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The Slow Come Back of Internet Printable Coupons

Diligent Efforts to Prevent Fraud With Online Printable Coupons Is Paying Off

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There was a time when you could log online, register with reputable grocery coupon Web sites and print coupons for products you know you would redeem. It was easy, fast and financially rewarding. Then in August 2003, a group of counterfeiters came along and illegally made coupons, many with high-redemption amounts and free offers, and sold them on eBay. Within a week, retail stores suffered huge losses and expecting future problems, policies to not accept Internet coupons were imposed.

After failed attempts and wasted printer ink, couponers begrudgingly accepted their online printable coupons might end up being worthless. Meantime, food manufacturers and retailers began scrambling for a solution to the counterfeit problem. Online grocery coupon sites worked diligently with retailers to devise workable plans to offset illegal coupons.

The good news is, the efforts to safeguard Internet coupons is slowly paying off with many retailers reversing the 'no Internet coupon' policies, only this time with limits.

Policies such as one coupon an item, under $1.00 coupons only and no free product coupons are the norm. Also, the decision to redeem a coupon or not is up to the retailer. If a person presents a coupon that looks like a fraud, the retailer has the right to refuse to redeem it.

Identifying Illegal Coupons

Showing up at your local grocery store with an illegal coupon is embarrassing. Here are tips on how to avoid printing fake coupons promoted online.
  • Today's online coupons usually have a bar code, just like those you find in the paper. If you find an online coupon without a bar code or one that is difficult to read, it could be a fake.

  • A higher than normal redemption amount or 'free' product coupons should be avoided. Online coupon redemption amounts will be just like what you find in your Sunday paper or inside packages.

  • Online printable coupons will have the usage policies in small print, just like coupons you get from your newspaper. If the printable coupon does not have this information, it is considered high risk for being fraudulent.

  • Internet coupons without expiration dates are a signal the coupon could be a fake.

  • Request for payment for a coupon is a sure sign that you are walking into fraudulent territory. Charging money for a coupon is illegal and no one should ever pay to print a coupon.

  • Almost all reputable Internet-based coupon distribution companies require you register first before gaining access to the printable coupon. If this step is not part of the process, keep moving. The exception would be if you go directly to a manufacturer's site and find a printable coupon. Sometimes manufacturers do not require registration.

Getting Stores to Redeem Your Printable Coupon

If your favorite store still does not accept Internet printed coupons try the following ideas:
  • When you print an Internet coupon, print the entire web page with it. Do not cut the coupon from the page. The page will identify the source from where the coupon originated. Often this will convince a cashier the coupon is legitimate.

  • Meet with the Store Manager before you shop and show them the Internet coupons you plan to redeem. Getting your coupons approved in advance will help avoid picking up items you think you will save on, only to find out at the register that you will have to pay full price.

  • If you print coupons from the store's Web site, again, print the entire page showing the coupon came from the company website.

  • Avoid trying to redeem multiple copies of the same Internet based coupon. If multiple redemption is permitted, two coupons for the same product is generally the industry standard. However, because redeeming Internet coupons are still such a sensitive subject at many stores, avoid pushing the issue by showing up with a bunch of coupons for the same item.

  • If the store still refuses to accept Internet coupons, send a letter to the company customer service department and provide the name of the store, who you spoke with, a copy of the coupon and where you got it. Many online coupon sources have agreements with grocery store chains and failure for the local store management to accept coupons from such sources may mean a break down in training. By alerting the company customer service department, you may be able to use your Internet coupons on your next trip to the store.

Anytime an industry loses millions of dollars due to fraudulent activity, as what happened in 2003, the losses are passed on to the consumers with higher prices and a cut back in promotional offers.

As responsible couponers, it is important that we continue to enjoy the savings we get from clipping coupons, but by doing so with legitimate coupons.

Have fun shopping and saving money!
Donna Montaldo
Guide to Coupons and Bargains at About.com

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