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Facebook has shut down groups advocating coupon misuse, while some of the most egregious offenders have received cease-and-desist letters from manufacturers. But are threats and warnings enough to get coupon glitchers’ attention?

Here’s something that might. A case in Tennessee shows there can be more severe consequences for knowingly using coupons on the wrong products – arrest and imprisonment.

Police in Murfreesboro, Tennessee are searching for a couple of coupon scammers who have been misusing coupons and loading up on free products at Family Dollar stores in the area.

This past Friday, the manager of one of the city’s three Family Dollar locations called police, after the couple left the store with $250 worth of products that they got for free. The male and female shoppers “tricked the new cashier” into taking their coupons, the manager said, even though their coupons were for different products than what they were purchasing.

An hour later, at a second Family Dollar store just two miles away, the couple struck again. This time, according to a police report, the store’s manager said they “selected numerous Procter & Gamble household cleaning products and attempted to check out.”

But this store was onto them. “They tried to use coupons that were for other products, saying that they would work on the items they selected,” the police report explains. When the manager refused their coupons, they left without the $150 worth of items they were attempting to get for free.

Using high-value coupons to get lower-priced items for little or no money is a favorite tactic of some of the more opportunistic, less ethical couponers. People have been exploiting weaknesses in coupons’ bar codes for decades, long before enthusiasts started calling them “glitches” and sharing their exploits online. But the practice has blown up in recent years, thanks to social media sharing, and apps that will help decode coupons’ bar codes, telling users what products they will “work” on without getting rejected at the register.

Nowadays, many “glitchers” openly share their discoveries online, informing others which coupons they can use on the wrong products in order to get them at bargain prices. Dollar stores are among the favorite places to do so, since the cash registers’ scanning software will often ignore coupons’ printed stipulations, such as those that state they can’t be used on smaller-sized packages that dollar stores offer. Or the coupons may be intended for different products altogether, but are coded to scan correctly for any product made by that manufacturer. And some glitchers simply find it easy to “trick the new cashier” at dollar stores.

Many coupon glitchers believe the worst that can happen to them is that their Facebook group will be deleted, or they’ll get a strongly-worded warning that they can decide to ignore. But the Murfreesboro case shows that police in at least one community are taking it seriously.

If caught, the couponing couple could be charged with theft and fraud. Both Murfreesboro Family Dollar stores have shared surveillance video of the pair with police. So if they practice their craft in town again, the next time they leave a store, they may be doing it in handcuffs.

(Be sure to read this followup: “The Family Dollar Coupon Caper: Is Any of This Really True?”)

Photo by JeepersMedia

27 Comments

  1. Pingback: Ask a Walmart Expert: What is Coupon Fraud? | Grocery Shop For FREE at The Mart!!

  2. Ha!! That was sent to me this morning… Guess what I did???!! I called the city PD there. They confirmed the story was 100% UNTRUE. They also stated they’ve had several calls about it and are looking into who wrote it to correct them. They stated that they have “bigger fish to fry than some couponers” and they also confirmed that if the store allowed them to do it, there is nothing they can do other than to encourage the company to better train their employees on proper use of coupons. BOOM!!!!

    • Wait, so now Coupons in the News and WGNS are both making this all up? That’s a unique take on the situation. Did you provide whoever you talked to with the incident numbers, so they could look them up for you and confirm that they do actually exist?

    • I just read this story, and I thought it sounded sketchy. First of all… how many times have you gone to a store and seen couponers attempting to “persuade” new cashiers (I can’t tell the difference between new and old employees, lol;0) to take the “wrong” coupons? In all my years of couponing, I have YET to see it! Then, I was thinking… if FD’s “new” employees are accepting the “wrong” coupons, that is hardly the couponers fault;0 It sounds like they need to train ALL THEIR EMPLOYEES on what coupons to accept/which ones cannot be used (I.e. print coupons, expired coupons, etc.). Honestly, though.. I think many businesses just do not want to have to accept coupons anymore. It appears, this may be one business’s way to attempt to eliminate couponers and their coupons. The thing about that, is… if that’s the route they choose to go, they will go out of business quick. They know that, in order to run a successful business, they will have to continue “making nice” w/ couponers in an effort to keep their business! I was wondering, in the story, how they could hunt for these couponers in an effort to prosecute them?! After all… even IF you have someone on video camera using coupons, how would they know what was on the coupon? Would they dust every coupon from that day for fingerprints, then follow one or both of these people around town until they threw a soda can in the trash… so they could obtain their DNA??! That’s, pretty much, the only way they could definitively match them to certain coupons. Then, that still wouldn’t be enough! They still wouldn’t be able to prove these people knowingly used the “wrong” coupons w/ the products the received. If it went to court, I would be shocked if any judge convicted someone under these circumstances. Then, again… it depends on where you live and what decision the judge makes?!

  3. I find it funny that people are complaining about this article. (Probably ones who are misusing coupons) They gave you the police report # and the number to call to verify. What more proof do you need? If you aren’t doing anything wrong, this article wouldn’t bother you. LoL @ all the crybabies who might actually have to follow the law.

  4. Such negativity in the comments section. Great story and I love your site.

  5. Not sure if the story is real, but check the local news outlets, such as WKRN, NewsChannel5, WSMV.

  6. I am a couponer, I follow the rules. I have a facebook group. Many people do not have the time to coupon. It is very time consuming. I sell stuff to help other people out. I’m not making a killing. Made $65 in the last 2 weeks. I also donate a lot. I dont see anything wrong with it if you follow the rules.

    • Just make sure that you aren’t using coupons that explicitly say Coupons not authorized if purchasing products for resale, or something to that effect. I have Charmin IP, and have seen that on Nivea coupons as well. That in itself is against the coupon terms, if you are buying it to resell.

      • Once I own something, I own it. I may do with it as I please so long as I purchased it lawfully to begin with. Manufacturers can write whatever they want on their coupons. It doesn’t make what they write enforceable.

        • kateamonsta says:

          This is written on the coupons to protect the large retailers and mfrs. from the smaller cornor store type outfits. a while ago in a Kroge affiliated store the cashier told me how loss prevention was watching the amount of certain items being purchase with coupons because some of the little stores were printing copies of Qz and going to the larger retailers buying up all their stock for free+tax or almost free, then turning around and selling it for upwards of double the value.

  7. I would like to know where this article came from. There are 2 stories and this one is completely different from the other one. The first one I read is from a “actual” news station so which one is right ??? I think Iam not the only one reading your article wanting to know where you got this info from. I am just a curious reader is all.

  8. I’m calling BS too
    if the police were searching for them, they’d be kind enough to list what charges they were after them for.

    Or what they were to be questioned about.

    The police if they really are looking for these people, it’s to HOLD them for long enough to get them to confess to something. They got no case until they tell on themselves. Which is what most criminals do in most situations.

  9. Must not have searched for other articles about this too hard.

    http://wgnsradio.com/family-dollar-stores-targeted-by-fraud-suspects-cms-26916

  10. It is real! We have people pull this on our grocery store all the time like it’s ok. Then they go to online yard sale sites and sell the items!

    http://wgnsradio.com/family-dollar-stores-targeted-by-fraud-suspects-cms-26916

    • Why because people sale what they have gotten with coupons does it mean they obtained them by fraud. I have a very large stock pile(s) and I did this by actually couponing. Not using fraud ect !! Stop stereo-typing all couponers !!!

  11. They dont seem to want to answer where this article came from. I call bs

  12. C Couponista says:

    Weird … This doesn’t come up on any real news outlets when I google it. Is it a secret?

    • agreed.. it’s just someone stirring the pot. how would they know what police are doing and who they are looking for? and that pic is a stock pic from 2014

      • “Real news outlets”? Ouch.

        How would we know what police are doing? By talking to them. If you’d like to call Murfreesboro police yourself, you can ask them about case #15-11065 (for the first incident) and #15-11061 (for the second).

  13. where did you get this article from?

    • my thoughts are that this is just a blog post written by some of the same people that complain on coupon sites. just my opinion. how would they know what police are doing? think about it

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