Publishers Work to Thwart Coupon Resellers
Did you happen to notice the fine print on the cover of your RedPlum inserts? Since the beginning of 2017, there’s been a new warning printed at the top:
“AVOID COUPON FRAUD: The coupons in this booklet are void under the manufacturer’s rules if they are bought or sold. These booklets are intended for individual home or newspaper distribution. If you are buying or selling these booklets in bulk, you are likely trafficking in stolen property, which is illegal under state and federal law.”
While manufacturers and publishers forbid reselling coupon inserts, it’s a practice that continues to flourish online. In many cases, insert resellers are offering whole coupon inserts for purchase at lower prices than it would cost to buy a newspaper with the coupons inside. Additionally, many coupon resellers advertise they have tens of thousands of uncirculated inserts one to two weeks before those inserts are even due to be issued in the newspaper.
How is this possible? In most cases, the coupon inserts are being stolen from newspapers and distribution centers before they’ve even been collated into the papers. Think about it: There is simply no legal way to obtain tens of thousands of pristine inserts weeks ahead of their release dates unless they are being stolen from the source.
Publishers have been exploring ways to cut down on fraudulent insert distribution and curb coupon insert resellers. Coupon insert theft was in the news off and on last year, including one notable bust where a police officer was stealing coupon inserts from a newspaper distribution center. The officer’s wife was then selling the coupon inserts on Instagram.
Recent efforts to curtail both insert theft and resale have focused on a southern California newspaper distribution center. In December 2016, Procter & Gamble stopped offering its Brandsaver coupon insert to this particular California center, which resulted in many coupon resellers announcing to their audiences that P&G simply didn’t issue a December insert, or was going “digital” that month. Not true – it seems that P&G simply got tired of their inserts falling into the wrong hands. This tactic also helped identify that resellers were obtaining their coupons from this specific facility.
Of course, when a publisher pulls out of a certain market, it means that many Californians went without their Brandsaver coupon insert last month, not just those looking to commit coupon fraud. This is a sad effect of coupon resale. In the long run, the coupon resellers’ efforts hurt everyone.
In January 2016, Valassis followed suit by pulling its RedPlum coupon inserts from the same California distribution center. They also began publishing a new warning on each insert to buyers and resellers.
Pulling coupon inserts out of an entire region punishes the honest couponers that simply want to receive their coupons in the paper. (Arguably, these readers already are being punished if the inserts they’re supposed to receive each week are being stolen from the warehouse and aren’t reaching all of the paper’s subscribers.)
In 2014, I heard from quite a few of my Florida readers complaining that RedPlum coupon inserts were no longer available in the Tampa area, and this, too, was due to coupon reseller fraud.
One would think that the newspaper would have more incentive to stop the source that is removing inserts from the distribution center in the first place – tens of thousands of inserts are finding their ways into multiple resellers’ hands every week. The fact that this level of theft has continued unchecked is disturbing.
If thieves kept robbing the same bank, week after week, wouldn’t that bank help investigate, arrest and prosecute the people involved? Instead, it’s as if they’ve concluded that a better solution is to stop keeping money in the bank so there’s nothing to steal.
If you’re purchasing coupon inserts from an unauthorized reseller, I implore you to stop. By purchasing coupons online, you’re not only putting yourself at risk of receiving stolen goods, but you’re also encouraging criminals to continue stealing coupons that were supposed to go in someone else’s newspaper to further your own appetite.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.