All You April 2015

A magazine popular among the couponing crowd is trying to back away from a controversial couponing tip published in its latest edition. But is the damage already done?

The April edition of “All You” had barely hit newsstands and mailboxes when some readers paused upon reaching page 84. An article entitled “Save $100s This Year on Healthy Food” features several suggestions on how to spend less while grocery shopping – a typical feature for the magazine that’s usually filled with coupons and savings tips. But one of the article’s savings suggestions is as follows (as pictured above):

“SCOUR EBAY: The online auction site’s Home and Garden section is an overlooked gold mine for paper grocery coupons (search for ‘organic’). Sellers often offer multiple coupons for one price. A recent check turned up a set of 20 coupons for Horizon dairy products (ranging from 55 cents to $1 off) for just $2.50.”

Well, it seems “All You” just waded into a minefield.

“I was extremely surprised to see a story in the magazine promoting coupon resale,” syndicated coupon columnist and blogger Jill Cataldo told Coupons in the News. “I can’t fathom why All You would want to encourage readers to buy coupons on eBay while simultaneously soliciting advertising from brands whose coupons clearly state they are not valid if the coupons are sold.”


Buying and selling coupons has long been a controversial subject. The coupon industry discourages it, and has pressured eBay to prevent the practice on its site (eBay responded in 2013 by restricting – but not banning – coupon sales). But many sellers ignore coupons’ “void if sold” wording, believing it’s only the manufacturers’ preference, not the law, and they’re free to do whatever what they want with their own coupons.

The industry argument is that the large-scale redistribution of coupons ends up placing too many of the same coupons into the hands of one shopper, who buys dozens of products at a discount and never becomes a loyal customer – which is the intent of a coupon as a marketing tool, after all. Plus, it results in many more coupons being redeemed than the issuer budgeted for.

That’s their problem, some may think, but Cataldo says it ultimately becomes every couponer’s problem. “When far more coupons are redeemed than are expected for a particular campaign, manufacturers react by lowering coupon values and shortening expiration date windows for future coupon campaigns – both of which hurt the average shopper.”

So why would a coupon-friendly magazine like All You want to take sides on such a divisive issue and alienate some of its readers – and many of its advertisers?

Whether by inattention or ignorance, it seems they kind of didn’t mean to.

“I definitely wasn’t trying to add fuel to the coupon fire, nor did I realize there was one!” the article’s author, Nicole Frehsee, told Coupons in the News. “I came across the tip in another magazine article and I thought it was interesting and fresh – I didn’t know that you could purchase coupons on eBay. As I was looking for tips that were a little under the radar, I included it.”

Frehsee is a freelance magazine writer who covers everything from travel and food, to entertainment and rock & roll. So you might forgive her for not realizing that her couponing tip is the subject of such controversy. But shouldn’t All You’s editors – who have been at this for more than ten years now – have known better?

In response to that very question from Cataldo, Coupons in the News and others, All You issued a statement Tuesday that it also published on its website.

“Although there are coupons for sale on eBay, most manufacturers’ coupons are void if transferred or sold,” the statement reads in part. “So it’s critical to check the terms and conditions of the coupon, as well as of any site that offers them. There are plenty of free coupons, or ones you can get with a purchase, and that remains the best way to collect them. Never ignore the fine print, or the legal and ethical aspects of obtaining and using coupons — including multiple redemptions and other ‘extreme’ practices.”

It’s a sort-of disavowal of the advice printed on the pages of its own magazine. But Cataldo, for one, is unmoved – and unwavering in her decision to stop promoting the magazine on her website.

“Their response is a very weak attempt at spin control,” she said. Commenting further on her website, she wrote that “an outright apology and ‘we made a mistake’ statement would have gone much further with readers rather than trying to spin the responsibility of checking eBay coupons’ terms back to the consumer.”

Even an apology might not make much difference to some readers, though. As troubling to them as the eBay advice, is the fact that the formerly savings-stuffed magazine is nearly devoid of coupons lately.

“Four coupons in the new issue? Two for laundry detergent and one for a book. This magazine did NOT pay for itself,” one commenter on All You’s Facebook page complained. “You had what no other magazine had – coupons,” another wrote. “I probably will not renew.” Added a third, “All You, you are becoming quite a disappointment!”

In response, All You had this to offer: “It’s true that there aren’t as many advertiser coupons in All You in the April issue compared to a few years ago, but unfortunately, we have no say in whether companies want to offer coupons for their products. But we’re working really hard to make sure that the magazine still provides you with deals and opportunities to save.”

Opportunities to save like, buying coupons on eBay? The magazine may have no say in whether companies want to offer coupons in its publication. But any more tips like that, and those companies may permanently choose to offer their coupons – somewhere else.

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One Comment

  1. What I don’t understand, is that people have no problems with swapping coupons, but they do have problems with selling them? Really, what is the difference? Swapping for other coupons, for stamps, for something else, verses swapping for money? All of them tend to go against what retailers desire, but how can one be more wrong to people than others? I do not buy coupons and I don’t tend to swap, at least not for I give you this coupon, you give me those. IE swaps where I give you 20 off your wish list and you give me 20 off my wish list, yes. As long as the seller, is obtaining the coupons legally though, I have no problem with someone buying coupons.

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