Everyone else does year-end Top 10 lists at this time of year, so how about a look at the top coupon stories of 2012? We’ll even throw in an extra and make it a Top 11 list. Even though Coupons in the News has only been around since July, a look at the most popular posts these past six months makes for a pretty good indicator of what some of the big stories of the year have been. So have another look at the stories that you helped to make the most-read of 2012:
11. Cops Crack Crooked Coupon Caper (July 10)
Nothing like a big story to get a new website going. Just days after Coupons in the News debuted, along came what was arguably the biggest coupon story of the year – the arrest of three Phoenix women accused of operating a multi-million dollar counterfeit coupon ring. Since then, Marilyn Johnson and Amiko Fountain have pleaded guilty and are due to be sentenced in February; alleged ringleader Robin Ramirez is awaiting her trial sometime in the new year. You can catch up on all the details about the case here.
10. Coupons.com Changes Again – and Zips Up Zips (December 13)
Coupons.com would really like if we didn’t change zip codes looking for “hidden” coupons – and they’d really not like to talk about it. Earlier this month, the site changed its look once again. Each time it does so, changing your zip code gets just a little more difficult. Coupons.com is well aware of the practice of zip code changing, but refused numerous requests for comment on whether the latest design change was aimed at discouraging or eliminating the practice. In this case, their action speaks louder than their (lack of) words.
9. Dollar Tree: Silence Speaks Volumes? (November 27)
It was big news Thanksgiving week when a shopper in Tennessee was allegedly attacked by a Dollar Tree manager after an argument about coupons. The mainstream media ate it up – though they couldn’t quite decide whether to make it a story about an out-of-control manager, or out-of-control extreme couponers. Meanwhile, anyone looking to Dollar Tree for assurance that no, it’s not their policy to attack customers, got no such assurance. Dollar Tree‘s PR strategy was to clam up. Ultimately, the story exposed some larger issues for Dollar Tree couponers – ever since Dollar Tree began accepting coupons in August, customers have complained that it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Most recently, a commenter on Dollar Tree’s Facebook page noted just the other day that “I was asked by the cashier to be escorted out of your store by security for trying to use coupons.” Dollar Tree is not saying whether that’s their policy, either.
8. Toys “R” Oops (August 16)
Never underestimate internet deal-seekers’ ability to find and exploit coupon loopholes. That was the lesson that Toys “R” Us learned in August. This story presented a blow-by-blow account of everything that went wrong with a simple “$5 off” coupon. Similar “coupon fails” this year involved a Jos. A. Bank $20 off coupon that went viral, and a Petco “mystery coupon” that wasn’t a mystery anymore when everyone found and shared the one that was for 50% off. Oops.
7. (See #1)
6. Fresh Express Salad Coupon Confusion (October 23)
If it seems too good to be true, then the coupon provider probably screwed up. Internet coupon sites were all abuzz when a printable coupon for $3 off a Fresh Express salad package appeared online. That particular product is often on sale for less than $3, so visions of free salad were dancing in couponers’ heads. The coupon was actually part of a promotion at Jewel-Osco stores, but as coupon loophole-seekers noted, the coupon printed with no such restrictions. Fresh Express insisted it could only be used at Jewel-Osco, confusion erupted, and Coupons in the News came to the rescue! Well, kind of. After pressing Fresh Express for a response, they finally admitted, “our bad.” The coupons that had been printed could indeed be used anywhere. And all subsequent coupons printed with a can’t-miss-it “Redeemable at Jewel-Osco Only” banner. Bummer.
5. Walmart Kicks Its Challenge Up a Notch (August 21)
One of the first “scoops”, so to speak, on Coupons in the News, this one ended up getting a lot of mainstream media attention. The “Walmart Challenge” series of ads, in which receipts from Walmart and various grocery stores were shown side by side, to illustrate how much shoppers could have saved by shopping at Walmart, was one of the more interesting advertising campaigns of the year, and Coupons in the News covered it a number of times. Walmart took it to a new level in August, when it quietly introduced its online “Receipt Comparison Tool” – the “home version” of the Walmart Challenge. Coupons in the News was the first to report on this, and first to get Walmart to comment about it on the record, before it began advertising the website. Alas, the “Receipt Comparison Tool” is no longer, never having expanded beyond its initial three test cities.
4. “How To Make Coupons” – And Get Busted For It (August 1)
The Phoenix counterfeit coupon ring was more lucrative, but this counterfeit case was more audacious. College student Lucas Henderson not only made his own printable coupons, but wrote a tutorial to explain how anyone could do it, and encouraged others to do just that. It was all done completely anonymously online, except the one time it wasn’t, which allowed the Feds to track him down. Henderson was arrested last year. This story, which noted his guilty plea in August, offers details from his “How to Make Coupons” tutorial, without actually explaining specifically how to make coupons. You know, because we don’t need any more arrests in this case. The initial story indicated Henderson was due to be sentenced last month, though that date has been pushed back twice already. His sentencing date is now scheduled for next month.
3. (See #1)
2. Frito-Lay Fiasco Causes Coupon Confusion (August 29)
This story preceded the Fresh Express story by a couple of months, but was somewhat similar. It also involved a high-value coupon that seemed a little too good to be true – and it certainly didn’t help when the company mistakenly said it was a fake. On a Friday night in August, a $3 off printable coupon for Lay’s chips, among others, appeared online. It was meant to be offered on one retailer’s Facebook page, but was accidentally offered on a number of sites. No biggie. Making matters worse, though, the coupon provider somehow allowed multiple prints, with the same unique ID codes. That was a biggie. Confused customers who contacted Frito-Lay were told that all of the coupons were “fraudulent”. Mass confusion resulted. Once again, Coupons in the News was able to help clear things up, pressing Frito-Lay to admit that, no, the coupons weren’t fake and yes, people could use them. The story is worth a read to see how a series of mistakes can add up – and how the best PR move, ultimately, is not to clam up but to clear things up (are you listening, Dollar Tree and Coupons.com?)
1. U.S. Military’s Grocery Stores Come Under Fire (December 4)
If there’s one thing military families want you to know – don’t mess with their Commissary. By far, the number-one most-read story of the year, was this article that detailed a proposal to eliminate the taxpayer subsidy for commissaries on U.S. military bases. The subsidy allows commissaries to sell groceries to military families at reduced rates. If that doesn’t seem fair to civilians, well, consider the sacrifices that military families have to make – cheaper groceries are meant to serve as something of a “thank you.” The cost-cutting proposal argued that the subsidy just doesn’t make financial sense anymore. If implemented, it would raise commissary prices, and force the consolidation of commissaries across the country. Two followup articles, No, Your Commissary Is Not Closing. Not Yet, Anyway. (December 6) and Commissary Comments on Coupons, Customers – and Closing (December 18) were numbers 7 and 3, respectively, on the list of the most-read articles of the year. There’s no sign the proposal will be acted upon anytime soon – Congress has had other more pressing financial issues to grapple with lately – but if the reaction to these articles is any indication, anyone backing the idea had better be prepared for a fight.
And there you have it, the most-read Coupons in the News stories of 2012. Kind of makes you wonder what the least-read stories were, doesn’t it? Well, since you asked (even if you didn’t), check out that very article here. There are some good ones in there – promise, they weren’t all turkeys.