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Negative Effects of Extreme Couponing

Negative Extreme Couponing

You know, when Extreme Couponing first aired on TLC, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to watch episode after episode of other couponers getting stuff for free at the grocery store. And for the first season, I really did watch every episode – and I loved them all. Each one had me excited to go shopping.

Now, many seasons later, I really believe that everyone should avoid watching Extreme Couponing, because the show has created a lot of serious issues for those of us that regularly use coupons (and yes, I know these problems existed before the show aired, but it has definitely become much worse).

It also makes new couponers believe that you can always walk into a store and save 90% or more on your grocery bill, which is simply not true. Extreme couponing can be very good, but it can also be very bad.

Here are the negative effects of extreme couponing:

1. Newspaper Theft

That’s right, people are stealing newspapers to get the coupon inserts inside. They are stealing them from driveways, in stores (the coupons inside, not the paper itself) – anywhere they can get them. I don’t care if it’s just coupons – when you take something that does not belong to you – that’s theft.

2. Tear Pad Theft

Have you ever heard about a great tear pad coupon and went out trying to look for it, only to find all of the stores completely wiped out? This is common, and it is usually due to the fact that instead of taking a few, people are taking entire tear pads full of coupons.

What are they doing with those coupons? Some may be using them themselves, some may use them for coupon trading, but most are actually selling these coupons on eBay for a profit. This, again, is theft in my mind.

Stealing Tear Pad Coupons

3. Store Policy Changes

We have seen a lot of changes to store coupon policies in the last year or two – and not in a good way (for most stores). Look at a store like London Drugs – they used to be one of the best stores to shop at with coupons because they allowed coupon stacking.

Now, they have so many restrictions on what they accept for coupon stacking, that couponers aren’t shopping there as much. This is not just London Drugs, but many other stores in Canada have been changing their coupon policies because of extreme couponers.

4. Manufacturer Coupon Changes

Just like stores are changing their coupon policies, manufacturers themselves are also making changes to the wording on their coupons. P&G is a great example. I remember when I used to get tons of free (or cheap) P&G products because there were no limits on their coupons.

Now, you can’t use P&G coupons on most travel size items or on bonus packages. Also, some of their coupons have restricted the use to only 4 of the same coupon per person.

Free Coupons

5. Shelf Clearing

I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point – you walk into a store, planning to pick up a bunch of stuff that is on sale and will be really cheap (or free) with coupons, and you notice that the shelves are completely bare. Not a single item left for you (or anyone else).

Now, this doesn’t mean an extreme couponer cleared the shelf, but if the item was supposed to be free or dirt cheap after coupons, then the odds are likely that a couponer (or multiple couponers) cleared the store out of stock.


Let’s not forget that extreme couponing really can be a good thing, but only if you play by the rules. When people start getting greedy, that’s when things can get ugly and that’s what gives extreme couponers a bad rap (have you ever been to the store with your coupon binder and been asked if you’re “one of those people”?).

Play nice, play fair and we can all win with extreme couponing!

What would you add to this list, if anything?


  1. Michelle

    This is absolutely correct! I have seen the show as well and think ..hey that is great..I want to start this! Then I realize that living in Canada, I am finding it hard to even find coupons! Maybe I am looking in the wrong places?? We don’t get inserts with coupons in my short of looking in the store…

    I agree this is also why the stores have changed their policies about coupons, and it really is not fair for the people that come in with some, ok..not $1000.00 worth!!! and now we can’t get the savings we were hoping for…I do try to follow your writes to see if I can find coupons that I use..and am even going to try to find someone in the states that can maybe help me when I go shopping there. Thanks for this article and all the others :0)

    • Poor Fat Chick

      I have noticed that coupons are getting harder and harder to find these days.. Particularly the tear pads. A lot of the stores in my area don’t have them anymore. And i suspect its from greedy people selling them online or clearing shelves with the coupons and the stores are not longer allowing them
      suck really

    • Sylvie

      I totally agree with Michelle. No one has mentioned the fact that the prices of products are going up because “someone” has to pay for the products so it’s the people who play by the rules that get hosed.

  2. Lorna

    Sometimes when I shop with 6 or more coupons the stores limit it to 4, but the next week it is ok to use the 6 coupons, or if you get a “good” cashier you can use as many as you want, consistency is what I would like to see, and if we could have the option to get an update on policy change, some stores DONT follow their own coupon policy 🙁 this makes it hard to coupon.

  3. Sarah H.

    Extreme couponing is not realistic they go do their shopping trips with all free coupons from companies. Of course if you know all your items are free then of course your saving will be amazing. Also they double coupons and Canada we don’t so that’s a plus for them, they also change the rules on them for the show. They are not allowed to use 4 like coupons per transaction so they make a million transactions for their checkouts

  4. Sherry

    Regarding the shelf clearing, I know for a fact that some stores will “Pull” merchandise rather then have you get it for free. This is done rather then price match an item on sale at another store as well. This happens in the States a lot where I shop. The product will majically reappear when the sale is finished or the coupon has expired. Really makes you angry.

    • teachermum

      I swear they do this at my Walmart. They are very good at taking coupons and finally seem to have everyone properly trained, but it isn’t my favourite place to shop as far as finding stock. The shelves are often empty having nothing to do with a sale item either!

  5. aLaNa

    Well said! Would much rather read this than read comments from people who whine about others getting great deals and then start with accusations. You can tell they are the greedy shelf clearers who missed out this time. Whaa! This is definitely my favortie site!

    • Cassie Howard

      Yay! So glad to hear it. 🙂

  6. Zion

    A Walmart employee admitted to me that put out a certain amount when they know people are coming to price match an item because they will “lose money”. This total defeats the purpose in my opinion

    And btw, I think shelf clearers and people who print multiple coupons are greedy, selfish and inconsiderate!! They don’t care if someone just wants an item or two because they’re set out to take 20!! I’ve changed my thinking and call ahead before making a trip for something I really want.

    • Cassie Howard

      That’s just not fair!

  7. Leslie

    The show can be very misleading. When I started couponing…I gave myself a goal each week I started with saving 5$ on my shopping. This could be with coupons OR price matching. Then I went to 7$ and then 10$. As I learned more I was able to save more.
    Clearing the shelves? I will never get to that point BUT I really do admire the folks who have it all figured out ESP in Canada and all of the restrictions out there. Yes the rules do seem to change frequently and there is a bit of a stigma attached to couponers lately. But keep in mind that coupons are there to be used…so save your family a little cash if you can and be considerate of others. And courtesy goes both ways at the check out…I find that if I tell them I need their help to get thru the order with all of my coupons…then they are more likely to engage with me (after a heavy sigh) lol

    • Cassie Howard

      Very smart of you to have a small savings goal and then build it up – that’s the way to do it!

    • HeidiM

      I agree that it is important to be courteous to the cashier too. Then, the transaction runs more smoothly.

  8. Eve

    I believe that Walmart pulls items where they are going to lose.Or just puts out a few. I can go beginning of sale and MAYBE get item and few days later all gone.But they are so good with couponing and PM that I go there. Also I have stopped ordering sample boxes as I never receive them. Company tells me they have sent it and I do not get it.So there is theft somewhere along the way.I still get my coupons.

  9. Josie

    Let’s not forget that for the majority of the people on Extreme Couponing there is nothing healthy in their carts! You can have your 1000 chocolate bars and your 2000 Mr Noodles. Where are the veggies and the fruit?

    • susan wallace

      I was going to post the same comment … it always turns my stomach a bit when I see the stockpiles some extreme (and moderate)couponers boast about filled with not only pre-packaged, preservative filled foods (and I use that term lightly), but also non-food related items that are full of chemical contaminants that are not only hurtful to the environment, but to their own health and those around them.

      I’d be more interested in an Extreme Couponing reality show that actually depicts folks buying healthful foods and eco-responsible, non toxic items. That is definitely a bigger challenge and would be a feat worth broadcasting.

  10. Emily

    I am a little sorry you singled out London Drugs to talk about with regard to changing coupon policies. Yes, their policies have changed, but the changes have been almost entirely because of changes that manufacturers have insisted upon.

    London Drugs continues to be a great place in terms of how they treat and deal with couponers. They have couponers ring their orders through at the customer service desk. The staff that work that desk are friendly and helpful and have the policies available to them if they need to refer to them. They train the customer service staff well on reading coupons and on how to deal with issues that arise. Almost all staff that I deal with are thrilled about any deals I get, and will often ask if I am interested in such and such that another couponer has purchased earlier in their shift. I have never had the “evil eye” in a London Drugs location in any part of my shopping experience while I hunt for a coupon, or work out the best deal.

    As a result of my shopping experience with them, I will always check them out for my computer, camera etc. needs. While I may not end up purchasing those items there I make sure they are up for consideration.

    • Cassie Howard

      Please believe that I was not trying to speak badly of London Drugs. I know that they are still a fantastic store for couponers to shop at.

  11. B

    I am really happy you wrote this article. I definitely enjoy couponing and had my fair share of awesome shopping trips but I am often frustrated by the extreme couponing you speak of. I find it does give couponing a bad rep. Almost every week that a Smartsource or RedPlum insert is supposedly released, the flyers will suddenly not get delivered that week. The same thing happens when Canadian Tire flyers have their scratch cards on them. I’ve also been behind a person in the checkout who I imagined to be an inconsiderate couponer. It took a really long time to checkout. She left all her coupons until the end with the poor cashier having to keep going back to find the items in particular (I know some stores have this policy of putting all the coupons at the end, but not this one). Also, whether innocently or not, a few of the coupons were misused (i.e. the products did not match, or the min requirements weren’t met, and I think some were expired coupons too). Sorry for being so judgmental but I definitely think the behaviours that you wrote about definitely adds to the stigma of couponing.

  12. AllyShh

    I am so glad I read this! I am new to price matching and couponing, and I love that this site (and others like it) exist. I don’t think I would ever have started couponing at all without the help I have found online. Too overwhelming!

    With each new week, I learn more and more. This week’s lesson is that I am really naive and maybe too honest! It never occurred to me to take or print more than one (maybe two) coupons for one item at a time. Then I saw some pictures online of what people saved this week and I was shocked to see up to 22 of one particular item among their haul. I love a good deal, but I feel really uncomfortable about the idea of taking that many doupns. Now i understand why I can’t find that particular item in stock anywhere at the moment. Guess I won’t be able to use my two coupons. 🙁

  13. Cathy

    I agree, I really get so angry when I see posts for coupons on ebay….you got those coupons for free and are that greedy that you will sell them?? if I have more coupons then I will use, then I share the wealth with family and friends etc for NO CHARGE. Actually I have even see people trying to sell samples they have received on kijiji, often it is baby items. I don’t get it.

  14. Jaclyn

    I subscribe to three different newspapers so that I can recieve 3 sets of coupons and on each delivery day I get very stressed as if I am not awake in time my papers get stolen! It is absolutely absurd that someone can walk right onto your front porch and take your newspaper for what, coupons? honestly! I have had to install cameras as well as put in requests that my newspapers be hidden and its no joke just how ridiculous it is that I have to call to report my newspaper was stolen ONLY on the days when the coupons are in the paper. Sad, very sad…

  15. Anita

    Until recently I worked at our local Wal Mart, I was there for 10 years. In that time my store had umpteen assistant managers and 3 store managers. I can tell you from what I have seen and heard, management does not care if couponers or a shopper who uses an occasional coupon gets an item cheap or free. I have never heard of anyone in management complain about couponing. The reason for this is simple: When any of us redeems a coupon, the store gets reimbursed for it; not only do they get reimbursed for it, the also get the cost of mailing coupons back to the manufacture reimbursed. So they are not out anything by accepting coupons. When we use a coupon, it is considered a sale. which means you chose to shop at Wal Mart over another retailer. They like that very much.
    As for pulling items off the shelf for a sale, I have never seen that. They want to sell what they have on sale, it is all profit for them. The space in the stock room is very limited and merchandise is put out asap. Trucks come in all day long and usually there are a couple in the evening, the stuff that comes in in the evening is put out by overnight associates. Outs, blank spots on shelves are scanned everyday, and if there is merchandise to fill it, its added to a pick list, and put out right away. the goal of being a sales associate is not to deter people from using coupons, but to keep everything as stocked as possible at all times and keep the store clean and safe for shoppers to enjoy when they are shopping.
    There have been so many times over the years that a sale item has sold out quickly, it happens, sometime the demand is too great, not enough was ordered, or when filling orders the manufacture didn’t have enough product to send all store huge quantities, shelf clearing shoppers are not the only reason a store might not have what you are looking for. for the times when you want a sale item and its not available for whatever reason rain checks are available from customer service, and they do not expire. Sometimes, I’d rather get a rain check instead of an item I went in for, like near the end of the winter the big yellow bags of safety salt for the driveway was on sale, I wanted two for out house and two for my in-laws, they were sold out, so I got a rain check at customer service, and next winter when they are full price I can get my first couple on the sale price.

    sorry for the long post but I felt the need for me to defend at least the store I worked hard for, for so long.

    • Nicole

      Thanks Anita!
      My Walmart in South Surrey BC told me that they don’t do rainchecks. I will ask again as you say they do!

      • melissa

        our walmart rainchecks expire in 60 days for some things

  16. Sadie

    I tink trading is okay, but what makes me SICK is when people offer stacks of “All new tearpads” for Free Product or High Value coupons. To me, this is the same as stealing the tear pads to sell on Ebay. You steal ALL the coupons from the store… so the only way we can get one or two is to give YOU our GOOD coupons that we obtained from research and honesty. Sick. Coupon trading groups should NOT allow “Envelope of tear pads in return for FPC or High Value coupon”

    • Sadie

      *think, lol

  17. Sully girl

    I became really discouraged and actually stopped using coupons for almost a full year because a couponing website was started by folks living in the city nearest to the small village where I live. I go into that city to shop because our small town only has one expensive grocery store which does not price match and is very restrictive about the coupons they accept. I am not sure if it is the actual couple whom started the website that does it or just their local following (the website has become quite popular nation wide)- but as it became more popular the shelves in all the grocery stores and Walmart etc in the city were often stripped clear whenever the great deals came along – especially if it entailed a free or pennies on the dollar deal. The most frustrating thing was logging on to that site and seeing photos they had posted of their stacks and stacks of deals scored – after wasting my time and expensive gas driving the 20min to town (and back again) only to find empty shelves and no product/deals left for me. Don’t get me wrong Cassie I LOVE the advice and tips that I get from your site and indeed the very site that I was referring to; it just seems that as the ‘couponing movement’ grows it draws negative as well as positive attention to itself. (exacerbated by that show on TLC but I wouldn’t feed my family pot noodles full of sodium for the next 10 years anyway which is what most of those shoppers seem to achieve their 98% savings buying. Not regular healthy groceries like you purchase) Add poor ‘sportsmanship’ to the mix with shelf clearing,coupon hoarding and the various forms of theft you noted and it just became a hassle and not worth the effort financially or emotionally. What I admire about you Cassie is that you seem to really only get what your family needs and can use and are over the whole ‘get 1000 tubes of face cream free simply because I can’ thing that a lot of new couponers go through. Why have a giant stock pile of an item that it will take you a lifetime to ever hope of using when loads of other folks are left unable to get even 1 of the item at a bargain for their family? I really respect your honesty and your willingness to address the ‘ugly’ side of couponing that others choose to ignore and your articles that discuss how this has been a learning process for you and that you share those pitfalls with your fans to help us avoid or shorten our time spent on the low point of the learning curve. I have recently returned to couponing and am slowly building a stockpile of products that we use and that are healthy to consume/use and I find that Price Matching has become a bigger savings creator than even coupons are.

  18. Cherry

    I get really frustrated with deal websites that post “brags” where people purchase 20 of an item. Unless you contacted the store and they specifically ordered those items in for you, then you are depriving other customers of the ability to purchase those items. I get especially angry when those brags feature items that I went to the store to buy only to lose out because the shelves were empty. I put some of the blame on retailers–they should be limiting customer purchases to what is reasonable for an individual/family–but it seems like there are many people who use coupons and like to brag about their deals who buy far more than what is necessary. 20 bottles of toilet bowl cleaner? Really?

  19. shayna

    One of the worst offenders I can think of right now is Shuriken (Mr. Couponer).

  20. Robin

    Hi Cassie,

    I’ve been to this site a few times and have found some very useful coupons as a result. Thanks! As for the show Extreme Couponing I have mixed feelings about it. It was the show that got me to see you really could save with coupons. Before that I thought it was a lot of work for a few pennies – not so!

    I run a site turned blog called Recipes for Natural Health and I reviewed the show Extreme Couponing from a natural health slant. I would be interested in knowing what you and your visitors think of it.

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