While there are lots of great things about couponing, it's more fun for everyone when you follow what DealsDiva calls the Couponers' Golden Rule: Do Unto Other Shoppers as You'd Have Shoppers Do Unto You. Here are her tips for playing fair:
Leave some behind (don't clear shelves)
While I may talk about buying 20 packages of oatmeal during a sale, I don't buy them all at once. I make sure my store has plenty in stock for other shoppers by making multiple trips or special ordering through the store manager. Being fair to the stores and other shoppers means that other shoppers won't get mad at the store. This helps both the store and the other shoppers and is just good practice.
Use coupons for products they're intended for
If a coupon says $1 off two, buy two. If it's a coupon for 12 ounces only, buy the 12 ounce, not the 8 ounce, even if the cashier or register doesn't catch the discrepancy. Don't use Swiffer coupons on diapers. All these are a form of misredeption and coupon fraud which costs manufacturers and stores millions every year. In essence, if you know the coupon you're using isn't being redeemed properly, it's the same as shoplifting.
Use only original coupons (don't copy them)
Don't copy coupons. It's as simple as that! Not printable, not paper coupons, not any of them. It isn't allowed. Even if the coupon doesn't say so, it's not allowed. In fact, some coupons have unique security codes for each print that are tied to your coupon and identity. If you copy a printable, the security codes will be the same and the company could track it back to you.
Be cautious using PDF coupons
Often, PDFs are altered coupons. Many honest people use these not having any idea that the coupon they're using is altered. Only trust PDF coupons directly from the manufacturer or store website.
Even cutting and pasting coupons to make them print more efficiently is considered altering by the manufacturers as it alters the original form of the coupon. There are copyright and trademark laws that are violated when you remove the coupon from its original form.
Don't buy something with a coupon with the intent of returning it for full value. This is fraudulent.
Don't yell or insult the store employees. No matter how much an employee might frustrate you, it will never serve to improve your case. Always be calm, polite and reasonable. Meet rude with polite, and your case will likely go much further.
Use current coupons
Want to use an expired coupon? Even if a cashier doesn't catch an expired coupon, you should either not use it or make sure you have permission of the store manager. Stores don't usually get reimbursed for expired coupons. That being said, if a coupon is recently expired, it pays to stop and ask. If you're a good customer who has built a rapport with your store, often the store manager will try to accommodate you.
While buying large quantities of items with the purpose of reselling them isn't illegal, it is frowned upon by retailers and manufacturers alike. Selling a few extras you have laying around or donating them to a food bank is one thing. Buying 100 to sell at a flea market is something else entirely. It can impact coupon policies, coupon values and even have legal implications if the brand logos are used improperly or if someone becomes ill from poor storage.
Just because it doesn't beep doesn't make it right. Many fraudsters know all of the rules and what goes around the rules. We're finding more and more that coupon fraud hurts honest couponers by putting them under suspicion, too.