Who knew that extreme couponing was a thing in Belgium?

The home of NATO, world-famous chocolates and Jean-Claude Van Damme is also apparently home to plenty of people who like to clip coupons and clear shelves, in a quest to get a whole lot for very little.

But now, one retailer has had enough.

In a crackdown that has become commonplace in the U.S., but has come as quite a shock to many Belgians, a major grocery chain in the country is trying to put an end to extreme couponing.

Colruyt is a retail conglomerate that owns several Belgian grocery chains. It’s the main competitor to grocers that are more familiar to American shoppers, like ALDI, Lidl and Ahold Delhaize. But couponers who choose Colruyt’s stores for their coupon-friendly policies, only have until next week to take full advantage.

Because that’s when Colruyt puts a new policy into place, limiting couponers to five like coupons per shopping trip.


It’s not a shocking limit for many American coupon clippers, who’ve gotten accustomed to similar restrictions that were put into place at many stores several years ago. But to many Belgians, it’s going to take some getting used to.

Colruyt tells of a time when one determined shopper showed up to the register with carts full of dish soap, laundry detergent and other items – along with 7,132 coupons. It took the cashier three hours to scan them all, and the shelves were completely wiped out. So the retailer decided something needed to be done.

“Only a very small percentage of customers use more than five of the same coupons,” Colruyt’s Geert Elen told the Belgian TV network VRT. He said imposing reasonable limits will impact very few, but benefit many. “That way there are always enough products for everyone in stock in our stores, and all our customers can enjoy the discounts,” he said.

Some shoppers are upset about the new limits. “So if I’m able to get 20 coupons and can only use five, I should just let the rest expire?” one member of a Belgian couponing Facebook group wrote. “I’m not going to work overtime so I have to buy my items at full price just to give you a chance.”

Others are skeptical that the limits will be effective. “What are they going to do when people come back into the store 2 or 3 times?” another coupon group member asked. “Because believe me, they are going to.”

But still other couponers are okay with the five-coupon limit. “I personally like it,” a Facebook group member wrote. “Very frustrating if you want to get a product and you’re just too late, and see someone who has a cartful.” Another said extreme couponers only have themselves to blame for the policy change, which is the result of “greedy people who want to grab everything up and are not content with 5 of each.”

Couponing as we know it is largely an American phenomenon. Coupons do exist in other countries, of course, but they’re nowhere near as prevalent or as popular as they are here. And now, in case Belgium had any designs on becoming the next most-popular global couponing hotspot – Colruyt’s new limits will ensure that couponing in Belgium will stop just a bit short of becoming “extreme.”

Image source: Colruyt Group

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