Coupon insert sellers have been getting sophisticated lately, developing sources in the coupon supply chain who provide them with hundreds or even thousands of stolen inserts that can be clipped and sold. But some still steal their coupons the old-fashioned way – by swiping stacks of newspapers from vending machines.
And sometimes, they get caught in the act.
That’s what happened to a North Carolina woman, who police say stole dozens of local papers right in front of witnesses, in order to get her hands on the coupons inside.
Investigators say 44-year-old Sharon Kuykendall of Greenville drove to a local convenience store on the morning of Saturday, January 24th and was seen by several witnesses walking up to an outdoor newspaper rack, depositing some money, and taking every copy of the paper inside. Another witness told police she had done the same thing at a local grocery store a short time earlier. And still other witnesses say she later returned to the convenience store to see if the newspaper rack had been restocked. When she discovered it was, she allegedly deposited her coins, but was confronted by a store employee and left without her papers.
The local Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald is not published on Sundays, so the Saturday edition is the one with all the coupons inside. And remarkably enough, at least to coupon clippers who live in bigger cities and have to shell out several dollars for a Sunday edition, the News-Herald’s Saturday edition costs just 50 cents.
That’s a bargain, for the hundreds of dollars worth of savings inside. But it was apparently more than Kuykendall was willing to pay.
After reviewing witnesses’ descriptions and surveillance video, police were ready the following Saturday. They found Kuykendall right where they thought they might – at the very same convenience store.
She was taken in for questioning, and police say she confessed to taking at least 45 copies of the newspaper the previous week. Her alleged motive? The coupons, of course.
Like many newspapers, theft has long been a problem for the News-Herald. Perhaps even more so than many, since its coupon-filled Saturday edition is not nearly as bulky as many cities’ Sunday editions, which makes them easier to steal. And the fact that they’re much less expensive than many Sunday papers, apparently makes many think that grabbing a few (dozen) extra is no big deal.
But the paper’s editor says it is. “Fifty cents is an extremely low price to pay for a copy of a newspaper,” News-Herald editor Cal Bryant wrote in a 2013 column. But “when we see a person taking more than one copy for their 50-cent investment, it hurts our bottom line… If one of our racks is freshly loaded with 50 papers and a person puts in 50 cents and takes them all, then we just lost $24.50. Multiply that by 75 racks, three times a week and we’re on the short end of roughly $5,500.”
Plus, he added, if you’re taking stacks of papers just to get the coupons inside, “then can’t you afford to pay 50 cents per additional copy if you are saving all that money?”
It’s not known whether Kuykendall was trying to save herself some money, or more likely, earn herself some money by selling her ill-gotten coupons. But she won’t be doing either any time soon. She was charged with two counts of misdemeanor larceny, and was released on $500 bond. Her first court appearance is scheduled for tomorrow.
And her neighbors can now rest easy, knowing that there will be plenty of newspapers for everyone, and that they’ll actually have the coupons inside. At least until another overeager couponer picks up where Kuykendall allegedly left off.
“My paycheck doesn’t seem to go as far as it once did,” Bryant wrote in his column. “But what I refuse to do in an effort to stretch a dollar is take something that doesn’t belong to me.”
If only all couponers felt the same way.
Image sources: Flickr/Valerie Everett, Lewiston-Woodville Police Department
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