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Coupon craze leads to newspaper theft - Jill Cataldo

Q: "I get the newspaper delivered every week. Some weeks the coupons are so good that I head to the store and buy extra copies to get more coupons. Lately, I have noticed that the coupon inserts are being stolen out of the paper! I hate getting home only to discover I spent money on extra papers with no coupons in them. You should warn your readers to check the newspapers for coupon inserts before they buy them."

A: I've heard similar complaints from coupon shoppers and stores in my area, too. Coupon use is on the rise. Sadly, instead of spending an extra dollar or two to buy a newspaper, unscrupulous shoppers simply steal the coupons from the newspaper at the store without buying the paper.

Coupon theft hurts many people. The store will likely lose a sale if the customer checks a paper before purchasing it and discovers the inserts are gone. The carrier who delivered the paper to the store will not get credit for that unsold paper. And anyone who purchases an incomplete paper will be upset.

Since the dollar value of coupons inside a newspaper is so high compared to the small cost of the paper itself, I've never understood why people would risk trying to steal the coupon inserts. But, unfortunately, some do.

One newspaper in our area seals coupons in a plastic bag along with all store sales flyers for the week. This helps, but occasionally I still see torn bags hanging out of newspapers at the store, where people rip open the bags to steal the coupons.

Q: "I work part-time delivering newspapers. Every week after I'm done with my route, I have a stack of extra papers that I'm instructed to recycle if they're not needed for deliveries. I take the coupons out and deliver them to our library, which has a coupon trading box. I'm glad these coupons will get used and not just thrown away."

A: I agree! Many of my readers have written to say that they've made little "deals" with their newspaper carriers or local stores to receive any extra newspapers that might otherwise be tossed out or recycled - a great way to get more coupons at no cost. However, depending on where you live and the various newspapers' policies on unsold papers, it's important to understand that not all unsold papers are headed straight to the trash. Consider the next e-mail note from another newspaper carrier who must account for all undelivered papers each week.

Q: "Not all unsold newspapers get recycled or thrown away. I don't want people thinking it's OK to take a bunch of papers as long as it's at the end of the day, since the unsold newspapers will just be thrown away. Where I work, stores sign a legal contract stating that unsold coupon inserts will not be given out in any way. Stores think they can take out the coupons and give back many partial papers, but they do not understand that we have to account for all of these. To get credit, our carriers must turn in unsold, complete papers. Every paper not accounted for is paid for out of the carrier's pocket. Many carriers just cannot handle the frustration and the lost money and end up quitting. I have known some who will sit in the parking lot all Sunday hoping to catch who is stealing half of their papers every week."

A: Stealing coupon inserts from newspapers is wrong. As this reader says, the carriers working for this newspaper must pay for any incomplete newspapers out of their pockets. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be. I bet that none of the people stealing the newspapers thinks about the fact that the cost of that paper comes out of another person's pocket.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.