Coupons have always been a large part of everyday life for various individuals. Over 71 million Americans use coupons, and there is no set age or income level among these “clippers”. Coupons not only help to save money, but they also help market researchers decide what items are bought more frequently, they assist in determining the needs of a demographic area, and they promote and advertise business. So what happens when the coupons are being rejected in stores?
From the first coupon in 1894 to the last one used, coupons help people save billions every year. Now, with the Internet, people don’t have to sift through mounds of catalogues, magazines, and sales papers to find coupons for the items they need. They only have to find the coupons online that they wish to have, print them, and use them in stores.
But what risks are shoppers taking when they print coupons from their computer and go shopping? Surprisingly, it could land innocent shoppers a hurricane of trouble, or maybe just a downpour of disappointment. Recently, more Americans are finding that a number of grocery stores and other retailers refuse coupons printed from Internet websites.
While innocent, debutante Internet surfers print coupons hoping to save a few bucks on groceries, baby diapers, clothes, or other household items, other members of the online community are manipulating the coupons, then releasing them to the unsuspecting public. Shoppers would then attempt to use the coupons on common household brands such as Snuggle and Ball Park, only to find that their coupons were fraudulent. This could cause the shopper embarrassment at the least, and perhaps an investigation if there is reasonable suspicion about the origin of the coupons.
With the Internet being so common in this new millennium, it didn’t take long for people who were experienced with graphics to figure out how to create coupon scams with computer software and imaging tools that are so readily available on the market. With some simple image altering, copying, pasting, and creative web design, one individual could put hundreds, maybe even thousands, of innocent people at risk.
When people surf the net, their computer information, such as the IP address, is submitted to the websites. Sometimes, websites can gather information from the computer with the help of invisible spyware or ad ware. If a scammer is running the website that an individual is printing coupons from, it is possible they may be attacked by these “insects” of the cyber world and their passwords, credit card numbers, and personal information can be gathered by the scammer. Identity theft, unauthorized purchases, accounts drained - it can all happen as a result.
Even though the printing of invalid online coupons is hurting shoppers, it rarely impacts the demographic marketing researchers and statistics. When a valid coupon is printed and used, it still contributes to the analysis of the area that it is redeemed in. For instance, if an individual from Houston, Texas prints a valid coupon from a provider in Kentucky, then uses it in Austin, the item represented by the coupon is considered an item sold in the demographic region of Austin.
So shoppers beware of the Internet for your coupons! You could be one of those whose coupons are rejected at the checkout!