As if newspapers didn’t already have a hard enough time making a go of it these days, some unethical bargain seekers have taken to stealing newspapers just to grab the coupons. According to North County Times’ Pat Maio, the hugely popular TV reality show, Extreme Couponing, that is intended to teach consumers how to effectively use food coupons has spawned a whole new breed of petty criminal – the newspaper thief.
Grabbing papers from sales racks and driveways for the inserted coupons isn’t endorsed by creators of “Extreme Couponing,” which ends its first season Wednesday. The show profiles people who offer creative strategies for saving money.
Regionally, The Orange County Register, based in Santa Ana, and Lee Enterprises Inc., the publisher of the North County Times and The Californian, are having problems that appear related to the show: papers stripped from racks without coins deposited in the box, and customers asking to return papers for additional ones in order to build up their stash of discounts. Phone calls also have increased from subscribers complaining about missing coupon inserts.
Similar reports have come from newspapers in Iowa, New York and Utah.
In one case at the Register, a woman returned an armload of papers for more because, she said, they didn’t contain inserts. She was seen in her car pulling out the inserts after she traded in the old stack.
“People (clerks and vendors) are telling us the papers are incomplete, with the coupons gone,” said Larry Riley, senior vice president in charge of circulation at The Orange County Register.
A similar surge in demand has been reported at the North County Times and The Californian.
It makes you wonder exactly what the profile of a coupon thief might be. If your newspaper is consistently missing from your front porch but your neighbor is putting out a mountain of papers for recycling pickup and glancing surreptitiously in your direction, you may have a clue as to where your paper has disappeared to. If you see your mom putting on her jogging shoes at the crack of dawn, telling you she’s going for a jog, when Mom has never jogged in her life, you might suspect she’s off to snatch up a few of the neighbors’ newspapers. In either case, approach with extreme caution.
You can read Pat Maio’s article at North County Times.