Thursday, July 30, 2009

an ethics question

I recently posted about milk coupons you could find on using another zip code. One of my commenter's, Carrie, posed a great question about the ethics of using another zip code to access the coupon. I hope she doesn't mind, but I thought I'd respond in post form rather than in my comments. Here's the question:

"I've got one question on this milk coupon.. and would like you to think about it. Is it ethical to print the other zip codes just so we can get the coupon? If they had wanted us to have it in our area, they would have given it. I think they limit it to certain zip codes in a way to limit the number of coupons they allow to go out. Not sure, but thats my thought, so if we publish the zip, then it goes cross country and who knows how many stores will accept them... and maybe not be paid for them since they weren't for their area. Just a thought."

I thought about this before posting the coupon originally, and I gave it quite a bit of thought again last night. Generally speaking, I use my regular zipcode when printing coupons because if there are deals specifically geared towards where I live then I want to see them. I don't know the reasoning behind making coupons available only in certain zipcodes, but I don't believe it's to limit the number of coupons going out. In the past, has put restrictions on the number of coupons going out (that's why really hot coupons go so quickly...I'm thinking specifically of the $3 and $5 huggies coupons in March). Other times they make it clear coupons are to be used only in some places (example: those neat dairy coupons redeemable in Utah and Idaho only earlier this month). The wording on this coupon is that it's good everywhere except Alaska and Hawaii, so I feel confident the stores will be reimbursed as long as the other criteria is met ($100 grocery purchase for free milk, and purchase of milk for free half gallon chocolate). Of course, now I'm really curious as to the reason behind making some coupons available only in some zip codes. I think I may contact the website and find out for myself!


  1. Maybe they do it for marketing reasons? At first thought, I don't believe it's wrong. If they really wanted to limit where someone could use it, they could restrict where it can be redeemed (i.e "only good in Washington"). It's no different than bringing a coupon with you on your travels (which I've done).

    On the other hand, there are several other coupon issues which I think raise ethical question far more than this one. For instance, if a rebate says "one per address/household," is it okay to have another one sent to your parents house or a second address or something like that? Or maybe this one is a little more gray....if a coupon says "one per customer" is it okay to go back and use another one in a different transaction? Also, is it really okay to combine so many coupons and offers that you get more money back than you spent? I know it's perfectly legal as long as the store coupon policy accepts that, but it just seems not quite right to me since that is not the purpose behind coupons even though I have done it myself.

  2. Sara, those are some good questions! I do think there are a lot of grey-areas where coupon use is concerned. Personally, I would not do a rebate for myself more than once and have it sent to more than one address, but I have put together and filled out rebates for my mom and sister (on things they purchased). I really don't know about the "one per customer" rule either, but I appreciate you stopping by to weigh in on things!

  3. I didn't think that there was anything wrong with that. And I have to say that there have been times when I've had to delete a few comments on my blog not over something like this but just a nasty comment. I know how upsetting it can be. I look at my blog as my cyber home and if I don't like it, it doesn't have to stay. Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Thanks Sonya! I'm in no way upset about the comment, it was a good question to ask! I know some people who think it's unethical to print coupons from different zipcodes or make coupon purchases from clipping services, on the other hand...there are people out there who take entire tearpads to sell them on ebay, and those who intentionally use coupons on things the coupon was never meant for. Personally, as long as I'm following store policy and redeeming the coupon appropriately, I feel good about my coupon use.

    There are just too many freebies and good deals to be had to do anything that would bother me ethically!

  5. Maygan, I am glad you posted about this. I would like to know what the company has to say about this if you choose to contact them.
    If these coupons do not state that they cannot be used out of the zip code than they are different than the milk coupons that were on there last month. The milk coupons stated only to be used with those zipcodes. I am not one to print coupons out of my zip code just becuase I want to play completely fair with my coupon usage, but this does seem a bit confusing and it might be nice to have an answer from the company. Thanks for posting the question.

  6. Jane, I did email them this morning and promise to post what their thoughts on this is as soon as I hear back!

  7. Thanks Maygan...
    I certainly hope I didn't come across in an accusing way. I enjoy your blog and just love to come on these blogs and find other God fearing woman who help each other. I too, say... keep up the good work!

  8. Carrie, thanks for stopping by! I honestly appreciated the comment and question because I do think it's important to stick to the rules in couponing.