Who would have thought a story about a couple of couponers engaged in some bad behavior would generate such an intense, shoot-the-messenger reaction from other couponers?
Earlier this week, Coupons in the News reported on a case in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in which police are seeking a couple of coupon “glitchers” who targeted two local Family Dollar stores. The man and woman “tried to use coupons that were for other products,” according to police, exploiting “glitches” in the coupons’ bar codes that allow them to scan on lower-priced products for which they’re not intended, making them free.
The story quickly became the second most-read article in Coupons in the News‘ nearly three years online. That must mean it put fear into the hearts of coupon abusers everywhere, as they shared the article in order to warn others about the consequences of glitching, right?
Not quite. Many just flatly refused to believe it.
“A made up website referred to these ppl as glitchers, which is not true,” one Facebook “glitch group” member declared. “COUPONSINTHENEWS – AGAIN adding their OPINION and SPECULATION to an article MORE than giving FACTS! You would think they would AT LEAST get *SOME* of the facts correct!” a member of another group wrote. “THIS IS A FAKE POST! STOP SHARING IT!” another glitch group member implored others.
And then there was this comment: “Coupons in the news is such a joke. He needs a life.”
All right, then!
Why such resistance, to such a relatively cut-and-dry story?
Much of the confusion stems from whether or not the coupons at issue were “fake”, as another news outlet reported. Counterfeit coupons and real but misused coupons are very different things, after all.
Indeed, the first police report filed after the incident at the first Family Dollar store, erroneously referred to the use of “fake coupons.” “A white male and a white female used fake coupons to get over $250.00 off of the total price,” the incident report reads. And that’s what local radio station WGNS ran with, when it reported the story.
But the second police report filed after the second incident, expands upon and clarifies the first one. “A white male and a white female entered the store,” the report reads. “They selected numerous Procter and Gamble household cleaning products and attempted to check out. When they did, they tried to use coupons that were for other products, saying that they would work on the items they selected… Earlier in the day, two subjects fitting this description did the same thing at the Family Dollar on Memorial Blvd.”
Why the discrepancy between the two reports?
In the first incident, “the suspects attempted to use coupons the store manager referred to as ‘unauthorized coupons’,” Murfreesboro police spokesperson Amy Norville explained to Coupons in the News. The responding officer “took that to mean the coupons were counterfeit.”
But they weren’t. “They were unauthorized coupons, because they were using them on the wrong products,” Family Dollar manager Carmen Lane told Coupons in the News. “The coupons were real coupons for Procter and Gamble products, and they thought they could use them for any product.”
And that’s how they got away with $250 worth of stuff for free. The manager of the second Family Dollar store refused their coupons, and they left without $150 worth of products they also would have gotten for free. (The WGNS report also managed to mix up those two dollar figures. So now who can’t get their facts straight?)
Whether it was the “fake coupon” confusion, or a general disbelief that police would bother investigating such a relatively low-stakes crime, it seems many readers refused to believe any of it, because they simply don’t want to believe that what they’re doing might be wrong – or illegal.
“The suspects did obtain items without paying, and did so under fraudulent circumstances,” Norville said. And that’s a crime.
“It’s stealing,” coupon investigator Jane Beauchamp told Coupons in the News. She’s the president of Brand Technologies, the company that has been working with Facebook to delete more than a hundred “glitch groups” so far. Sure, stores could do more to combat glitching by better training cashiers. But blaming the store for accepting coupons used improperly, is like blaming the store when someone shoplifts. “It continues to amaze me how these folks can do this and that they believe it’s okay,” Beauchamp said of coupon glitchers. “They can argue that it’s not actually retail theft, that they ‘didn’t know’, but still they are preying on (coupons’) weaknesses and profiting on it.”
The Coupon Information Corporation agrees that “glitching” is fraud. “Coupon fraud occurs whenever someone intentionally uses a coupon for a product that he/she has NOT purchased or otherwise fails to satisfy the terms and conditions for redemption,” the coupon watchdog group states on its website. “These activities are almost always in violation of Federal, State or local laws.”
And far from writing off the incidents as no big deal, Murfreesboro police say they are actively seeking the Family Dollar suspects. “Our Criminal Investigations Division is continuing to work this case,” Norville said.
As mentioned earlier, the initial story about the Family Dollar incidents has become the second most-read story on Coupons in the News. The most-read story of all? “Walmart Couponers Busted for Illegal Overage.” That story in 2013 was about two Pennsylvania women who were arrested, tried and sentenced for – you guessed it – glitching. The pair “selected a large amount of lower-priced merchandise” and “presented coupons for similar but higher-priced merchandise,” police said at the time of their arrest.
So there’s your proof that it really does happen – glitching can indeed get a couponer into trouble with the law.
Whether you choose to believe it, or not.
You may also like: