Coupon Queen: 'Limit one' equals 'buying none, for these shoppers

In an attempt to discourage coupon fraud, some manufacturers have tightened limits on how many identical coupons you can use in the same transaction.

A few years ago, several brands introduced limits of four like coupons per transaction for some products.

Later, some of those limits became more restrictive, restricting shoppers to two like coupons per shopping trip.

Recently, a few brands have tightened their limits even more, allowing shoppers to buy just one single item with one coupon.

Understandably, some of my readers are upset by this turn of events.

“Dear Jill,

I have been buying the same brand of laundry detergent for many years, always with coupons, and the newspaper has coupons for this brand almost every month.

With the new flyer of coupons, I saw that all the detergent coupons now have a limit of one coupon per household per day.

I don’t understand why the brand doesn’t want people buying their product?

It is unreasonable to think anyone is going to want to buy only one of anything at the store.

The closest grocery store is a 20-minute drive for me, as we are rural. I am not going to make a second trip the next day just to get one more detergent.

I have bought that brand for years, but I tried a new brand because they had a $3coupon.

Guess what? The new brand is excellent at getting out stains, and they do not limit their coupons to one.

I subscribe to two copies of the newspaper each week because I always buy two of the items we need.

My old brand has lost a customer.”

Katrina C.

“Dear Jill,

Why do brands limit for just one coupon used per shopping trip or per day?

How would they know if someone goes to two different stores in the same day and uses two coupons, one at each store?

How could this ever be enforced?

A limit of one, frankly, is ridiculous. Aside from single people, who buys just one of anything for their household?

Honestly, when I see restrictions like this, it just makes me want to buy a different brand out of spite.”

Realistically, terms like “Limit one coupon per household per day” are difficult to enforce.

There is no system in place to stop a shopper from using one coupon at Store A, then driving down the street to Store B and using another coupon.

Brands implementing such strict terms are typically trying to reduce fraud. Laundry and household detergents, in particular, are popular targets for resellers to buy at discounts with coupons, and then resell at flea markets and “stockpile sales.”

This “Limit One” tactic is being embraced by some brands as a way to reduce shelf-clearing and discourage flea-market type resellers.

However, people who are buying large quantities of products for resale are likely not abiding by any coupon limits, regardless of what is printed on the coupon.

The enforcement of coupon limit ultimately falls on two people: The shopper and the cashier.

Brands believe (or hope) that shoppers will read all of the fine print and agree to abide by it.

They also hope that the cashier takes the time to do the same and enforce the limits if a shopper attempts to use too many coupons.

However, many shoppers, especially heavy coupon users, may not be combing through the fine print of every single coupon they clip. In turn, cashiers are pressured to move shoppers through the checkout lane as quickly as possible.

Most cashiers simply do not have the time to read every word of a coupon’s terms, let alone enforce coupon limits to the shopper who’s just handed them a fistful of coupons.

While a few retailer chains enforce chain-wide coupon limits on identical coupons, I do not believe that limits of one coupon per household per day will ultimately quell coupon fraud or stop shelf clearers.

Restrictions like these only affect shoppers who follow the terms honestly.