Printing More Than One Copy of an Internet Coupon Because You Can

I talked about the ethics of couponing a few weeks ago, but I have something new to add to the discussion – dealing with internet coupons. A lot of people seem to feel that it is okay to print unlimited numbers of internet coupons if there is no technology in place to stop them. They say it is similar to buying three or four copies of the Sunday paper and the manufacturer should know better than to issue a coupon as a pdf, etc.

My feeling is that just because I can do something it doesn’t make it right and I don’t print off multiple copies.

However, I also agree that the manufacturers should be more internet savvy. While you certainly can buy more than one newspaper to get multiple coupons, the manufacturer knows that a specific number of inserts are printed for newspapers and that a certain percentage won’t be redeemed. It then is able to budget a specific amount for coupon redemption. By offering a coupon without using the available technology that limits the customer to one or two prints of the coupon and not even saying there is a print limit of one coupon per person, the manufacturer has set up a situation that has the potential to get out of hand. And with the number of times companies have gotten upset about the overuse of an internet coupon in the past, you’d think that it would no longer be a problem, but it is.

So, what do you think? Is it okay to take advantage of manufacturers that seem to be living in the dark ages of the internet or should you consider what the manufacturer probably  intended?

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    • James

      I love ethics questions like these. I think that if the company indicates that they only want you to print one copy, then that’s what you should do. If they don’t, it seems almost like consent to me.

    • Lara

      It’s a tossup to be honest.

      While I agree that companies account for the number of newspaper coupons being bought/unused, they’re probably accounting for the fact that people are going to make multiple copies of internet coupons versus those who won’t use them at all also… if that makes sense. It does in my head, anyway. LOL

      I don’t see it much differently than those who buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper, in fact. I’m spending my paper and ink, just like those who spend $2 on multiple copies of the Sunday paper. Plus, at least I’m purchasing their product (as opposed to the generic version), which is almost always marked up by 400% or more anyway… lol

    • kdgriffinq

      I do print two or three coupons I’m going to buy two or three products. I’ve never read the fine print on the coupons I’ve printed to see if this is wrong or not. It might be but. I’ve never considered it. I also buy a Sunday daily and take my dad’s inserts. I don’t see anything unethical about it as long I don’t abuse them in some unethical way. I print the coupons for the number of products I intend to buy.

    • Peggy

      Why would someone want a bunch of coupons for the same product? You can only use so much butter…

      I guess I don’t shop enough to understand this. I can see maybe printing more than one “20% off your whole purchase” coupon, but who shops this much? What’s everyone doing with all these coupons?

      Smart companies would put quicker expiration dates on them.

    • Amber

      I deal with this problem. My company has a “one coupon per customer per day” rule and people get unreasonably ticked off for this policy– I can understand being mad to some degree, but when they’re internet coupons I think they’re being stupid. So… you used up your ink, didn’t read the “small print” on the coupon, and now it’s my fault? I don’t mind people printing more than one coupon, but attempting to use five “40% off one item” coupons in one errand is just not right.

    • AveJane

      I can see both sides of this situation –

      First, the more people abuse the system, the less benefits for us in the future. If the manufacturer starts losing on these coupons, they may not be inclined to give them away in the future.
      On the other hand, if the manufacturer wasn’t savvy enough to come up with a way to prevent this, then this should be a lesson to them next time..

    • Maricar

      I can’t really know what the manufacturer intended so I can’t guess whether multiple print-outs are ok with them or not. If ever there’s a limit set by the manufacturer, that’s what I abide with. But then I rarely print out more than 1 or 2 coupons anyway. Many stores will limit their use, or don’t take them altogether.

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    • Jennifer Carpenter

      I never think it is okay to take advantage of a company just because they aren’t aware of computer technoloy. However, the company should state somewhere if they want to limit each printout to only one per household.

    • Bill

      I am an employee in the grocery business, so this is a subject with which I am very familiar. When you use coupons outside their intended use, it is not the manufacturers you are screwing, its the cashier you see right in front of working a crappy minimum wage job. Anything you see on the shelf in grocery stores has already been bought and paid for from the manufacturer through whatever corporation the store is associated with. When we receive coupons, we then take take the monetary hit, but then send the coupons back to the manufacturer and the manufacturer refunds us the money we saved you at checkout. Now if we have taken photocopied coupons, or internet coupons that have the identical seriel number on it, guess what….the store eats that cost, not the manufacturer. Technically, it is up to each individual cashier to be the gatekeeper and enforce proper use of coupon, and every coupon mistake is again TECHNICALLY each individual cashier’s mistake. However, store’s also are hellbent on fast customer service and though they preach accuracy in scanning coupons, in any store I have ever been in if I have ever asked any questions about coupons, bosses have always said something like “Just take it and we will figure it out later.” Quantity (that is, super fast scan times, and thus more customers) is always valued higher that accuracy. For example, in both retail/grocery jobs I have been at people have always been given special recognition for super fast scan times, but never once been given any kind of recognition for catching a dishonest customer trying to pass phony coupons, though both companies preached accuracy as a superior value. And even better, cashiers have also been kicked off registers for accepting bad coupons and in some extreme cases been fired because the coupon scams cost so much money. So next time you try to pass bad internet coupon, take a good look at the teenaged kid, or retired person, or part time working mom ringing out your groceries in front of you. They are the ones you are screwing, because if they are under-educated about internet coupons, they can lose their job, just because you felt entitled to an extra 40 or 50 cents here and there.

      Now that the personal angle is explored here is the whole legal angle on the whole thing. Using multiple internet coupons is fine as long as their serial numbers are different, however being able to print multiple copies of each coupon legally should require a seperate computer. Each couon comes with its own unique serial number in addition to the usual UPC like codes that any normal coupon out of a newspaper would have. If you photo copy the internet coupons that is a direct violation of the fine print found on any coupon, internet or newspaper insert. If you in any way manipulate the software installed on a computer in order to get it to print the same coupon it has already once before printed, then that is a direct violation of the End User Agreement you had to have checked that you agreed to install the software on your machine in the first place. This falls under the sort of phrasing that the company retains any intellectual rights to the software, and even though it was free, it is not ok to manipulate or use it in any other way than it was intended.

      A perfect example of this is the hugely popular World of Warcraft online game. People had bought legal copies of the game, installed the games on their own machines, but then instead of playing on regular servers, they created their own private servers. What these private servers allowed them to do was to manipulate the code in the game so their characters would be insanely powerful and have access to areas that would be otherwise unavailable in regular servers. The manufacturer Blizzard Entertainment though not technically losing money since the people had bought legal copies of the game began taking these people to court and winning. The legalese basically said that even though you have permission to use that software, you do not have permission to manipulate or change the code in any way without the manufacturer’s consent. While the argument can be made this game company probably did it because they were losing the $15 per month subscription fee to play on their approved servers, the concept of intellectual rights to the software can be applied to that of the coupon printing software out there. If you need to uninstall the software, or renew an IP address, or search through your registry to delete something, or whatever it is you do to circumvent the 1 coupon print limit per machine is well outside the obvious intended use of the software and therefore not only unethical but technically ILLEGAL.

      And when its said the obvious intended use is violated, that means if you have to do any kind of searching outside of that program; and while I am unsure of how exactly it is people manipulate the program to print more than 1 copy, if you search registries, cookies, recently used folders, whatever, those are all Windows components (or whatever OS you use) and outside of the program itself, and therefore you have gone outside of the programs intended use. Software is intended generally to be user friendly and most of the time you should have no reason to ever have to do such elaborate searching of your hard drive or anywhere outside of itself.

      If you made it this far I thank you for reading, and I hope next time you feel its OK to fiddle with the software you will resist the urge. In this economy as hard as it is to find jobs, please don’t put mine at risk.

    • mysticirish

      I was reading this old post from the first respondent Bill and was laughing so hard from all the BS he wrote, I had to write a response.

      His statement

      “Now if we have taken photocopied coupons, or internet coupons that have the identical seriel ( misspelled serial) number on it, guess what….the store eats that cost, not the manufacturer.”

      If I go out a buy 10 newspapers and want to buy 15 tubes of Aim toothpaste all of them are going to have the same number on it. The same is true for internet coupons and of course a different product will have a different number and so on. But this guy thinks that every single coupon in the U.S. has a different number.

      His statement:
      “cashiers have also been kicked off registers for accepting bad coupons and in some extreme cases been fired because the coupon scams cost so much money”

      While it’s true that it does not occur to most cashiers to look at the store coupon policy. Hence calling over the manger every time someone tries to use a in store and manufactures coupon at the same time. But getting fired over a bad coupon huh I guess they could get fired when someone writes a bad check too.

      His statement
      “store’s also are hellbent on fast customer service and though they preach accuracy in scanning coupons, in any store I have ever been in if I have ever asked any questions about coupons, bosses have always said something like “Just take it and we will figure it out later”

      Fast customer service? Yeah I really don’t get this part. Don’t people go to fast food joints for fast customer service because they do not want the hassle of going to the supermarket and when has any manager said Just take and we will figure it out later.

      • Brinna

        Actually, as another 11 year retail store vet here, Bill is right on the money.