July 2, 2011

Arrested for stealing coupon inserts – and why I think it’s ridiculous (the stealing)

I saw this new story out of Texas about a woman arrrested for allegedly stealing coupon inserts from newspapers she hadn’t purchased from a coin operated distribution box. The story may seem ridiculous in the mainstream, but for the honest couponer just trying to save – it’s a big deal.

Newspaper offices are being bombarded with phone calls from consumers asking how they can get their leftover inserts for FREE. Carriers are being asked on a regular basis what they do with their extras. I’m hearing more complaints via e-mail and on the Queen Bee Coupons Facebook page that people are purchasing papers from local stores and finding the inserts are missing.

I was talking to someone at a newspaper company and this is the gist of a real conversation they had with a caller. It’s not verbatim, but you get the idea:

  • Caller – Is it possible to get extra coupon inserts that aren’t going to be used?
  • Newspaper – No, we aren’t able to give these away. They are destroyed after a certain date if they are not sold in a paper.
  • Caller – Well, where are they destroyed?
  • Newspaper – We have a process on site of disposing of the unused inserts.
  • Caller – Well, where can I find them after they’ve been disposed of?
  • Newspaper – Well I’m not really at liberty to tell you that.
  • Caller – Is there are a gate or something? I mean what’s stopping me from coming and getting the inserts?

Whoa there, buddy! I mean really – people aren’t getting it. You can’t (or shouldn’t) just get your coupon inserts for FREE. It illegal. And climbing over some fence and into some recycling bin or incinerator is just plain stupid. But that’s not stopping people.

I think a big reason for the spike in coupon theft is people saw episodes of Extreme Couponing where individuals were getting stacks and stacks of inserts for FREE. One lady said she gets leftovers from her carrier (illegal) and another said she gets them from God!? Hmmm, I’m well aware that God is in the business of redemption – but coupon redemption? That takes it a little far.

Maybe some of you have found a nice “connection” who is hooking you up with coupons for FREE. But it puts the paper at risk to be dropped from the coupon insert network. For example, your Cousin Vinny has a hook-up and he’s getting  you 50 FREE Smart Source inserts from your local Daily News each week, you might think it’s no big deal – but if Smart Source found out they’d likely stop putting their inserts in the Daily News, because it’s a violation of their contract with the paper.

Let’s think about this:

  • Coupons are advertisements. Plain and simple. Companies pay BIG money to put out coupons into newspaper inserts and they are carefully strategized about what areas (and papers) they are distributed through. The goal is also simple – that you open your paper on Sunday morning, see a coupon for SuperDuperSoap product and you think, “hmmm, I’m almost out of soap, I think I’ll clip this coupon and pick some up at the store.” Then you fall madly in love with the SuperDuperSoap and you buy it for the rest of your life, coupon or not.
  • Newspapers make their money from advertisements. Plain and simple. Sadly, they aren’t making money from the news end of things. A lot of newspapers are sold specifically for the advertisements and coupons inside (sound familiar?). Without a coupon insert a newspaper loses a lot of it’s value for the average consumer – and especially the couponer.
  • Where is this sense of entitlement coming from? Why do people always want something for FREE? Okay, okay, I get wanting to get something for FREE the honest way – like using a $1 coupon on a $1 item and getting it FREE – that’s what we do as couponers. But since when have people had such a sense of entitlement that they think they can steal? That’s basically what these people are doing that are taking the inserts.

What can you do to get your coupons, the HONEST way:

  • Before you purchase a newspaper in store, double check to make sure coupons are inside
  • If you repeatedly find empty newspapers have a conversation with the store manager. If that doesn’t yield results, consider calling the Circulation Manager for that particular newspaper and express your concerns about the missing inserts.
  • Ask your friends, family members or neighbors if you can have their extra inserts. That’s not hurting anyone and it’s being resourceful. Maybe return the favor with a box of FREE Froot Loops.
  • Set up a coupon swap group to get together every couple of weeks and share coupons with your friends.

If you subscribe to the paper, the newspaper should guarantee your inserts are inside your paper. If they are missing from your home delivery paper, there are only a coupon reasons why they would be missing – they fell out of the sorter machine at the printer, your carrier made a mistake and left it out (probably inadvertently).

If you find yourself tempted to steal inserts. Stop. You might find yourself saving more (an extra $1?), but you’re losing your integrity – and no FREE shampoo or toilet paper is worth that.

Now let’s discuss. I want to hear your thoughts on this!


    Leave your comments here...


  1. Angie Lynn says:

    It is not illegal for a carrier to give someone extra inserts. Newspaper carriers PAY for those newspapers therefore if they have extra papers,or leftovers, it is their property and theirs to keep and theirs to do with whatever they wish to. Carriers are also independant contractors so anytyhing they do with the coupon inserts does not affect the newspaper company whatsoever. If a customer finds missing inserts it likely happened at the depot via a machine and not by the hands of some secret evil coupon thief. I’ve been delivering papers for 4 yrs and have been dealing with inserts every weekend. Most of the time we don’t have leftovers since they only provide us w/ the exact amount of newspapers per customer and when we do have leftovers it’s our property, we paid for those papers, we can either keep them for ourselves or toss them or do whatever we please with them. Some customers LIE and say they never received a paper just so they can get more coupons however a “missing paper” results in us being fined money just because some extreme couponer wants extras-the newspaper WILL double charge us for a paper and will never second guess a customer so they can come up with whatever lie they want to just so they can get more inserts. Some inserts I keep for myself but again those extra papers are mine as I already paid for them, as an independant contractor we then charge the customer and they pay the paper. Getting paid $14 a DAY to deal with these crazy couponers just isn’t enough.

  2. melissa potvin says:

    PERFECT! Im so sick and tired of seeing and hearing about the MASSIVE inserts people get ……….. where are they getting these HUGEEEE STACKS ???? and who is smart enough to put a pic of it on FACEBOOK ?????? blows my mind ……. and im sorry but Ive never watched an episode of it and never will. ever.

  3. Susan G says:

    I agree with Lisa D. I look at my paper that is delivered Sunday morning and if they ads look good, then I go buy another paper, or two, or three.
    I also agree that the TLC show is not accurate. Some of these people purchase extra papers, and also purchase coupons off the internet and they never list these costs when they show the savings. We could all do that, but our savings will not be what the show portrays.

  4. Thank Goodness! I blame that extreme couponing show to the fullest. They make couponing seem like this easy sneaky cut throat game. Its NOT like that as we know. Its hard work and takes hours and hours to pull off. I actually just came upon a website like Coupon Distributors of America for instance, and theyre actually saying how much they dislike TLC for airing the show. They said its very unrealistic, illegal and in poor taste that TLC condones illegal acts such as showing using coupons from unknown sources (stacks from carriers etc). Theyre asking TLC to ban the show, or work together to portray ACCURATE & realistic demonstrations so people see how it normally works.

  5. Could not have said it better myself! I buy extra papers if it’s a good week of coupons, I have 1 delivered to my home. I have to look thru the ones I buy to make sure the inserts are still in there. My local Safeway started putting the big Sunday paper at customer service because of people taking out the inserts. I, too can’t wait for this extreme couponing to die down, I’m tired of empty shelves!

  6. I am glad she has been arrested. I have also found buying the early edition in my town is better because people are all over getting the Sunday edition they forgot the early has the same coupons. I also keep thinking the coupon craze will slow down some of the people out there don’t realize the work involved.

  7. Stephanie Naumann says:

    I wish TLC would cancel the “Extreme Couponing” show. I “heard” that some of the stores were “breaking” their own coupon policies to make the episode. I don’t want to lose the privilege of couponing.

    I live in SC, but I love your blog/website, Heather! I read it over daily!

  8. Thanks for posting this! I have tried to buy an extra paper at Albertson’s when I really wanted some extra doublers, only to dig through about 20 papers that all had the doublers and coupons taken!

  9. Insane! We cancelled our $2.50/wk paper delivery and now go to the Dollar Store and spend $3 to get 3 papers for the price of 1. We also asked a neighbor and she was more than happy to give us her Red Plum every Tuesday. It’s not always free or fast, couponing takes time and effort, but we have found the best way to make it work for us…within the rules.

  10. first i want to say,great article! i have been into couponing not very long. a long time family friend got me into it. i go every sunday and buy my three to four newspapers . we are a family of four with only one income right now, so money is tight. i have not been doing this long, like i said, but i find that thats more than enough papers with inserts to get my family great deals and has helped me even start a pantry, which i have never had. now my family friend who started me in this, goes WAY overboard. she collects from bins and recieves the extras from the newspaper guy. she doesnt find anything wrong with this?! i mean, what are you going to do with 200 bottles of BBQ sauce anyway, and it takes away from the rest of us that just want a bottle or two. we used to have fun doing little coupon trips together, but because i dont “extreme” coupon like she does, i have been squeezed out by someone who does want to do that with her. so frustrating….but maybe its for the best (i dont hang out with her).

  11. I think stealing inserts is ridiculous. I get all of my extras (an average of 6 total a week, not hundreds) from family and checking out the recycling containers at Starbucks, or asking people there if I can have theirs if they don’t want it. I figure that they want it recycled anyway, and I have asked the cashiers at Starbucks if customers are free to take whatever is in those containers.

    I also always grab my paper from the bottom of the stack, and never from those coin machines. 6 inserts is more that enough for me, I don’t understand why someone would need 100 inserts each week. Maybe the Duggar family with their 21 person family, but normal families don’t really need that much!

  12. Andrea D - Centralia, WA says:

    Hear! Hear!

  13. I know this is kind of off-topic, but it seriously bums me out that no one Reads the paper anymore!

    I know there is news online, but you can really get a lot more information from the paper, and personally, I think it’s a really good example to show my kids that I take time to know what’s going on in the world (at least the front page and the comics anyway-lol).

    Loved your thoughts and totally agree. I wish some of the bloggers who have advocated some of the sneaky methods of getting inserts would retract that advice.

  14. Holly R says:

    Great post. I hope that once the big couponing trend dies down a bit people will lose intrest in this sort of “fad” and move on to the next thing, those of us that are left will hopefully be the honest ones that realize integrity is worth more than a shopping cart full of free(indirectly stolen) mustard.

  15. This story reminds me of a woman I saw in our Lacey Fred Meyer a year or so ago (before I heard about the Coupon subscription to TNT) where I was buying my Sunday papers.

    There is a display of furniture (couches, etc) set up in front of a large screen TV, just in front of the Customer Service counter, where the newspapers are. This woman was picking up a paper, taking it to the couch, taking out the inserts, then returning the “empty” paper back to the rack and getting a new one. I saw her do about 5 cycles of this before I was certain enough of what she was doing to point her out to the CS clerk.

    I then checked my papers that I was about to purchase, since she had already been there before I picked mine up, and found that 3 of 4 were missing their inserts. So glad I checked!

    Thanks for all your hard work and for posting this story. 🙂

  16. cynthia says:

    in Dollar General a cashier told me to not to try using that junk of coupons again in that store. She was all mad and saying the coupons were junk. I kept quiet.

  17. cynthia says:

    I think it’s all because of the extreme couponing program that people think it’s the right and only fun way of couponing. And I also think that is because of that program that stores are so mean to couponers and making us more difficult each time to use a coupon even when we are using it the right and legal way.

  18. After finding missing inserts at Wal-mart and our grocery stores I started going to convenient stores where they put the papers in front of the registers. No missing inserts, yet.

  19. I am amazed at the lengths that some people are resorting to. It has affected my area greatly!

  20. I’m so glad you posted your two cents on this. Dishonest acts from couponers could potentially make on-lookers generalize the rest of us as going to dishonest extreme measures as well. We all need to uphold integrity and use the honest routes of getting the biggest bang for our buck. Hopefully with your post and the comments of all of us, this may deter at least someone out there from committing similar acts.

  21. Thankfully every paper I buy has inserts. Our dollar tree has notes that say DO NOT sort through the papers and the cashier keeps them bundled at the stnad and loose now at the desk so NO stealers.:) I’d always go to the bottom of th stack when they were loose hoping my inserts were in there. 🙂

    • I would sort through the papers because i could normally find at least one that had an extra insert in it. Worth 5 minutes flipping through papers to find one extra inserts – i felt worth the 2 minutes. I once found a paper with 5 Twice The Value coupons (on Wednesday after they expired). Now it is just luck of the draw. Plus Dollar Tree runs out of papers way too fast now. They used to last till Thursday or Friday and now run out on Sunday usually.

  22. Yeah, that’s pretty much the only thing my Mother-in-law is good for, her coupon inserts.

  23. Thank you, You brought up a lot of good points. I began couponing a couple of months ago. I consider myself a women of integrity, but even I found myself taking a few papers out of the recycling bin when I went to recycle some things my self the other day, (They were right on top, so tempting) I also had asked at my local convenience store what they did with their leftover papers and the cashier told me I could take the inserts out on Monday and did this for a few weeks till she told me this week she found out she was not supposed to do that. Makes sense, those papers had not been paid for, but I hadn’t even thought of that till reading your post. But, the recycling bin papers have been paid for, so that’s still a bit of a gray area for me. ???

  24. Robyn A. says:

    I go to the local office of my small town paper and get extra papers from them (the right way, I go when the office is open), they have a small stack of inserts on the front desk. I am not greedy so I only take a couple of those when I pick up an extra paper.

  25. Yvonne Bush says:

    Yep this happens all the time. One weekend there were 5 inserts in the paper and one of my coworkers and I decided to buy an extra paper for that reason. We had to piece together from different papers to get all the inserts. I was told by someone that people will go to the boxes where you have to pay and buy one paper and go through all the other and take out the coupons. So the next person pays for his paper and gets no inserts this is so wrong. We have a small town paper that has them and it is only 50 cents. Usually those papers are gone the first day.

  26. Victoria G says:

    Well said!! I make a habit of checking my papers I pick up on Sundays. I’m glad they arrested that woman in Texas, maybe people will start taking the theft of inserts seriously!

  27. Love this article! I bought two papers at a store and stupidly didn’t check them. No inserts! I went to a different store, returned those papers and bought two new papers. Like you said, it is really worth loosing integrity?! And going to jail over a $1 coupon seems a bit much


  1. […] at Queen Bee Coupons wrote a most insightful post recently on the ethics involved of trying obtain free inserts – […]

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