Retailers Fight Back Against Extreme Couponing Trend Memo to extreme couponers: Some retailers, particularly supermarkets and drugstore chains, are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. To save their bottom lines, they're setting limits on just how much all your cleverness can save you.

It's no secret that the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has given rise to a new breed of shoppers who artfully and unabashedly combine store, manufacturer and digital coupons to shave serious money off their shopping bills, sometimes buying in bulk and wiping retailers' shelves clean, while squeezing the life out of profit margins.

The extreme couponing trend reflects "consumers looking for ways to save money any way they can, very much the way their grandparents did during the Great Depression," says Brian Hoyt head of communications for WhaleShark Media, the parent company of RetailMeNot.com, which bills itself as the biggest issuer of coupon codes in the U.S.

The techniques are most often deployed at supermarkets and drugstore chains because they offer the biggest variety of coupons -- from manufacturer and store coupons to point-driven loyalty programs, Hoyt tells DailyFinance. These stores are also natural targets for heavy coupon use because they stock staples like food and toilet paper -- non-negotiable purchases even in a down economy.

But some retailers are saying enough is enough, and are fighting back by adjusting their coupon policies.

"A growing number of retailers are creating new policies or are enforcing their existing coupon policies more stringently," Matthew Tilley, director of marketing for coupon processing firm Inmar, tells DailyFinance.

No Stacking, No Mass Buys

Supermarkets have led the coupon counterattack.

Kroger (KR), the largest U.S. grocery store chain, has said shoppers can no longer "stack" coupons, meaning that a digital coupon and a manufacturer paper coupon couldn't be combined to reduce the price of a single item.

"With the growing popularity of digital coupons, mobile apps and manufacturers producing coupons valued at more than 50 cents, we feel it's an ideal time to test out a new money saving program and discontinue double/triple," said the 2,458-unit supermarket chain in a press statement directed toward shoppers at its Houston-area stores.

Food Lion (DEG) also stopped allowing shoppers to stack coupons at some of its locations.

Meanwhile, drug chains are taking steps to ensure extreme couponers who buy big quantities of merchandise don't clear out their shelves.

Rite Aid (RAD) has specified that it "may accept up to four identical coupons for the same number of qualifying items as long as there is sufficient stock to satisfy other customers," according to a press statement.

And Walgreens (WAG) now asserts that "management reserves the right to limit quantity of items purchased," Tilley says.

The nation's biggest discounters are also adapting to the extreme couponing craze.

Target (TGT) has clarified that two buy-one-get-one-free coupons can't be combined to make both items free, Tilley says.

And Walmart (WMT), the world's biggest retailer, issued an updated policy last year "which states that only original copies of print-at-home coupons will be accepted in its stores," he says.

Risk of Alienating Bargain Hunters

The weak economic climate isn't the only thing propelling the coupon craze forward. In recent years, retailers themselves have fed its momentum, initiating large numbers of discount sales and coupon offers that helped encourage the growth of the trend.

So stores today walk the fine line of cracking down on heavy coupon usage while trying to keep luring in the bargain-hungry -- among them, many younger shoppers. Indeed, the savvy consumers who came of age during the Great Recession are adept at finding deals and mining promotional coupons online, Hoyt says. "This behavior is not going away," he notes. "The trend line continues to go up."

Also, coupon redemption often grants retailers repeat business, "which is [one of] the most important things to them," Hoyt says.

All of that means it won't be so easy for stores to push back on extreme couponers. But for the sake of their profit margins, they're going to try.



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Patchouli Adams

Retailers shouldn't care! They make MORE money by taking manufacturer coupons than not. Each coupon is an extra 8 cents in their pockets.

September 21 2013 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dkpardo

I used to be an extreme couponer. Let me tell you, it's exciting, but it is sooo much work. I hardly ever used coupons on food because most of the time it was on things I don't eat. That being said there were times that I did and it either expired before I had time to eat it or I didn't have enough room for all of the food in my fridge. I had an extra freezer that I use when my fiance hunts to store them in. The hunting is way cheaper.
Anyways, two lessons. Couponing as exciting as it is is not cheap. it will cost you lots of time, energy, frustration, and yes, money. In order to get coupons, you have to buy them or collect them. Buying is totally illegal, but alas there's ebay and people do it all time. I was lucky enough to have a coupon hook up through my local newspaper. Unless you are getting multiple inserts, you aren't going to be able to coupon on a mass level.
Even if you save 90% on cake, tuna, yogurt, chips, etc, if you don't (want to) eat those things, you are wasting valuable, time, and space in your house. Not to mention, money. Buying 100 boxes of lucky charms cereal for just $5 is still $5 you spent on cereal you aren't going to eat.

If you still want to coupon, but don't eat the food, at least donate it if you aren't going to use it.

April 16 2013 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
couponsjhc1

Recently I went to Walmart to use my coupons that I had collected and had planned out my shopping trip to use these coupons. I had not heard of a change in the Walmart coupon policy and have used coupons at Walmart before with no problems--that is until March 17, 2013 when I tried to use more than their "new limit". I was told, before the young male cashier even finished scanning my coupons, that I could only use 40 coupons or $50. Of course, I had more than the 40 coupons and more than the $50 as I had many coupons for $3 each for a product I was purchasing. Needless to say, the young man called a "manager" to the check out and she agreed that I could not use this many coupons and that I could not ring these separately as this still violated their coupon policy. So, I quickly took my coupons and LEFT my bagged items in the shopping cart. Walmart would rather loose a sale than to take coupons! REALLY Walmart?? So I guess they don't care that I go shop somewhere else? Not a problem, because Kmart actually pays me to shop at their store, AND they don't care how many coupons I use. So, Walmart, you can keep your products and I will shop somewhere where I am welcome. They really didn't care that I walked away from my purchase. What a shame! If they keep this up, they are going to loose a lot of customers.

March 20 2013 at 8:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
neeke25

somebody lied to me. i asked about using 2 coupons for one item. they told me no i couldn't do that. maybe they haven;t read the back of the coupon. the store get their money back when they mail them in,

October 20 2012 at 8:03 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Aplus Promosyon

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August 09 2012 at 5:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerseygma2

I am flabbergasted. I thought that stores and the fine print on the coupons themselves had ALWAYS prohibited using more than one coupon per item, etc. Using two coupons to get both BOGO items for free - what a scam; I can't believe retailers have been rolling over and playing dead like this. I would have no desire to coupon this way even though I am broke most of the time - I don't enjoy using items that are not legitimately mine.

June 29 2012 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cameron

I think Couponing is the smart way of shopping, the stores wont part away from coupons because the manufacturers wont let them. In short don't be a shelf clearer,be respectful to cashiers by explaining your coupons and reminding them of their coupon policy or ask for the manager if there's a problem. The site I found that seems to be very good is http://www.coupontosave.com , check them out they have some great deals and explain couponing very well.

May 20 2012 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sherry

This won't hurt savvy couponers who don't really hoard items, and aren't excited about getting (for freeeee) thousands of items they won't even use.

Savvy couponers get the coupons they want, when they want them. They use coupon search engines like http://howtostartcouponing.net/grocery_coupons_search_engine.html. They combine manufacturers coupons (that are refunded to the store) and store coupons/sales.

March 17 2012 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sherry

This won't hurt savvy couponers who don't really hoard items, and aren't excited about getting (for freeeee) thousands of items they won't even use.

Savvy couponers get the coupons they want, when they want them. They use coupon search engines like http://howtostartcouponing.net/grocery_coupons_search_engine.html. They combine manufacturers coupons (that are refunded to the store) and store coupons/sales.

March 17 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
janetsflash

Here in Maryland you can't find alot of coupons in the stores anymore......so its hard to save any $$$. The only coupons we have for the most part are Red Plum and Smart Source in Sunday's papers. I see it as no coupons to save, then I don't buy the product. Not into extreme couponing, but would like to be able to save $$$ here and there

March 10 2012 at 9:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply