Q I wish someone would write a “Rules for Couponing” list that says what is right and wrong to do. I have a friend who thinks it's OK to take the peelie coupons from cereal boxes at the store and keep them for later. I get frustrated because I see people do lots of things that seem wrong.
A: The Coupon Information Corp. is the industry's watchdog group. In addition to providing information on counterfeit coupons that are circulating, the CIC also keeps a list of guidelines for coupon shoppers called “Considerate Couponing.” Here are some of my favorite tips.You can read the entire “Considerate Couponing” list at coupon informationcenter.com.
On stores that decline to accept coupons: While most stores accept manufacturer coupons, the CIC notes that they are under no legal obligation to do so.
On photocopying coupons: I've discussed the dangers of photocopying coupons many times in this column because it's one of the most common forms of coupon fraud. The CIC states, “Do not photocopy coupons. This is counterfeiting and is a criminal offense.” The same holds true for printing out scans of coupons.
On shelf clearing: I'll never forget the time I went to my supermarket to pick up salad dressing. It was on sale for $1, and with my $1 coupons from the newspaper, I planned to get four bottles free. When I saw that there were no bottles left, I asked an employee if there were any more in stock. The employee replied that about 30 minutes earlier, a woman came in with more than 400 coupons and took every bottle.
On coupons distributed in the store: Picking up in-store coupons is a great way to extend your shopping power and collect coupons in anticipation of the next sale. Manufacturers use them to encourage shoppers to try a new product. It almost goes without saying that you should not take every coupon that you see.
On coupon courtesy: Be nice to the cashiers and staff at your store! It's important to remember that coupon transactions can take time. If a cashier makes a mistake at the register or forgets to scan a coupon, the CIC advises politely pointing out the error.
Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor. Visit jillcataldo.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.