CATALDO COLUMN: Fraud or just rude?
Have you ever seen another shopper using a coupon in a questionable manner? Decide for yourself: Are the scenarios below fraud or simply unethical?
Q: I shop at a drugstore every week to do the coupon deals. There is a woman who comes in and has six loyalty cards for the store.
The store's card is supposed to be one per household, but she sets up six identical orders on the counter and purchases one with every card.
A: Unethical. While the store states that its loyalty cards are limited to one per household, it does not enforce the rule. It's not illegal to have multiple loyalty cards. But it is unethical to use multiple cards to get around store purchase limits.
Q: I joined a large coupon forum online to learn more about couponing, but I don't like some of the things they teach.
They say to try to use as many coupons on the same item as possible even though the register is supposed to stop that.
And they say to go to young cashiers who are likely not to know any better so you can persuade them to take all the coupons if the register beeps. Isn't this illegal?
A: Fraud. Nearly every manufacturer coupon states that the coupon is limited to one coupon per item purchased. There is another statement on the coupon: “Any other use constitutes fraud.”
Q: A woman comes into our store and takes every coupon book the store puts out. Our store publishes these books almost every month and displays them on a rack. If you are in the store when she is there, you will see her take them all.
A: Unethical. While it's particularly bad couponing etiquette to take every coupon book on a display, it's not likely to be legally prosecuted. It would be nice if the store stepped in and asked her not to clear the display.
Q: We have an extreme couponer in our town who holds extreme garage sales. I see him all the time buying a lot of the stuff that's cheap with coupons, like razors and makeup and things. Then he has a garage sale in our town each summer with bunches of this stuff. I wonder what we can do to stop him.
A: The manufacturer's intent is that a couponer buys products for his or her own household's use. Buying products for resale with coupons violates the “not for resale” clause.
So, what he's done does constitute fraud. The likelihood he will be prosecuted for it is low although some stores are fighting this kind of resale.