Coupon Lady: Ethical couponing is important

Last week, I wrote about some of the controversies played out in the last season of TLC’s Extreme Couponing.


I don’t want my readers to think I’m attacking the show to raise my status as a coupon authority. I’m a housewife, not a marketing expert or a trained journalist. But I educate myself about the things that affect me or my family. For example, if someone in my family receives a medical diagnosis, then I will do research online, read books and magazines, and even take classes on the subject.

My quest to understand couponing began in the same manner. I wanted to know how it was possible for me to get savings on things I needed, how the system worked, and how to do it in an ethical and responsible manner.

My articles have always championed ethical couponing. I followed the practices outlined by the Coupon Information Center. The CIC was founded to encourage integrity in connection with the redemption of manufacturers’ coupons and participation in other promotional programs. The Web site also offers a list of known counterfeit coupons circulating, usually sold online or through eBay.

On Feb. 13, the CIC posted an update, writing, “The Coupon Information Corporation expresses its continued disappointment with TLC’s series, Extreme Couponing. Last May, the CIC offered our expertise to assist TLC and Sharp Entertainment (which produces the show) in enhancing the program with more accurate and realistic information concerning the activities portrayed on the show. Neither TLC nor Sharp Entertainment responded to CIC’s offer.

“Late last year, consumer advocate Jill Cataldo alerted CIC to the allegation that TLC aired a program featuring a minor using counterfeit coupons to purchase several hundred dollars worth of a product.

“CIC reviewed the situation and confirmed that a minor had indeed used counterfeit coupons on the show. We also learned that after the store had been denied payment for the counterfeit coupons and it contacted the show, the minor’s mother repaid the store for the product that was “purchased” with the counterfeit coupons.

“Unfortunately, none of this was ever aired on the show or otherwise disclosed to viewers of Extreme Couponing. Indeed, to our knowledge, the original, unedited episode featuring the use of counterfeit coupons by the minor is still being aired in its original format.

“After confirming the facts, the CIC engaged in a number of communications with Discovery Communications (the parent company of TLC). The CIC suggested that Discovery Communications take the following actions to help rectify the situation:

1. Deletion of the episode from all corporate Web sites and other forums with public access and a prohibition from re-airing the episode featuring the minor

2. A statement reviewing the facts of the situation, focusing on moving forward with new controls to be aired as part of another episode and posted on corporate Web sites associated with the show.

3. Retention of an independent industry expert to insure the integrity of future episodes, with a commitment to following all laws and rules pertaining to couponing.

To our knowledge, as of this date, neither Discovery Communications, TLC nor Sharp Entertainment have implemented any of our recommendations or taken any other actions to address the situation.”

A new warning for retailers was posted March 30 and is still on the home page of the CIC’s Web site: “The CIC advises retailers that they should exercise caution when considering participation with the show Extreme Couponing, including allowing filming at retail sites.” It goes on to say that retailers will not be reimbursed for counterfeit coupons and that, basically, no one is watching what goes on.

So, will you be watching the new season? If I do, I will be looking to see how much more has to happen before the show finally changes its format and becomes more responsible.



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