Last week, I shared an email from a couponer anxious to determine if it was OK to photocopy coupons. It isn’t. Photocopying violates the “Coupon may not be reproduced” clause in redemption policies. It’s also the most common form of coupon fraud. Here’s more:
Q: A $1 coupon good for a 128- ounce, 54-load or larger size of laundry detergent worked for me when I bought a 33-load bottle. I was so excited! I figured I would see if the store would take the coupon, and it did. I am new to couponing. I asked a friend who coupons to help me learn the ins and outs. She told me that if the coupon scans, no matter what it says, it can be used.
A: Using a coupon for a specific product on a less-expensive, similar product by the same manufacturer is a common form of coupon fraud.
Most coupons say, “Valid only on the brand and size indicated.” Manufacturers often release coupons for larger products with a larger discount to offset the higher price of the larger item. People who want to beat the system may attempt to use a high-value coupon that’s specifically for a large size on a smaller item.
The new GS1 bar code on coupons is designed to help prevent this kind of fraud. In addition to making sure a coupon is used on the correct product, the bar code also can tell if the shopper bought the right size and type to use the coupon. Some stores are still transitioning to registers equipped to read this bar code, so misused coupons may slip by.
I replied to the reader that this was a form of coupon fraud. Her reply: “If I had known that it was fraud, I never would have done it. ... I already had a talk with my friend this morning and told her how mortified I am for listening to her. She did admit to me that she knew it was wrong.”
It’s time to stop engaging in this form of coupon fraud. Another reader tried to circumvent a “Limit One Per Customer” rule on an e-coupon:
Q: I had a $30 coupon from an online retailer that stated, “One coupon per customer.” I used the coupon to buy several items, all in separate transactions, and they all went through. Two days later, the retailer canceled all the orders. Does it have a right to do this?
A: It’s much easier for an online retailer to reverse a transaction when it feels fraud has been committed, especially before shipment. In this case, where the shopper’s separate orders were paid for with the same name and credit card and shipped to the same address, the retailer felt the terms of its coupon were violated.
Jill Cataldo has a website at www.jillcataldo.com.