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Worth Reading: Extreme Couponing or Possible Fraud?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. 27 comments

I’m all about integrity in couponing. I firmly believe that there is no reason you should need to attempt anything outside store policy or the law to find a good deal. For that reason, I won’t recommend any deals that I feel are questionable on this site.

Not everyone agrees, however.

Many of you have heard about the new TLC series called Extreme Couponing. Since its debut, it’s  also created quite a stir among stores and manufacturers – and we’ve seen a number of coupon policies tighten because of the ideology shown there. Of course, Extreme Couponing is made for TV – and there’s nothing reasonable about it. The shopping trips portrayed on the show could not be reproduced by others (deserving of a “please do not attempt this in your store” disclaimer) because stores have pre-ordered items and waived limits to allow the most extreme made-for-TV scenarios. Can you remember the last time store employees helped you push multiple carts of groceries to your car?

The show has not necessarily portrayed coupon-users in a positive light. Instead, they’re shown as obsessed shoppers and hoarders. The segments that followed these same shoppers to food banks with donations were conveniently lost in editing. I have not been a fan, to say the least. Primarily because of the implications for those of us using coupons in a legitimate manner to save money for our families.

Jill Cataldo, “Super Couponer” (and former reporter) noticed some red flags recently and did some further investigating regarding one Extreme Couponing shopper featured in last night’s show. While I’d encourage you to draw your own conclusions, it’s worth noting that everything on the show may not be as it seems. Read the article here:

Was coupon fraud shown on TLC’s Extreme Couponing?

 

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  1. 1
    Chelle Kozel says:

    I think that some of those people have promoted questionable couponing practices. Since the show debuted, I have seen stores become more strict on their coupon policies……

  2. 2

    LOVE IT! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one analyzing this stuff! Shame on her(she’s a paralegal for crying out loud!) & shame on TLC. I think they could get better ratings if they did a show that exposed these cheaters instead of celebrating them.

  3. 3

    Wow after reading that article, I really hope she is arrested for coupon fraud. I have had nothing but problems and accusations from cashiers because of people like her. Can’t wait to see the update to her story, J’aime arrested for committing coupon fraud on national television.”

  4. 4
    Stephanie says:

    As soon as I saw this show debut I was postive it was going to make shopping much more difficult for those of us who mind the rules. I am disappionted that many of the stores are allowing the couponers to go over and above the 3 coupon limit (although this may be different at some stores). One of the episodes showed a women clearing the shelves, which showed little concern for her fellow shoppers. I do wish they would show some more of the relationship the couponers have with their particular store and the lengths the store goes to so they can retrieve these massive hauls. I was pleased to see on the original episode the one gentleman donating much of his stuff, and “The Crazy Coupon Lady” state she only buys what she will use in 3 months time. I’ll continue to watch, but only for the benefit of better organization on my part.

  5. 5

    My view on the story is this, while I’m sure they don’t normally coupon in that magnitude it was simply done for the show. I watched it and will continue to watch but for the inspiration to keep couponing the way I want to and not how the show wants us to think it’s done. I was gun hoe over a year ago and had a modest stockpile going, then lost some interest, saw TLC’s first show and got motivated again and the other nights show help motivate me once again. Never to their magnitude but just to help me replenish my stockpile that works for my family. I honestly don’t believe they shop like that normally. I have to tell ya though that if I did ever find toilet paper for free I would gladly clear the shelves off every store in Las Vegas. I have a family of 9 and TP is one thing I never find at a bargain, cereal too, it would be cleared out in stores at my location and I would feel no shame. I read many post about this and how it’s hoarding and I’m sure it was built slowly just like all of ours is but the show wants it to be huge and who would watch if joe blow only spent $150.00 and after coupons it was still $60.00 some odd dollars. Not me. I want the inspiration and the motivation to keep building my stockpile and using coupons. Just my opinion.

  6. 6
    Dennis Hartson says:

    Thank you Jolyn for your post and affirming your stance on couponing honestly. Although I wish the major networks show more on this story as how its fraud. I also wish that they show how it should be done correctly and ethically. Maybe one of our investigative reporters should contact you for a story.

  7. 7

    I too watched the show and was floored!! As was my husband who told me that in under no certain terms was I to go to that extreme. I would never allow my stock pike to take over my enitre house. If that happens then obviously we have to much and don’t need it. We are a family of 6 and I do shop for deals plus coupons when I can. I only buy what I know we can and will use. I think that things were magnified for the show and it is only going to hurt the people who truely do couponing the right way which is sad.

  8. 8
    Monica P says:

    Unbelieveable. I don’t get TLC on my TV so I can’t watch the show, but the article was enlighting. I use coupons, honestly, and I get great deals, but I NEVER understood how people can go to the store, check out with 3 grocery carts FULL of stuff, and pay $50…or whatever. Who even eats 63 packages of Buddig lunchmeat anyway???? Responsible money-management with the grocery budget is one thing, hoarding is something else. I hope TLC acts on that article, personally.

  9. 9

    Yes!!!! So excited you posted this! I was hoping the show would help and give me better ideas as I am a new couponer… but instead it made me feel that I could never get a 500 bill down to 6 bucks! I am barely pulling 50% and that excites me! It definitely is made for tv and yes, wheeling out groceries? I can barely get help with bagging!

  10. 10

    Thank you for posting this. I know there are a lot of great deals out there. However, as I watched I was trying to figure out how she could have possible gotten that good of deals. I hate that this show is going to ruin the coupon world as we know it. Thank you for all you do for this wonderful site! They should have had you on the show :)

  11. 11
    Jennifer Boonenberg says:

    I think that some of the women portrayed on this show, will eventually ruin couponing for the rest of who are just trying to build a stockpile for ourselves (like me) or our families.I loving being able to get an amazing deal on items I use frequently like or would love to try, but I don’t buy items just because I have a coupon for it. In fact I clip coupons and give them away to friends and family that I know will need and use them. It it irresponsible couponing to clear the shelve of an item because you decided to buy 65 bottles of hand soap or any other item. It’s not fair to everyone who would love to get a great deal on that same item. I think that there was some coupon fraud in these stories, and unfortunately that’s going to make this even harder for the rest of us. I hope that TLC, starts shedding light on those of us who have a stockpile that’s not taking over our homes, but is keeping us things that we use so that we don’t run out and get a great deal on them at the same time. TLC is also to blame for promoting coupon fraud by showing it on their network.

  12. 12

    PHEW! The show had me depressed that my typical 75% savings was crap! Hahaha! Then again, my stores only allow doubling 3 coupons (VGs) or 2 (Meijer) so there’s no stinkin’ way I could ever do those crazies chicks did. I’m back to feeling proud! One other thing to note, however, I do think manufacturers should allow coupons to apply to more than one product (ie: body wash OR lotion) cuz at the end of the day, it all comes from the same pot for them. And I’m not defending coupon fraud, but the manufacturers really should be more specific in their barcoding to avoid fraud, otherwise, they are kinda getting beat at their own game. That’s my two cents anyway … and NO – I won’t be trying that at home!

  13. 13
    Rebecca says:

    LOVED the article! Although I LOVE being able to get items for cheap or free for my family of 5, I don’t think I need my stockpile to take over my home! I can’t imagine that my family would even use all of that stuff. I wholeheartedly agree with making a 3-6 month stockpile for my family’s needs, and I definitely support donating (I picked up a FEW boxes of free Bisquick this week just for that purpose). I do not think that it is okay to “clear the shelves” in the name of donating. Most families do not qualify to pick up food items at a food pantry, we are just average people looking to feed our families on a budget, so how does it help that someone “bought” 70 bottles of mustard to donate, and now there are none for me?? I guess that’s why it is called “Extreme Couponing.”
    BTW I am proud to say that I typically save 60-70% everytime I shop; watching these extreme shopping trips makes me feel normal :)

  14. 14
    gkawalker says:

    Thanks for posting this article. I watched the show and it just made me cringe-for more than one reason. I’m an honest person just trying to save some money in this poor economy. But after watching, I did have one question-several of the people featured were stocked up on Charmin. That’s the only brand we use, by the coupons I get are only for some pidly $.35 off. So how do they get Charmin so cheap, legally? I’d love to know if any of you do!

  15. 15
    Jenna O'Dwyer says:

    Read this earlier…looks like it got pulled?

  16. 16

    Disappointed, I can’t get the link to work! :(

    • 17

      From Jill’s additional site, SuperCouponing.com:

      The following article is a mirror copy of the one posted at http://jillcataldo.com/node/16258. On 4/8/11, the page was listed at the top of Alexa.com’s “What’s Hot” page, and the server crashe…d from the traffic. When it is restored, you’ll be able to comment on the article over at the original link.

      Links to the original story and other articles on my blog at JillCataldo.com will not be functional until we get the server back online, but here’s a copy to read in the meantime…

      http://www.supercouponing.com/extremecouponingquestions.html

  17. 18

    Thank you for posting all of this. I, too, was wondering how it could all be possible.

  18. 19

    I also watched it on Wednesday and couldn’t believe what I saw. No way is that possible. So I e-mailed TLC and let them know that I am an “Extreme Couponer” and no way will any store in my area let me double more than 2-3 coupons per product per purchase and even then you have to buy variations of the product to use more coupons. Got an e-mail from TLC today letting me know they appreciate comments from viewers and mine will be forwarded to the program executives. Anxious to see what they say, and will keep you posted.

  19. 20
    kristen says:

    I have a question about coupon clipping services. It seems to me that from the print on almost all coupons that selling them would also constitute fraudulent use… How do these services get around the print saying that coupons are non- transferable?

    • 21

      I’m not sure. They say that you’re paying for their time and service, and the coupons are free. But “non-transferable” is tricky. Is it against the law for my mom to give me a coupon from her paper? Or for me to share a coupon with another shopper in the store?

  20. 22

    What bothers me most is the fact that she know’s it’s fraud to misuse coupons, and yet it sure looks like she’s continuing to misuse them anyway. I understand that if you were tought incorrectly you might not know any better, and occasionally even the most honest person misreads/fails to fully read a coupon and innocently uses it on the wrong product, but when she posted her videos a while back there was an uproar about how using coupons like that was fraud. So clearly she knows that decoding bar codes and using them for products that they aren’t intended for is wrong, and just doesn’t seem to care. And then to flaunt it on TV- unbelievable. I hope that they do investigate, and if she’s doing what it certainly appears she’s doing that she is arrested for fraud. Good thing she’s a paralegal- she might need a lawyer.

  21. 23
    Heather S says:

    Sad Sad Sad news for the couponing world. It really peeves me when people make it rough for others, like this. It’s really too bad. You know “what goes around comes around”? Maybe she was hoping that by donating her groceries she’d cancel out the bad karma she gained by “stealing” those groceries….I don’t think it will work for long. She’s bound to get a swift kick in the behind. Thanks for sharing the article.

  22. 24

    I hope everybody is going to TLC webpage and complaining.:
    http://corporate.discovery.com/contact/viewer-relations/
    Also ask them to remove these shows before more damage is done

  23. 25

    Thanks for sharing! I was aware of this type of bar code reading and wow I didn’t even think it was going on there until it was pointed out. Honestly I had forgotten about this type of thing and it didn’t occur to me as something they could be doing. I just assumed they were a few of the very fortunate people that lived in areas that had unlimited double $1 or something. I have had a bad feeling about these shows being on TV and how it would affect us all that coupon normally and now this only further validates those feelings. I sure hope that something is done. I should have know though. TLC has also aired shows in the past that are portrayed as real and true and supposedly filmed live in some town,etc when it turns out to be a lie. They filmed Southern Fried Stings in a city and the people that lived there posted online and said that these are all staged events…nothing real. Pretty sad. It’s kinda like food labels…just because it says it’s healthy food doesn’t mean that it is truly healthy food.

  24. 26
    Katherine says:

    THANKS for posting this- I knew this show was bad news when I went in the next day to shop with my coupons. The cashier was nasty to me the second she saw my coupons (nothing was excessive or against policy). She mumbled something about ‘extreme couponing’ and grabbed them right out of my hands. It was so rude… the show gives honest, hardworking people who use coupons a bad name.

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