the products I buy. Why on earth would you purchase that much stuff that you can not possibly use within the expiration. My son watched it with me and asked “how many headaches can you get before you have to see the doctor” about the lady who bought 150 bottles of excedrin. I wish they would take the show off the air so that those of us trying to save just 30% on the bill, still have a chance. Extreme couponers you all are doing a little toooo much. Buy only what you can use with in 1 year!!

  24. Intriguing
    October 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm (3 years ago)

    I for one have noticed several things this show does to hook the viewer. If you noticed, the ‘couponers’ always seem to have the same gray or black plastic shelves. They are always going on their ‘BIGGEST SHOPPING TRIP EVER’ for their ‘BIGGEST HAUL EVER’. They also seem to be overly excited about the final price. Come on!!!! If they did it all the time they wouldn’t be overly excited because they would know what to expect. What is with having 50 packs of diapers and baby wipes if you don’t have a baby??? What is with having 100 boxes of cereal if most is going to go bad before you even get around to eating it??? If I’m not going to eat it before it goes bad, I don’t buy it. No matter what kind of deal it is. I have tried to print off more than a couple of coupons and the websites simply don’t allow it so how are they getting coupons for 50 of one thing and 25 of another. And how are they getting all these coupons for free items???
    I coupon and the most I saved with coupons was $44 and that was with careful planning and a lot of buy one get one specials.
    TLC EXTREME COUPONING IS A FRAUD!!!!!

    • Fanny
      October 13, 2011 at 12:47 am (3 years ago)

      LOL at the gray and black plastic shelves comment. I think it’s because they’re cheap. We have them too but we don’t have a stockpile like that.

      • Intriguing
        October 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm (3 years ago)

        I noticed everyone has them. I also noticed that most have the ‘same binder’. Also how do their ‘friends and family’ suddenly want to come and bring them all these coupons from their papers. GEE!!!!! I would LOVE IT if someone would walk in my door and bring me a couple of hundreds of dollars of coupons. *sigh* I hope people wise up soon and put something realistic on tv.

    • Belinda
      October 14, 2011 at 8:43 am (3 years ago)

      lol! you are so right. They are always on the biggest trip ever just for the show.

  25. Belinda
    October 14, 2011 at 8:40 am (3 years ago)

    I love this show but I did always wonder how they got so much for so little. I live in Florida and my stores do not double coupons so its a little harder to save more like the people on the show. But its possible. I also figured out about using a coupon for the wrong product by accident. I use the 4.00 off coupon for the scrubbing bubbles starter kit and I accidentally picked up the wrong starter kit b/c it was in the wrong spot on the shelf, and the coupon was scanned b/c the clerk didn’t pay attention. Long story short the manager let me slide and told me to pay attention to the fine print on the coupons and make sure it matches the product listed on the coupon.

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    November 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm (3 years ago)

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  27. erica
    January 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm (2 years ago)

    The run down is this… Yes the show is Extreme & they want the ladies to make the most wild shopping trip they possibly can. its tv what do you expect and NO we ALL can not do what they do, dumpster diving should only be done if you have permission of the owner of the dumpster and how realistic is it that everyone would be able to find some one to allow them to dumpster dive or the nice newspaper delivery guy to give you all the extras at the end of his/her route! no not very likely that we could ALL have it go so well. BUT it is a FACT that you can HONESTLY & LEGALLY COUPON SHOP & SAVE 65 to 80 % on average. If everyone would pay attention to what the coupon is for and the product they are grabbing off the shelf as well as not hoard then you CAN do it LEGALLY! my sisters husband has been with out his job which was their main income, he is doing side jobs and a lot of projects for his line of work that they expect when doing the hiring process. Therefore my sisters need to feed her family of 4 became critical and she resorted to couponing. They only buy small quantities and it includes everything they need for a BALANCED DIET, EVEN PRODUCE. she is not a hoarder, nor a theif! I am not a fan of the way the show portrays couponing but I know that it can be a lifesaver for people if done right!!!

  28. Tom Conrad
    February 8, 2012 at 1:17 am (2 years ago)

    I shop at Kroger in Houston,Tx. They used to do the double (up to .50) and triple (up to .39) thing. Not any more. I see all these people stating that the store paid them. I went into Kroger about a year ago with (5) $1.00 off coupons for a barbecue sauce. The sauce was on sale for $.99 per bottle. I bring my 5 bottles to the checkout, thinking I will get the 5 for free. The woman at the checkout put an end to my euphoria. She says, ” Only 1 free item per visit”. I got my 1 bottle and left the store. I did go back through the other door & got another bottle at a different checker.

    Thanks,
    My 2 Cents….That ain’t worth a penny

  29. blue
    February 24, 2012 at 4:58 am (2 years ago)

    These people make a full-time job out of buying newspapers, scanning couponing sites and poring over ads.

    All so that instead of spending $70 on a week’s worth of healthy groceries through careful budgeting and planning, they can say they spent $10 to add three carts’ worth of poor food choices and unnecessary cleaning supplies to a hoard already so large that their family of five will never get around to using it. Well, $10 and 80 man-hours.

    If they put half as much energy into budgeting and research on frugal living, they’d spend their time AND their money wiser.

  30. ANJ
    January 16, 2013 at 12:47 am (2 years ago)

    As for “It is technically stealing if you have a thousand dollar order and you get it for ten dollars” I have to disagree. If you are using coupons legally and according to the rules of the establishment, go for it!

    ANJ

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