Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


Ethics in Couponing

Are you following couponing ettiquete?

The Zellers coupon fiasco of last week ended with the company receiving more than a thousand comments on their Facebook page. The Cliff Notes version is that Zellers released an online coupon on their Facebook page that permitted one item per customer to be purchased at 50% off—and sale items were included. So the mattress pad I’ve been eying was 60% off, then 50% off of that price—a total steal of a deal. However, after three days the company changed the coupon terms to allow the coupon to be used only on regular price items.

While most customers were furious that Zellers changed their terms (which unfortunately they are legally permitted to do), others were mad at customers, like me, who “abused” the coupon and used it more than once.

So I asked on Twitter what you thought. Is it unethical to use a coupon marked One Per Customer by going through multiple registers or different stores?

Here are some of the replies I received.

@EastCoastKnits: I don't think it's wrong to use it a different time, no.
@jen2cee: if I can I would use as much as I could. Wouldn't everyone?#greedyme #coupon
@NanicaBrown: I usually do a one per day. Or if my hubby is along get him to do it. I rarely go through the line a second time.
@blondeonabudget: no way. I'll be going twice.
@oobinsnaffa: I'd do it. And if there's only one cashier, I often send my husband in after me, haha.
@mommyingaround:Haha. I've done that. Or send husband in for the other ;)
@shopwithrobin : Nope!
@ChantalSaville: yes

At one of the top savings blogs, offers a description of Limit One Coupon Per Customer/Family, saying this means that you can only use one coupon per customer or family. If you want to use more than one coupon, you can only use one per store visit. Most of the other major couponing sites I found also said One Per Customer means once each time you are a customer – meaning multiple uses are fine.

The Coupon Information Center (CIC) offers consumer guidelines entitled Considerate Couponing where they discuss things that are strictly illegal (such as selling coupons) as well as etiquette tips. It addresses multiple transactions, saying From time to time, some people may want to divide their purchases into multiple transactions. This is a courtesy that many stores provide and very helpful when picking up a few items for your friends or items needed for work or similar situations. However, buying a massive amount of product in one shopping trip, and then breaking up the “sale” into multiple transactions to use extra coupons or obtain extra discounts is simply bending the rules and is inappropriate.”

So I’m not breaking any laws, but I’m bending the rules. Maybe it’s a line in the sand. A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was charged $40 for her new laptop instead of $400, and wondered if she should call the big box store and let them know. I voted for yes. I’ll always return to a store if they mischarged me from the advertised price I expected to pay.

But leaving a store and returning multiple times to use the same coupon? I’m still sleeping at night just fine. On my $25.80 mattress pad that was originally priced at $129.