Do Stores Really Fight Coupon Fraud?

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I am sure that people are going to come out of the woodwork to share their two cents on this subject, so I am opening by telling you that this is by no way a formed opinion, just some observations from a long career in retail.  Oftentimes we look at things as black and white, but I am here to tell you that there is definitely grey area in every single store when it comes to the issue of coupon fraud.  Let’s face it, we all know what it means to “profile” a cashier.  We all know which managers will let us use our coupons unscathed and which managers are going have us feeling like we just got finished running the Boston Marathon.  In order for this article to make any sense at all, you have to make a couple of suppositions.  First, people are human.  They have the ability to decipher and choose between right and wrong.  Second, the grocery business is a business.  Managers are compensated based on sales and profitability.  Understanding that management is paid for performance and that management (in most cases) is also human, I pose the question, do stores really fight coupon fraud?

To understand the depth of the question, I suggest that you read my prior posts on why stores love coupons and also the article that outlined the debacle on Crest Whitestrips.  The first thing to consider is that humans have the ability to choose and execute both right and wrong.  We would be foolish to think that customers and “extreme couponers” are the only people that do the wrong thing.  Store management has the ability to make some pretty lousy decisions in their own right.  I understand that we want to build relationships with the store management.  I also understand that the overwhelming majority of store managers will not put their livelihood on the line for a couple of extra bucks.  What about the store manger whose livelihood is already on the line?  What about the store manager that has 3 months to turn around their numbers or they will get the axe?  Since we know that store managers are human and that they are paid based on sales and profitability, is it safe to say that some stores will take coupons no matter what?  I can promise you it is safe to say because I have witnessed a number of mangers losing their job for this very act.   I have also witnessed district managers and corporate executives applaud sales increases “at all costs”.  In fact, I have heard upper management say first hand that “the customer is always right, taking the coupons doesn’t hurt us anyhow, let’s ring the registers”.

Ringing the registers is the cure-all in the grocery business.  It gets you more money for payroll, more money for improvements to your location and let’s not forget more money added onto your bonus check.  Are we as consumers honestly naive enough to think that managers looking to pad their own pockets won’t take coupons for the wrong items just to turn their inventory and realize a profit on their sales?  Guaranteed.  Many people will cry foul.  Many people will question: What about coupon audits?  My reply is: What about them?  Coupon audits are a joke.  In a dozen years of running stores, I went through 2 of them.  I passed with flying colors.  Understanding how a coupon audit works is a topic for another post.  You will have to trust me when I tell you that they cost a lot of money for the manufacturer.  They honestly have to weigh the cost of allowing what they know to be fraudulent vs. the cost of executing a coupon audit.  Will they recover more from one store than they will spend to conduct the audit?  Probably not.  This is the fine line that “less than honorable” management will walk.  They know this.  I used to wonder why they would risk it?  If you are creative enough to figure out a way around the system, why not use your creative genius to grow your sales organically and scrap the cheating?

I know you don’t want to believe this happens.  Let me assure you, it doesn’t happen in every store, but I can safely say that it happens more than you think.  Some of you have witnessed it, some of you have turned a blind eye and if statistics are valid, some of you have participated.  In any event, this will be another contributing factor in the demise of honest, effective couponing.  If you have doubts, I will leave you with one queston: Who do you think it was that ordered the 60 cases of toothpaste that were purchased with Whitestrips coupons?  Hmmmmmm.


  1. I am just curious with all the supposed fraud running rampant with coupon amounts being changed and all that, if they really think that all of the couponers really are capable of breaking the code to rewrite it so that it rings up a higher price. How often do they really find that happening. Or is it more a case of dislike and jealousy about the money we save

    • I tried to use the $8 hill science diet coupon at Petsense and was openly accused of committing coupon fraud because she had a message about them from her supervisor. If they had researched it they would have found that the $18 q was the fraudulent one. The ignorance is beginning to get to me.

  2. I am in Asset Protection at Walmart. I coupon and ad match. I was really impressed and challenged by the show. I also know how it has sparked an increase with couponing. In saying that, the amount of fraudulent coupons that posts to the monthly journal is enough to make you sick. I was upset with my stores amount and wanted to find the issue. Then I saw a neighboring store who is a little bigger than us and has more customer traffic. One month they had over $14,000.00 dollars worth of fraudulent. I know most all of this falls on teaching and training of policies and ensuring the cashier does her job correctly. However you factor in long lines with making sure the customer is checked out quickly, having to ad match, scan all the coupons, and try to remember every item that was scanned in the 2 buggies. It is a lot we are asking of the cashier. There are some prompts on the register that will tell you if your coupon does not match. It doesn’t do all. Proctor and Gamble will scan no matter if Quantity or item is correct. I have tested this after a cashier told me. To answer Carri, my own cashiers have commented on me comping and couponing. Some may be disbelief in being able to save that much money easily, the rest is because of selfish, dishonest people who don’t care who or how they affect someone else. I have received emails and BOLO’s on couponers who have used fraudulent coupons, or valid coupons incorrectly. Some even then turn around and refund with no receipt, receiving the full price of the product. I find most all associates hourly or salary don’t care if you comp and coupon. But, to come and be dishonest, and essentially steal money from the hard working associates is a horrible thing. Again, I love to get deals, coupon, and save money. I know everyone is not dishonest, or uses coupons incorrectly. Training and compliance with policies are key, but to have $14,000.00 in fraudulent coupons is awful. That isn’t bought toothpaste and used a whitestrip coupon. We would still get our money when processed, just lose when it was taken for that transaction. That is pure fake and outdated.

    • I live in upstate NY. The walmart here near where I live is awful. I always keep up with coupon polcies. They have now changed to 4 like coupons per item per day. They aren’t allowing stacking. Exp: bogo free
      with a coupon off. Glade spray the item is 2.99, then with a coupon for a 1.00 off. Nope can’t do it because you used a coupon for bogo. Even with the bogo, I should be able to use the 1.00 off coupon because I am buying one. I always make sure that coupons aren’t expired, because that wastes their time and mine. The best is when I keep going back and items aren’t there for over 2 months and my coupons are ready to expire. You can talk till your blue in the face, they can order and order bet it doesn’t mean that they are going to get it. Its very frustrating.
      I have a coupon for snickers nfl bags. I’ve been looking and nope. Talked with a manager and instead of checking to see if they have the item he said we might not ever get it. As I’m walking out of the store there it is along where they have clearence items. That to me is poor managerment, didn’t even take the time to see if they had the items. Unfortunatly I do have to shop there, but not a pleasent experiernce

      • Kathy,
        When you use a BOGO coupon, the coupon automatically attaches to BOTH items. If you used $1/1 coupon with the BOGO coupon, the manufacturer considers that using 2 coupons on one item which we all know you cannot do. Stacking means using a manufacturer coupon with a store coupon, not using 2 manufacturer coupons on the same item. That is why your Walmart will not allow you to use both.

  3. DeCe Poole says:

    I can honestly say I don’t use my coupons fraudulently and I’m glad I had The Coupon Wizards to help me with the fine print and all to make sure I don’t do this. It is hard enough getting good deals now days I wouldn’t want to be the one to ruin it for the rest. And I’m thankful that the management at the commissary here on base works with me by ordering what I need for my coupon and even giving me coupons for items I may need/want that I don’t have one for. Thank you for this insight though as it will help to make sure I watch myself even more so and help others learn the correct usage of coupons as well.

  4. I don’t think that fraudulent coupon usage is ok but everyone keeps going back to the whitestrip fiasco awhile back. A close friend of mine is a head store manager told me that P&G paid for all the coupons that were redeemed in her region. I’m not saying that it’s right but the stores did get paid for them and yes now p&g values are horrible so that just shows what fraudulent coupon usage does to the manif

  5. Walmart is hit and miss for me. I was there last week to redeem the great and powerful oz coupon. It didn’t scan do she manually entered it. It was a legit coupon. Then this week I had an online printed coupon for sippy cups, coupon says only redeemable at Walmart, it wasn’t scanning. The cashier refused to manually enter it. I told her I had heard it could be the ink used when printing the coupon but I wasn’t sure. Everything else matched, right cups, size and was at Walmart but no go on that coupon

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