Ethical Couponing Note: Manufacturers Increasingly Placing Limits On Coupons

I was thumbing through my coupon inserts on Sunday, looking for coupons that matched up to current sales, and noticed that quite a few coupons had restrictions on the number of like coupons that can be used per customer.  These coupons from Sunday all had limits of two to four identical coupons per customer:

While Proctor and Gamble has been doing this on their coupons for awhile (limit of four like coupons per customer), I haven’t seen it much on other coupons until recently.  It’s clear that manfacturers are attempting to cutdown on the amount of “extreme couponing” that’s going on – and I’m honestly OK with that, as I don’t think most of us need to buy fifty of the same product all at once just to feed our family and stock our pantries a little.

But, clearly not every coupon shopper feels that way, so stores and manufacturers are trying to cut their losses by implementing stricter policies, such as limiting the number of like coupons per customer.  Many stores do this already (King Soopers’ official limit is five) but we’re starting to see it more and more on the coupons themselves.

It’s highly unlikely that as long as you are abiding by the store’s policy, the cashier is not going to read the fine print of every coupon you give them to look for the number of coupons the manufacturer wants to limit you to.  However, just because you could probably slide under the radar of the fine print, that doesn’t make it right.

So, this is just an encouragement to make sure you are reading the fine print on your coupons and abiding by it – even if it means you have to use fewer coupons than you’d like.  When peope use coupons ethically and politely (ie, not clearing the shelf), it’s a win-win-win for the manufacturer, store, and consumer.  Unfortunately, a lot of factors have combined to make it so that it’s not so much a win for everyone these days, and we’re seeing fewer great deals as a result.

But, even if you’re bummed that you aren’t getting as many great deals because of tighter coupon restrictions, I can guarantee you that you’ll never regret playing by the rules!



  1. I agree, it is always worth it to play by the rules. With that said, imposing a 2 coupon limit really does not allow you to stock up when things are at their best prices and get the maximum benefit, especially if you have a large family. For example, getting 2 boxes of cereal at a great price really doesn’t do much for us since that would be gone in less than 2 breakfasts. This, along with fewer high value coupons and rock-bottom deals is making me shift my strategy to bulk purchasing (often via Costco with the coupons they send to members), fewer trips to the store, better menu planning, skipping the work of coupons and shopping the flyers just for true loss leaders, and avoiding food waste at all costs.

  2. Rachel and Carrie, I agree with you both. I believe that people should practic common courtesy when shopping, to include being considerate of other shoppers, and not clearing the shelves. However, I have a large family and food goes real fast around here. Spaghetti boxes, jars of sauce, bags of vegetables, rice, just about anything, we need two of everything to complete a meal in my home. So when I go, I use as many coupons as I can, but, I do stick to one transaction.

  3. I think that for many people couponing is a fad that will pass. Just like how every show on TLC/HGTV/etc used to revolve around flipping houses and now there’s not one still on, this craze will fade. I already know a bunch of people who have quit using coupons because they take effort, and it’s not worth the work for them. Hopefully once all they hype dies down there will be less people clearing shelves and we will lose some of the restrictions so people can get what they need.

  4. I for one will be happy when the “extreme” shopping wanes, and the rest of us can get down to the business of providing for our families.

    If the economy turned around tomorrow — the restrictions imposed by sellers and producers will effect us for a long time coming. That pendulum is slow to correct itself…sigh……

    • Yes, good point – the economy has clearly affected grocery prices and the frequency that stores/manufacturers are able to run promotions… But even if that turned around immediately, the affects of extreme couponing will still be around.

  5. Carrie, thanks so much for encouraging everyone to be completely honest with their couponing, even if it would be easy to get away with doing something not quite right. It has been bothering me lately to see people justifying dishonesty or “bending the rules” in couponing and other aspects of life. It is so refreshing to see someone say that just because you might be able to do it, doesn’t make it right. You are awesome!

  6. Agreed completely! The thing that I would like to really see go away? The ‘mega’ type deals where you have to buy 5, 8, 10 items from a group to get the sale pricing. We are a small family – 3 of us – and our budget is small too. It would be nice to just get the good price without the messing around with buying 2 of this, 1 of that, 3 of those…you get the idea. :)

    • I am with you on the mega deals. They are a pain. My brain does not have enough space to keep track of how many items I have. I do like that I can get my 5yo daughter some math practice by helping me, but now she thinks we have to count how many items we have every time we are at the store!

  7. After being encouraged repeatedly this week by a Colorado springs retailer to blatantly lie to a warranty company with which they do business I am so refreshed by reading your post encouraging ethical and honest behavior! Thank you for using your voice here on the Internet to stand up for what is right. I agree with you that we will not be sorry for doing the right thing. Kelly

  8. One of my favorite things about this site is your morals, Carrie. I love that you are honest and encourage others to be the same way. Thank you!

  9. What is your feeling on printable coupons that say “Reedemable at Walmart”? Do you think those should only be used at Walmart, or can we use them at other stores too?

    • As long as they are manufacturer’s coupons and don’t say “redeemable ONLY at Walmart”, I don’t usually have an ethical issue with using them – it seems like more of a “suggestion”. However, some stores won’t accept them (which you probably already knew).

      To me it seems like using the manufacturer’s catalina coupons at another store – if the store accepts it, then it’s probably fine since it is a manufacturer’s coupon, but of course they may deny it since it’s “for” another store.

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