Coupon bandits taking toll on newspaper carriers, other readers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 26, 2011

No need existed for the dozen packages of refrigerated cookie dough. The buyers — and this if from personal experience — didn’t need all that dough. A Cub Scout regional reunion wouldn’t need that much cookie dough.

Extreme couponers — in this case extreme eaters — are everywhere. They clog the Kroger aisles, wander the Corner Market with faces buried in a three-ring binder and cruise County Market for the 3-for-1 deodorants.

Now it appears that the assault on Toll House is an assault on independent contractors responsible for selling this newspaper. The Vicksburg Post is not alone as newspapers nationwide are fighting a rising scourge — coupon theft. One set of coupons — like one package of Toll House — just isn’t enough anymore.

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One person who knows where I work called out of the blue. I hadn’t heard from her in years.

“Do you know where I can get extra coupons?” she asked.

“Umm, a newspaper?” I replied

“I did that. I need more.”

“Buy another newspaper.”

“You can’t send me any? You work at a newspaper.”

“Um…, No.”

I haven’t heard from her since.

Newspaper sales have historically been an honor purchase. Put 50 cents into a paper box on a street corner, the door opens and a stack of papers appears. It would be easy to take 20 copies — the door is open. Considerate consumers take their one paper, close the door and move on.

Extreme couponers are far from considerate. They are crafty, too. They’ll open a newspaper box, remove the coupons from inside the paper, then leave the paper. They will even yank the coupons from the paper in the box window. Next customer arrives, pays for a paper expecting coupons and … no coupons.

Stealing coupons — a misdemeanor — is punishable by up to a year in jail. Sooner or later, thieves will be caught ink-handed. The eyes are aware of the thefts and have started watching.

The thefts hurt only honest people trying to earn a living. Single copy and rack sales are handled by independent contractors. They buy the papers from here. Money made through subsequent sales is their money. Unsold papers can be turned in for a refund — if the papers are complete with inserts. Having a rack with 20 papers sans coupons leaves the contractor — trying to put food on his or her own table — left holding 20 day-old newspapers. It adds up.

Setting up surveillance cameras at every rack throughout the area is impractical. Catching the scofflaws will be a chore. But sooner or later, there will be an arrest.

So stop asking for extra coupons. A person can get as many extras as needed — at 50 cents a copy and $1.50 on Sundays. Stop stealing coupons. Stop taking a living away from someone with an already difficult, expensive and time-consuming job.

Just STOP!

And while you’re at it, ease up on the trips to the Toll House. It has taken quite the toll already.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at