Extreme Couponing: An Extreme Disappointment

February 13, 2012.

The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) expresses its continued disappointment with TLC's series, Extreme Couponing. Last May, the CIC offered our expertise to assist TLC and Sharp Entertainment (which produces the show) in enhancing the program with more accurate and realistic information concerning the activities portrayed on the show. Neither TLC nor Sharp Entertainment responded to CIC's offer.

Late last year, Consumer Advocate Jill Cataldo alerted CIC to the allegation that TLC aired a program featuring a minor using counterfeit coupons to purchase several hundred dollars worth of a product.

CIC reviewed the situation and confirmed that a minor had indeed used counterfeit coupons on the show.

We also learned that after the store had been denied payment for the counterfeit coupons and it contacted the show, the minor's mother repaid the store for the product that was "purchased" with the counterfeit coupons.

Unfortunately, none of this was ever aired on the show or otherwise disclosed to viewers of Extreme Couponing. Indeed, to our knowledge, the original, unedited episode featuring the use of counterfeit coupons by the minor is still being aired in its original format.

After confirming the facts, the CIC engaged in a number of communications with Discovery Communications (the parent company of TLC). The CIC suggested that Discovery Communications take the following actions to help rectify the situation:

  1. Deletion of the episode from all corporate websites and other forums with public access and a prohibition from re-airing the episode featuring the minor
  2. A statement reviewing the facts of the situation, focusing on "turning the page" and moving forward with new controls to be aired as part of another episode and posted on corporate websites associated with the show.
  3. Retention of an independent industry expert to insure the integrity of future episodes, with a commitment to following all laws and rules pertaining to couponing.

To our knowledge, as of this date, neither Discovery Communications, TLC, nor Sharp Entertainment, have implemented any of our recommendations or taken any other actions to address the situation.

CIC Position on Extreme Couponing

May 5, 2011.

The Coupon Information Corporation (CIC) expresses our great disappointment with TLC’s current series, Extreme Couponing, and hereby offers our expertise and other assistance to TLC and Sharp Entertainment (which produces the show) to enhance the program with more accurate and realistic information. In addition, we hope they address potentially illegal acts that appear to have been portrayed on the show.

Professionals in the coupon industry believe this show creates unrealistic expectations about how coupons work and promotes the misuse of coupons. For example, the show appears to portray coupons being used in violation of the terms and conditions printed on the coupons, such as using coupons to obtain products other than those specified by the coupon offer, and focuses on consumers who have procured large quantities of coupon inserts from unknown sources, which may raise civil and/or criminal issues.

In real life, individuals attempting to use such large quantities of coupons or attempting to use them in violation of the terms stated on the coupons would most likely have their coupons refused at the register or, depending on the circumstances, be investigated by law enforcement. According to media reports, TLC recently stated,

“While the series documents extreme couponing strategies, we take any concerns about specific tactics seriously and are looking into the situation.” We look forward to hearing what TLC discovers.

The CIC’s and other industry experts’ previous offers of assistance to the producers to make this an educational show were previously turned down. Nevertheless, we stand ready to help in the event the producers or TLC reconsider their path and seek to turn this into a show that accurately reflects appropriate coupon strategies and use, which would result in real benefits for TLC’s viewing audience.

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