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Walmart is not always known as the easiest place to coupon, but it sure made for easy money for a pair of Pennsylvania women. They’ve now been sentenced on charges that they racked up thousands of dollars in overage, by misusing coupons at several Walmart stores.

Be warned – misusing coupons is not only frowned upon, it could also land you in the slammer!

38-year-old Debra Waldron and 43-year-old Stephanie Yeager of Erie were arrested back in October, after a suspicious Walmart employee in the town of Hermitage contacted police. Investigators say the pair “selected a large amount of lower-priced merchandise” and “presented coupons for similar but higher-priced merchandise.” The two were apparently well aware of the Walmart coupon policy, which states that “if coupon value exceeds the price of the item, the excess may be given to the customer as cash or applied toward the basket purchase.”

They chose the cash.

Police caught up with the women when they returned to the same Walmart a week and a half later. Investigators say they located the women’s car in the parking lot, and found it packed with Walmart bags full of merchandise, and a large bag filled with what appeared to be “thousands of coupons.” The two were questioned after netting $290 in overage during that shopping trip. A later search of their homes turned up bags full of other Walmart merchandise, as well as Walmart gift cards.

Waldron and Yeager were ultimately charged with theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy, after netting nearly $2,300 in overage and merchandise from two Walmart stores. They admitted carrying out their scheme in at least three other Walmart locations as well.

It’s particularly amazing, when you consider the troubles many couponers have in convincing Walmart cashiers that their store allows overage at all. Just try convincing your cashier to hand over nearly 300 bucks in cash next time you shop there.

It’s also noteworthy, in that it represents the apparent criminalization of coupon bar code decoding. Before coupons’ bar codes began getting more complicated and more difficult to decipher, some coupon users admitted and even advocated “reading” the bar codes to see what they would “work” on, as opposed to what they were intended for. So a high-value coupon meant for a costly multipack product, for example, might actually “work” on an inexpensive trial-sized version of the same product. And an inattentive cashier who didn’t actually read the coupons would just scan them, and the coupon users could sail through checkout and pocket the savings.

The shady practice was, at times, either winked at or ignored on TV’s “Extreme Couponing”. Certainly not everyone did it, but then not every featured shopper obtained those massive hauls by using all of their coupons the right way either. Bar code decoding is harder to do now, since the introduction of the new-style GS1 bar code that’s longer and contains more precise data, which will make the coupon “beep” if it’s used on the wrong product. But plenty of old-style bar coded coupons still exist. And the two Pennsylvania women apparently got their hands on a whole lot of them.

Their punishment? A judge has now ordered them to perform 25 hours each of community service, submit to a year’s worth of supervision, and they have to pay back the money to Walmart. They’re also forbidden from entering any of the affected Walmart stores “for any reason”. After a year, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the case.

And then they’ll be free to coupon again. And maybe even appear on a future episode of “Extreme Couponing”.

(Check out a few other Walmart coupon crime stories: “Walmart Couponers Imprisoned for Stolen Stockpile”, “Misinformed Walmart Employee Allegedly Assaulted by Angry Couponer” and “Guilty Plea in Walmart Coupons for Cash Scheme”).


photo by: TheChanel

43 Comments

  1. It’s this kind of greed that makes ALL of us couponers look bad. I use coupons the right way, I don’t rack up a lot of overage, (usually $5.00) and don’t sell what I buy. I have a family of 6 and I work part time, and yes, I get food stamps because my husband is blind. I need to make those things stretch as far as possible. If this kind of stuff keeps on happening, stores are going to stop taking coupons all together, then a lot of us penny pinchers are going to be screwed.

  2. I think I know what coupons this article is referring to. These coupons said select products on them and were able to used for any fisher price product. As long as you cut the coupon out, cashiers would not know which products were the select products I know several people who printed off $120 of these coupons and had family members and friends print off more batches of $120. They got hundreds of dollars of toys for next to nothing. Fisher Price caught on and changed the coupons to say the items on the coupon and a price minimum.

    Couponers are very knowledgeable in how to use coupons and some stores really hate them. I use coupons at giant eagle and there are many others who do as well. The cashiers are always nice and look forward to seeing how low the total goes. walmart is good with coupons but they dont like giving the overages

  3. I work for Albertsons and we get people that try to misuse coupons all the time but our computers tell us that the coupon does not work. We also pay attention to the items they buy and if they don’t have it we give the coupon back. What really bugs me is when they have the right coupons and they pay the remaining balance on their EBT card. Most of the people that do that take the product to a warehouse and prep it so they can resell it. Pisses me off.

    • I think that it is great to see someone on EBT using coupons. Much better than watching people piss it away on high priced items and not making it through the month.

      • Fully agree with Alena M. I work two jobs for every penny and have not ever been in a situation where I needed welfare. I have immediate loved ones who have needed it both short term and permanently. I believe it should BE LAW that food stamp users should HAVE to use coupons to get more bang out of the tax payers’ dollars. I save about 20-30% on everything I buy because of coupons. And that’s modest compared to my crazy couponing sister who saves about 50% on her grocery/supply bill. Think what that could lead to in federal dollars saved in food stamps.

        • I totally agree, I receive EBT because I’ve been out of work for a while and between this bad economy and the small town I live in, finding a steady job is difficult. It’s funny though the amount of people that will scoff at you for using EBT with coupons. Do they not understand that by doing so you’re actually using those benefits more wisely!!

          I won’t however go so far to say that couponing should be mandatory for those on EBT. For people unaware as to how to coupon “correctly” it can actually be more expensive most of the time. I’ve found that even with coupons you can usually still get things cheaper buying a store brand instead of paying full price on the name brand. Colgate mouthwash might be $7 with a $2 coupon but I guarantee I could get the Walmart brand for about $3.

        • The only thing is that there are hardly and coupons for healthy food. And if there is it’s either junk food or a very small $ amount off of 2 or 3. I’m a couponer and it’s hard to coupon for groceries unless you want junk! It takes a lot of time and effort to collect coupons and make match ups with sales. Most the time the sales are all at different stores. This is where walmart comes in handy. You can use your overage to pay for groceries and price match to other stores. But I hate walmart because cashiers are so rude also so are csm. They scrutinize you just for using coupons..

    • I have 2 friends right now that coupon, coupon the right way. They are on food stamps. They never misuse their coupons nor food stamps. They’re able to triple if not quadrupedal the amount of food they buy with coupons on their food stamps for their families to give their families better. They look for and get the right coupons. I think everyone on food stamps should learn to coupon the right way, the ethical way to provide for their families. Not the ones that misuse their coupons.

    • Walmart also has a responsibility to check before accepting the coupons. They’ve given me a hard time when I have tried to use my coupons the right way…..

      • I agree the fisher price coupons was ruined and alot of us had legit coupons but walmart did not care they told me my coupons was scanned and they 100% was not i called the manager and corporate because they more or less called me a thief i was highly pissed off.I will never shop there again. I dont think the story above i refering to the FP coupons that story is from june it says.And i also think its great to see some one using coupons with an ebt card people down others using ebt but i have had to have help myself before so dont look down on some one until you have been in there position you dont know there story.

    • It makes you mad that they are being SMART with their government assistance? You would rather we the tax paper pay her whole grocery bill?

    • my sister in law has a ebt and has no clue what a coupon is!! she could really make the help last her the whole month if she used coupons!!! I wish others would coupon!

    • That is really hurtful to read. I am on EBT right now. I don’t have a choice. I am out of work due to a medical issue that I have no control over. I also am raising two children that are not ours. My husband works more than full time. We don’t like it and I feel embarrassed when I have to check out with them. However I am thankful they are there or I would not be able to feed my family of 8. I also use coupons with them. It makes them last longer. I am being a smarter shopper and making sure I am not wasting a dime. I feed 2 elderly people, 2 adults, 2 teenagers, and 2 toddlers on $632 a month. I feed them 2 meals a day and leftovers for lunch. Saving 50 cent here or a $1 there can mean the difference between being able to have enough food or not. Please don’t judge or assume the worst. You have no way of knowing there situation. Luckily you are not in it.

    • Savanah Lyons says:

      Just a question Ruth, how do you know they are going to resell it? Do they tell you that? Have you seen it? If you don’t know without a shadow of a doubt that thats what they are doing then don’t hate. Besides, it isn’t any of your business.

    • Maybe you don’t have the pleasure of having to use an EBT card to pay for your food. Do you realize that EBT gives a person a whopping $6 per day for food? You have to make 3 meals out of that $6 daily allowance. The only way to be able to eat something decent is to use coupons to stretch your EBT balance as far as it can go. I think it is highly ignorant of you to state that someone who uses coupons and their EBT card is reselling the food they buy. Thank God we’re all not so high and mighty judgmental as you.

  4. I hate Wal Mart. I seldom shop there. But I was in a Publix in Florida, with my daughter, and the Manager walked up to us and ask if we were couponers. We both had our binders with us. He was very polite and ask if we really saved and if the store was easy to coupon at and if we had any suggestions how to make it better! I’ve even had a cashier tell me that I did not have enough store coupons for the number of items I had and then proceeded to find me the ones I was missing! I will pay a little higher price for something at Publix that I don’t have a coupon for because they really are coupon friendly. And they do give overage, and accept competitors coupons too.

  5. I have so much trouble getting Walmart to accept my coupons and them these people get aways with thousands of dollars in overages smh

  6. The people saying that Walmart gets reimbursed for the coupons are WRONG! If the coupon is done correctly then it will be but if it’s being used illegally and on the wrong item the coupon won’t be reimbursed. That’s where they are getting hurt. Because some manufacturers are now asking for proof on what item it was used on and of that’s the wrong item then they won’t accept the coupon. I’ve seen it happen. I worked at Walmart and Target. And everyone saying that cashiers should not care about it because they are still getting a paycheck are actually wrong about that too. We rely on sales and if we keep getting scammed out of money from couponers who know that they are defrauding 2 companies at the same time then we get lower hours and less people working the lanes. This all affect us and it’s not right to fraud just so you can get money. It is the same as stealing.
    I coupon too but I don’t do it the wrong way. It’s ok to get a couple of things free and some overage. But it’s ridiculous to get $300 back on overage when it’s obviously not the correct item. And consumers who are at fault are those who are greedy and want more.

    • waleska ortega says:

      Roxanne your wrong on that one Walmart never loose money. even if people missed use the coupons they might not get paid by the manufactures. at the end of the year its put down as losses.the ones that looses is the employees. because like you said don’t get hrs

  7. I get the Sunday paper just for the coupons..I only take out the coupons for what I need and that’s it……This is bull crap people that cheat the system.. I save anywhere between 10 to 13 dollars when I go to walmart…This is walmarts fault too…Just saying…

  8. Pamela Peters says:

    Funny how Walmart cries foul when they reap the benefits of the fraud. Oh well guess that I will have to be more careful of how I coupon from now on. I only get what is on the coupon and don’t defraud the system maybe that’s why I only have a savings of 30-50%. I don’t want to be known as a thief or end up in prison. First person who tails me in a store will find out real quick I don’t play that.

  9. Wow!! Im still tryn to get th is coupon business together while people r gettn over on Walmart….I say yaaaay for these ladies that got a lil cash back….Walmart is actn like they made millions on this….but like y isnt Walmart not getn in trouble bcus im pretty sure they turned in these coupons n got their $ back times double when these women hav to pay it back!!

  10. When I worked as a cashier for Walmart, we only accepted coupons for the exact item the coupon was intended for. If the coupon was for a large bag of Ruffles potato chips, but you have a small bag, when I scanned the bar code on the coupon it would say “item not found”. So I am rather puzzled as to how they managed to get away with this to begin with.

    I also never encountered a situation where I was supposed to give back change on a coupon.

    • Maybe by going through the self-checkout. There are many secret Facebook groups that promote coupon abuse/misuse/fraud, many using the qseer app to decode the bar codes. Then someone will go to Walmart, buy the lowest price item that the picture/wording does not cover, go to the self-checkout, and then “test” the coupon. If it doesn’t beep, they then go blast it all over these secret groups (and really, why would you have secret groups – unless you’re hiding something or doing something you know is wrong).

  11. REALLY?! Wake up! This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. WalMart should TOO be held responsible. They (like SO many other retailers) are accepting these coupons and then blaming the “couponers” for these actions. And, more so, I blame the manufacturers. They want to make these coupons so high tech, but you can’t tell me they can’t make them recognize when they are NOT being used on the items that they are intended for. (We’ve been putting men on the moon for how long now & they can’t get a freakin’ coupon to beep when it’s not being used for the intended product)? Manufacturers have been putting out coupons for YEARS and now because the economy is in such shambles & people are using their brains along with every resource possible, these IDIOTS want to blame customers for what they are not correcting. And, don’t give me this crap about “older” coupons. That is stupid…coupons expire, so where in the world would “older” coupons come from? What about these stores that are not accepting coupons for overages, lowering the amount in order not to give customers money back, but then they (the stores) are turning the coupons into the MFG’s for reimbursement and getting the FULL amount back from them? That’s FRAUD too! But, no one is reporting that?

    • I agree. As well as the extreme couponing show that showed millions how to do barcode matching. Then they actually interviewed the lady and she said she saw nothing wrong with what she was doing and they took no legal action against her (extreme couponing star). I am sick of people treating couponers like criminals. I am one and just because I am trying to get things free or cheap, that makes me frugal not a criminal. And yes these stores that lower the price of the q and then get the full amount is a crock.

      Let’s discuss Walmart and how they do the returns. the coupons are scanned into the system, electronically sent to the mfg. and paid by this listing. So, you return an item that you happened to use a coupon on and they are digging out coupons to give to you and the actual cash you paid. But…aren’t they still getting paid by the manufacturer and receiving the item back. So come on people, let’s get things straight and stop just blaming the consumers!

      • I agree i returned 2 items that i used 2 coupons for and they gave me the price with the coupon taken off the original was $5.99 i had a $3 off coupon i gave her my receipt thinking they would give me a full refund seeing as they already got there money for the coupon.But she tryed to give me $6 somthing back i said it should be $12 she said no you used 2 coupons i said yea and????? She said we cant give you the money for that i said ok so you get the product back for FULL price and you get the cooupon money from the manufacturer yet your trying to give me $6 so your company just pocketed $6 how is that right?

        • Really? Do you not see whst you are trying to do is a scam? If they did it like you ssid everyone would be buying everything with coupons and returning them for full orice just to be making money. How does that make sense?

      • When YOU take that coupon to use at any store, YOU are agreeing to the manufacturer to use the coupon for it’s INTENDED purpose. That is the wording/pictures on the coupon, not what the bar code, that takes some app out there to decode, says. Yes, the stores need to buckle down (yet when the stores do start doing something, you have all these rabid couponers out there calling foul), but in the first place, it is YOU that is supposed to be using that coupon correctly.

    • Totally agree about the overage. Stores are getting reimbursed in full and making a profit off of customers!!!

      And while it’s a shame that these women got away with that much money from fraudulent coupons it’s also a shame that Walmart cashiers are so “uneducated” on coupons and their policies. It’s so annoying whenever cashier’s are anal about coupons and what they’ll cover but it’s also such a shame whenever they’re so negligent that they allow something like this to happen and thereby ruin it for those that are honest in using coupons. If only the cashier’s had been more attentive this probably wouldn’t have happened. Who in their right mind would pay someone $300 for shopping. Seems like that should have raised some red flags immediately.

      I’ve also recently heard from several people that have visited Walmart lately that as of November 1 they no longer accept overage. It’s not officially stated in their policy (yet) but apparently a ton of stores have stopped doing it. Very disappointed to hear that and I sincerely hope that’s not true. Walmart is the only store I have within 30 miles that does overage and it’ll be such a disappointment to lose that.

  12. Walmart is the one thst accepted them so they are equally liable in my opinion. They should teach cashiers ehat coupons to accept!

  13. I have the hardest time getting stores to take legal coupons. This just makes it that much harder on the honest people trying to save a dollar on their budget.

  14. Lisa Mayne says:

    Y’all, this sounds like some type of addiction to me. I know for a fact some people are truly addicted to couponing, same as some are to hoarding, alcohol, drugs, and gambling. Of course not everyone, I don’t mean that, but if it’s in your life as deep as these 2, maybe they should be in mental health court; COURT, for sure, but getting some kind of help, too.

  15. I cant even get walmart to take a coupon that is meant for the product…. crazy crazy….. they should have been punished more severe… just sayin..

  16. This is why I’ve stated time and again that overages are going to be a thing of the past.

  17. This is why honest couponers are treated like criminals at the register and followed around the store. Thanks to some greedy people.

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