Ethical Coupon Use

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Guest Post by Jennie from Bargain Blessings:

A very important aspect of using coupons is making sure you are using them ethically. Manufacturers provide us with the privilege (yes, privilege) of using coupons to save money on their products. When these coupons are not used as they were intended not only do the stores suffer (because they will not be reimbursed for the coupon), but the manufacturer and the consumers suffer as well. The more fraudulent coupon use there is the less coupons we will see. There are a few important items I want to highlight that relate to ethical coupon use:

1. Only use a coupon on the product it was intended for. This not only includes just the product type, but also the size and specific type of product. If the coupon says it is good on Huggies diapers, it is not ok to use it on Pampers diapers. If the coupon says it is good for a 24oz bottle of ketchup, it is not ok to use it on a 16oz bottle of ketchup. If a coupon says it is good on Honey Nut Cheerios, it is not ok to use it on Regular Cheerios. If a coupon says it is good on 2 products it is not ok to use it on just one product. Manufacturers issue coupons for products to attract consumers to those specific products. 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.

2. Expired coupons are just that, expired. Just as coupons are issued for specific products, they are also issued for specific ranges of time. When you use a coupon outside of its expiration date, it is considered fraudulent coupon use. Remember, you can always donate your expired coupons to overseas military families!

3. Follow store coupon policies. Yes, I know some of them do not make much sense, but the store has the prerogative to make their policy whatever they want. Keep in mind that items one and two above play a strong roll in stores cracking down on coupon use! I would also like to mention that I am a big advocate of communicating with your store manager. For example, some King Soopers stores have a policy against using more than three of the same coupons in one transaction. I was able to talk to my store manager and get approval to use more than the three coupon limit. Also, I am not talking about “cashier coupon policies” here. 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. Always go by the store’s printed coupon policy.

4. Know what a fraudulent coupon looks like. A few of you have recently e-mailed me the PDF coupon pictured above. It is fraudulent, so don’t use it. You can read more about this specific coupon over on Frito Lay’s website. The bottom line is that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. PDF coupons for FREE items are almost always fraudulent. If you ever have a question on a coupon’s legitimacy, feel free to e-mail me.

5. Making copies of internet printable coupons is illegal. This is one of the most frequent newbie couponer mistakes out there. You printed it out in black and white on normal printer paper, so you should be able to make a few copies…right? Nope! Most printable coupons are available in limited quantities. If a manufacturer only releases 10,000 coupons, but they get 30,000 turned in from stores, guess what…those stores are out that money for those extra 20,000 coupons. If that is not enough to stop you from copying coupons, you might like to know that printable coupons contain unique identifying information that can track that coupon right back to your computer. There have been cases of people getting arrested and prosecuted for making copies of coupons. I don’t say that to scare you, but to make you aware of the potential consequences participating in this illegal practice. It isn’t worth it. Enough said.

As couponers, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are participating in honest coupon use. I hope that this post has helped to shed some light on some areas that you may have been confused about. Also, I want to add that 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!

Jennie and her husband live in the beautiful state of Colorado with their three pups. She shares all about the latest deals and her couponing antics over on Bargain Blessings!


  1. OMG – I can’t believe you posted this TODAY!
    Just yesterday, for the first time EVER, I had a store decline to let me use a computer printed coupon because it was “not real”. I reiterated that it was real and that it was provided by the company directly. I would have gladly walked out without making the purchase, but at the last minute, the assistant manager changed his mind and let me use it.
    I found it amusing, because they were essentially calling me a liar or a thief, and they had no reason to believe it wasn’t real, except that (I assume, of course) they must no longer trust anything that wasn’t clipped from the newspaper.

    1. So glad you were able to use it, Melissa. Unfortunately all the employees & mgrs in stores are not fully educated about internet printable coupons. They are getting better, but if I find a store that causes a problem for me in not accepting them, I just go to a different store to save the hassle. Hopefully they’ll continue to get education from the corporate stores on how to know when coupons are the legitimate coupons.

  2. I am curious what you think about taking coupons that the store has attached to a product. It seems like a Peelie should stay with the product but what about one that is just taped to the product withe Scotch tape or laying next to the product. I found a rebate offer that was attached to the product this week the product had to be purchased next week for the rebate. Was it ok take it without buying the product attached to it? Another thing that I have been thinking about is ads that are behind the counter. Is it okay to go back and get more of the ad coupons? Is there an “honesty” limit? Just some things I have been thinking about as I am pretty new to this “couponing” stuff.

    1. MB – Honestly, I personally would not take the peelies off the products – I don’t think it’s fair to those who are going to purchase the product at that time. – I’d only use it if I bought the product at the same time.

      As far as ads behind the counter, at my Albertson’s store (or any other store), I have to ask for the ads & they will typically just offer 1 or 2. However, I will ask if I can have more, or I will ask the cashier (esp for doubler coupons) & they will typically give me more if I ask, no problem! If they don’t want to give me more, then I’ll just go back another time. Hope that helps!

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