In TLC’s Extreme Couponing show, devout couponers score great deals while shopping. Some get as much as a 100% discount. Some of them even take advantage of the system that they actually get paid to take items from the store. But are these coupons even real?
When the first episode of the Extreme Couponing show aired, several coupon shoppers across the United States aired their concerns about the rampant coupon misuse and fraud depicted on the show. Many of the coupons features were fraudulent.
Why Were People Upset?
On the show, the shoppers appear to use coupons that they did not purchase or use with certain restrictions. The stores featured on the show played along with the whole plan. They also agreed to double coupons just for the sake of the show, even if they did not allow that kind of transaction in reality.
Communities of actual coupon bloggers were outraged by the show. They have identified that several of the coupons have been misused. Store policies were disregarded during the filming of the show, and cashiers were overriding their registers even if the coupons did not match the items that were being purchased.
One supermarket chain blew the whistle on the show and called them out for the amount of rule-bending stores have done just for staging purposes. They released a statement to the media expressing their regret for participating in the show and apologized to their regular customers for misleading them. (Source: Jill Cataldo)
Were the Coupons Fake?
In the episode where Joel, a 16-year-old student from Burbank, California, was featured, there were many discrepancies caught on camera.
Joel shopped at Gelson’s, a known high-end supermarket in California. He had several coupons that he got for free. Five of these were for free bottles of All laundry detergents, six for Fresh Step cat litter boxes, and then the 34 coupons for a free 12-pack toilet paper. On-screen, it was seen that he had purchased a total of 408 rolls of Quilted Northern toilet papers for nothing!
He and his family wheeled all seven carts of toilet paper to the register, which raised many red flags for actual coupon enthusiasts who know how the drill goes. While it may be possible that Joel got the coupons from the manufacturers for free, it wasn’t a far-fetched idea to think that they were fake too.
At the register, Joel expressed his anxiety and how he was nervous about the transaction. Then it happened; as the cashier was scanning the toilet paper coupons, the register started beeping, and the error code: Ineligible Value Code in Format Code 992 Coupon appeared. The cashier called a colleague, and they said that the coupon was not taking and that it was not on file.
The cashier then said that the coupon was not being accepted and that she needed her manager to overrun the code. The manager came over and overrode the warning, and the coupons’ value was deducted from Joel’s total. At the end of the episode, they explained how Joel enjoyed 93% in savings.
Screenshots of Joel’s coupons were sent to the Coupon Information Corporation, and after much research, the CIC determined that the coupons Joel used in the episode were indeed fake. The CIC released a statement that can be found here. (Source: Jill Cataldo)