Where in the world do they get all of those coupons, you may have wondered.
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Founded by Rachael Woodard in , TCC serves approximately , customers, shipping between 1,, orders of coupons per week. The average coupon-clipping consumer, who tears or clips coupons out of their weekly newspaper insert, may be perfectly satisfied with saving a few bucks on their groceries. They want to stock up on laundry detergent to last a few weeks or months.
That means finding more coupons. She charges a handling fee for finding, clipping and packaging the coupons that customers request, but that fee is not for the coupons themselves. And since Woodard purchases hundreds of newspapers each week and culls the coupons she stocks, her attorney has advised her that sharing them with customers is legal. Most coupon clipping outfits acquire their inserts at no cost, and not always through legitimate means, she says.
Woodard got her start in the couponing world working for a now-defunct coupon clipping service in The business relied on workers who volunteered at recycling centers pulling out coupon inserts from the waste stream.
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Workers like Woodard then handed them over to her employer. Unfortunately, that company shut down in when manufacturers began short-dating their coupons; instead of a day expiration, they went to and day expiration dates.
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Woodard quickly realized she could do a better job of connecting customers with coupons efficiently via the internet. So in she hired a web designer to create a site where shoppers could pick and choose the coupons they wanted clipped. The business grew so fast that the overwhelmed Woodard once considered shutting it down. But she recognized that a less cumbersome website was the answer and went looking for help to build an entirely new site for TCC.
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Today, TCC operates out of two locations: Therefore, selling the service or buying from the service does not appear to be illegal, but the coupons that are mailed out are void and have no value and should not be redeemed. Technically, by using the coupons, some couponers are getting money for something that no longer has value. Most people that go to the expense of using coupon-clipping services or eBay are going to use the coupons that they have purchased, and it is doubtful that most cashiers will know if a coupon was clipped at home or bought through an online service. But for those who are concerned with what is ethical, the answer is clear -- buying and selling coupons is not ethical.
In , eBay restructured its policies regarding coupon auctions.
Today, people selling coupons on eBay are not permitted to sell the labor it takes to auction off a coupon. Under eBay rules, the coupons themselves are the items being sold. There are also limits on how many coupons a single seller can sell.
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The allowed 25 coupons per month include multi-quantity listings. Prior to enforcing the stricter policies, eBay was averaging over , coupon auctions a day. That amount was reduced by 96 percent within the first year. Why do manufacturers or stores care if people buy coupons when the people are going to use the coupons to buy their products? For example, a company may want to test the amount of a coupon promotion within a limited area. It will then make future promotional determinations based on the results.
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If someone collects multiple coupons and then sells them to people in other areas of the country, the test fails. The company may then be forced to redo the test at additional cost, or scrap future distribution of the coupon, which ultimately hurts shoppers. Stores and manufacturers want to keep control over the coupons that they distribute. It is wrong for couponers to ignore the redemption policies and it could result in companies cutting back on consumer coupons.
The Coupon Information Corporation is a not-for-profit association made of manufacturers dedicated to fighting coupon fraud. When asked about buying coupons, the CIC states,. When a person buys coupons, they may be inadvertently purchasing stolen property or counterfeit coupons.
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Even if there is not a direct criminal penalty involved, both coupon buyers and sellers open the door to potential litigation when they buy or sell coupons because they are in violation of the "nontransferability" clause printed on all coupons distributed within the United States. The transfer makes a coupon void.
Coupon sellers often include legal disclaimers stating that they are selling their time, a service, or even envelopes that just happen to contain coupons instead of the coupons themselves. Such statements are invalid and do not offer any legal protection. Rather, such statements suggest that the sellers know that their coupon sales are inappropriate and wrong. The internet is a great source for couponers to find coupons. It is also a favorite source for criminals who sell stolen coupons.