Melanie is a busy mom. Her bottom line depends on using coupons. She cuts some from the paper but actually buys most of her coupons, online. She says buying coupons helps her stock her pantry while saving about $100 a week, "There are a lot more variety of coupons online."
Melanie also sells coupons online. She says it helps other families save and helps her make a little extra money, "People are willing to pay up to 75% of the coupon value."
What Melanie didn't know is that there is a new push by consumer product manufacturers to shut down coupons sales on sites like eBay. The "Coupon Information Corporation" (CIC) which represents businesses, just send multiple requests to the online auction giant, eBay, demanding the sales of coupons stop. Bud Miller, with CIC, explains, "The best solution would be for eBay to simply prohibit the sale of manufactures coupons from their websites like they do many other items."
So what's wrong with selling coupons on eBay? A lot according to manufacturers who point to the fine print right on the coupons. It reads: "void if altered, copied, sold, purchased, transferred..."
Kraft Foods says: "We discourage the sale of our coupons on the internet."
Proctor and Gamble says: "P&G understands that coupons provide value and information to consumers who can experience our trusted brands and new products. We are not aware of all of the facts behind these individuals use of coupons, but our hope is that consumers and retailers will use them within the terms and conditions stated on the coupons. This policy intends to protect and deliver value to both consumers and retailers, preventing depletion of retailers' inventory and slow check outs. Consequently, we do not permit the unauthorized distribution, collection, sale, auction, trade or assignment of its coupons for any reason."
The CIC says the push to stop coupon sales is all because the coupon craze is causing chaos in some stores, "We've been seeing more and more complaints about people coming in with large numbers of coupons just stripping the shelves bare."
There is no law against selling coupons, but if you do sell coupons, you could get a demand letter from the CIC asking you to stop, or risk facing civil penalties. But if you sell altered, stolen or counterfeit coupons that's against the law and people have gone to prison for it. Bud Miller says, bottom line, if you sell coupons: "It violates the terms and conditions and you're exposing yourself to a host of issues you really don't want to."
For their part eBay says: "eBay provides consumers access to the world's largest online marketplace - where savvy shoppers can find great deals on practically anything. eBay.com has an active category for coupon listings that connects sellers who want to earn extra cash from their unwanted coupons with buyers looking for deals. We just ask that all listings comply with our coupon policy, which prohibits the sale of expired and electronic coupons and specifies requirements for selling multiple coupons. eBay will continue to allow coupon sales. eBay strives to have the largest and most open marketplace in the world and we generally allow listings of any item, as long as the listings follows our policies and any applicable laws and regulations."
eBay's website does say it limits the number of coupons people can sell and does not allow the sale of expired or electronic coupons, but they also don't monitor the site for possible violations.
So is it wrong to buy coupons? There's not law against it but the CIC warns you could be wasting your money. If you show up with too many or questionable coupons the store may tell you, you can't cash in. Melanie says, unless she's asked to stop, she plans to keep buying and selling coupons online, "This is a way they can help themselves and help other people at the same time I think it's a positive thing."
Manufacturers say you can go to their websites to look for extra coupons and deals.
And when it comes to looking for good deals, make sure you check out Baltimore County's own Free Sample Momma on Facebook. She works around the clock bringing you all kinds of free deals. And usually those free deals, come with coupons.
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