Those looking to net a stockpile of freebies and hot deals showcased in the recent TLC series "Extreme Couponing " may need a rain check thanks to industry and legal backlash.
The show, which included a Las Vegas couponer, highlighted the stories of American men and women who take coupon clipping to the max. Episodes highlighted wall-to-wall caches of food and other items obtained for free or purchased for next to nothing. One woman used coupons for a 40-year supply of toilet paper. Another searched a Dumpster for extra copies of coupons.
The secret was in deal spotting, matching store coupons to manufacturer coupons and loading up on coupons for multiple transactions to yield a stockpile.
Each week, episodes culminated in soaring bills getting slashed to amounts 90 percent less or free.
As a result, the masses may get burned.
Retailers such as Target, Walgreens, Walmart and Rite Aid, which has no Southern Nevada locations, have changed their coupon policies. Some limited how many coupons could be used per transaction or visit. Some modified how much coupon matching was allowed. Others made their policy more competitive among stores.
Locally, some savvy shoppers felt the sting in the form of attitude from other shoppers or store employees and felt that the show portrayed their budget-saving lifestyle poorly.
Paradise resident and couponer Nancy Bleuer clips and stacks coupons to be able to pay for day care, and she said some of her more recent shopping trips have turned sour.
Fellow shoppers scoffed at her in line, and store employees have bristled when she stepped up to the register.
"There is a lot of attitude out there regarding couponing," she said. "That show makes people look bad . Not all of us are out there to clear shelves."
Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert, said most viewers of "Extreme Couponing" were probably exposed for the first time to the lifestyle when they tuned in.
"Although those behaviors seem unnatural, people are in awe of the money they are saving," she said.
Jackie Landy and Michelle Buschur are couponers and the forces behind myvegasmommy.com. Landy is a couponing veteran and has used her three years of experience to mentor Buschur.
Buschur has now taken over the monthly Couponing 101 and Couponing 102 seminars that Landy originated.
For them, couponing makes more than cents.
"We're a one-income family, and I have seen our budget cut dramatically," Buschur said. "I was able to pay off my car for the first time in my life."
Landy stockpiles items when prices are rock bottom and donates excess to charity.
Both women watched "Extreme Couponing," they said, and they said it has drawn many people to their free seminars.
"I always ask who has seen the show, and 80 percent of hands will go up," Landy said.
The women use some of the tips highlighted in the show but stress to coupon for only what the family needs.
"Some of the greed that has been shown on TLC has le d to a selfish amount of stockpiling," Landy said.
One of the tenets of couponing is knowing the coupon policy before entering the store, the women agree.
"Now the couponers tend to know the policies more than the employees," Buschur said.
Landy, who recently relocated to Oregon, and Buschur said they haven't seen many couponing changes in their states yet. The practice of price matching in stores, which is being done away with in many states, was never allowed in Nevada or Oregon, they say.
Landy said a woman from the show is in legal battles due to an accusation of coupon fraud. One coupon booklet distribution company has had its operations frozen because its service was deemed illegal. Landy said the couponing community is awaiting ramifications from such legal entanglements.
Bleuer said she has changed her habits because of the TLC program backlash. She now shops early in the morning and at locations where she has built a relationship with employees.
Bleuer added that she watched "Extreme Couponing" and was inspired by some of the stories.
Woroch said viewers should remember that the extreme angle of the show was amplified for ratings.
"It's obvious the networks do well with shows that promote more extreme behavior," she said. "It's unfortunate that it is having a backlash because the general consumer, who has been able to coupon and stack and are not clearing off shelves, is being penalized."
Ultimately, stores call the shots, she said.
"The stores are giving you a privilege . They don't have to accept manufacturers' coupons," she said. "Manufacturers won't stop offering or distributing (coupons) . They're too beneficial of a marketing tactic. It's just how the stores will accept it."
Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.