Publix teaching cashiers to spot bogus coupons

5:59 PM, Jun 14, 2010   |    comments
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South Tampa, Florida -- These days, savvy shoppers like Alisha Stephens have come to rely more and more on snip-able savings. Coupons, that in some cases, provide deep discounts.

"Definitely. It's more important now than ever before, with the way things are," says Stephens.

But at stores like Publix, where they say coupon usage has spiked by about 50 percent in the past year, they also face an alarming increase in counterfeit clippings. Customers who knowingly -- or in most cases, unknowingly -- present photo-shopped phonies that offer deals too good to be true.

Coupon clipper Margaret Ward says she stays away from them, "because more times than not the stores don't like to use them. They look sort of fake," she says.

"Coupon fraud is definitely something popular right now," says Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten.

In response, Publix says it's now arming its legions of cashiers with a bit of printing prowess, providing them tips on how to spot the pretend print-outs.

They tell them to question coupons that say "no purchase necessary," or offer discounts that exceed the product's value. If they're missing UPC codes, it's a red flag. And there should always be a bit of legal fine print from the manufacturer.

"It costs everyone money," says Patten, "I mean, it costs Publix money. It costs our manufacturers money."

Publix also figures there are more fake coupons out there, because coupons are everywhere these days. They're in  traditional flyers and newspapers. They're online. They're on store shelves. And increasingly, they're even on cell phones.

Publix does not want to put a complete kibosh on coupon. After all, says Patten, they're still a valuable marketing tool.

"But we've got to make sure we accept legitimate ones and our cashiers are really learning how to spot a bogus versus a real."

Eric Glasser, 10 Connects

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