Marci’s Thoughts | Couponing VS. Extreme Couponing

Since the first “Extreme Couponing” show aired on TLC back in December I’ve clearly had my own thoughts and opinions (You can read Marci’s Thoughts on TLC’s “Extreme Couponers” Show here) published throughout the internet. I portray myself as a “couponer”. I’m no way an “extremist” by any means. I live a simple, clean, healthy and organized life and I love it.

From my perspective couponers are giving, caring folks who often share coupons in the store and also donate to their local food pantries, families and neighbors. On the other hand, again from my perspective, “extreme couponers” are greedy, selfish folks who look out after themselves and noone else. I would like to point out that there are WAY more “couponers” than “extreme couponers” and for that I am so very thankful!

Below are some obvious points that I would like to make on ways “couponers” differ from “extreme couponers”. While writing this article I was just going to point out a few general differences, but, decided to get a little deeper!

1. Proper Use VS. Fraud – Breaking down the UPC code on the coupon with the UPC code on the product isn’t ethical. Instead simply purchase the product for what the coupon states. If a coupon is $.55/2 2L Coke products then that’s exactly what you should buy. Instead you can’t purchase two 20 oz. products to get out cheaper.

A fellow blogger, Jill Cataldo, broke down Jaime Kirlew’s “Extreme Couponing” shopping trip (read full details here). A few days ago Jaime admitted to the Wall Street Journal that she in fact committed coupon fraud (read the entire Extreme Couponing Star: I was a Scapegoat article here).

A clip from the article:  “Bud Miller, the executive director, of the Alexandria, Va.-based Coupon Information Corporation, which represents the manufacturers of coupons issued in the U.S., says it’s not a gray area: “Coupons are a contract and the controlling barcodes are merely a method of processing coupons, so any use of a coupon to produce a product other than stated in the plain language of the coupon is considered fraudulent.”

The result of fraudulent coupon use – Coupon fraud is committed every day. At some point and time we’ve committed coupon fraud. Many of us have done it unintentionally by giving a coupon for something you may have not purchased, forgot to throw that extra box of potatoes in the cart, etc. However, knowingly copying coupons and purposely misusing coupons is illegal. If charged of coupon fraud you could be looking at upwards of 17 years in prison or a financial pentalty of $200,000 (typically). Just look at the Illegal Couponing article that shows the charges again Lucas Towsend Henderson for writing a book on how to illegally make coupons. These charges were just filed back in March! If you are ever in doubt if a coupon is fraudulent be sure to check out the Coupon Information Corportation. As always, if it’s to good to be true, it probably is!

2. Stockpiling VS. Hoarding – As couponers we stockpile. That means, for most of us, we have a 6 month supply of items that our family will use during this time. “Extreme Couponers” have stockpiles that are years worth of product and more on the lines of hoarding. A stockpile is a designated area to keep your overflow. You’re able to shop from your stockpile and often times give to friends and family along the way. From what I’ve seen, I’d have to say the “Extreme Couponers” are on the verge of hoarding {or whateva’ you wanna call it!}. Hoarding is defined:

  • Hoarding is a general term for the accumulation of food or other items. The term is used to describe both animal and human behavior. It is normal stage of behavior in children.

Those who are “Extreme” often have several rooms designated to their growing daily hauls. As a “couponer” we typically shop once or twice a week while the “Extreme” often shop everyday, some even multiple times a day. What “couponers” know is that sales cycles come back around. Typically, a item will go on sale every 6 months. However, often times it is much more often than that. So there is no need for 50 packages of toilet paper, 100 bottles of body wash, etc. in your stockpile.

The result of hoarding – loss in relationships, growing need to replace a void in ones life, need for attention and most importantly health issues. With hoarding comes dirt and issues with ones residents. The results could end up in disaster such as death from being trapped in the home without getting out from the floor to ceiling of products that took over the home.

3. Donating VS. Selling Product – This is one that bothers me the most. Several individuals on the “Extreme Couponing” show SAY they donate items. However, that’s far from the truth. While the 1,000 boxes of Total Cereal was purchased “Mr. Coupon” clearly states that he kept 50 boxes of the cereal for himself and wife. While he says he also donate several hundreds of boxes of the cereal over a length of time. On the same hand “Mr. Coupon” has stated that the reason he gives back now is because of the 3 garage sales he held and SOLD HIS STOCKPILE (read the entire interview at Krazy Coupon Lady).

First, why two people would need that many boxes of cereal is beyond me. Second, selling products is deeply frowned upon by both “couponers” and companies a like. If companies wanted you to sell their product in your garage sale they wouldn’t limit the number of products you can purchase on the coupon. As well as stores limiting you to the amount of product that you can actually purchase. Which leads me to my next point, shelf clearing!

Results of Selling Stockpiles – why it’s not “illegal” companies don’t want to see their products for sale in garage sales or in flea markets. There are many other outlets that one can get “quick” money (like online surveys and paid marketing studies). When collecting these items for garage sales one is clearing shelves. This is inconveniencing others who would actually use the product in their own homes. I’m an avid garage saler and if I come upon a garage sale where stockpile items are being sold, I simply leave without making a purchase.

4. Shelf Clearing VS Special Order – When I first started couponing I didn’t know what days to shop. Often times I would go to Kroger on Tuesday and the sale items were all gone. I would get a raincheck, but, there were items that I needed on that shopping trip. This made me mad and I came to realize when the stores received their trucks.

My golden rule for how many products to purchase is I limit myself to 10. This way it leaves enough for others. If I need more than 10 of an item I simply head to the customer service desk and place a special order. Over the past few months I’ve been limited to 30 items even on a special order. This is because the store manager is afraid that I’m gonna sell the product (he honestly told a manager friend of mine this!). I’ve tried to explain who I am and what I do, but, the store manager apparently doesn’t wanna hear it!

Special orders can even be done at CVS and Walgreens. But, you need to let the manager know early on Monday so when they place their order from the warehouse they can get your order in as well! The most difficult store to do a special order at is Target. It takes MONTHS to receive your product and often times the coupon has expired!

My point to all of this is that NOT ALL couponers are “extreme”. This is a reality check of what is normal and what’s not and the repercussions. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to leave a comment!


  1. For anyone who hasn’t been to Caesar’s Creek and Trader’s World you would be stunned by how many booth spaces are mini-grocery stores of people selling their stockpiles.

    It is beyond irritating when I see these people…..they are the people I think of when I go in to a store the first day of a sale and see a shelf cleared.

    If it is not illegal, I think it should be banned from the flea markets. While I am sure the flea markets are just happy to have a booth space/rental space sold, I would prefer to see other types of vendors.

    Thank you for openly disapproving extreme couponing. Too many bloggers are trying to be “neutral” on the topic.