Aug 28, 2008

Fraudulent Coupons - Part 2: It's not always the consumer's fault

Last month, I discussed how fake coupons cost everyone. But of course, the problem remains. And it turns out that it's not always the consumer's fault. A couple of weeks ago, a marketing company decided to experiment by posting high-value coupons on Facebook. Not being a Facebook member, I never got around to joining and seeing them for myself, but I read about them multiple times on the various coupon sites that I check regularly.

It didn't take long for forum members to start questioning the validity of the coupons. But initial reports were that the marketing company had confirmed that the coupons were valid. These reports were quickly followed by claims that a hacker had posted invalid coupons. Not surprisingly, that led to conflicting reports that the marketing company was going to honor the valid coupons and reports that the company wasn't going to honor any of the coupons. Eventually, the company announced that it would not honor any of the coupons and that stores should stop accepting them. Naturally, by the time the final announcement was made, many consumers had used the coupons.

An argument could be made that the coupons were so inherently suspicious that consumers should have known better than to use them. But that argument is weakened by the fact that the marketing company initially validated the coupons.

According to this Seattle Times article, the general consensus is that the marketing company should bear the blame - and the financial losses caused by the use of the coupons. The company published coupons that bore no security features, such as print limits.

For the average coupon-user, the whole incident is cause for concern. Coupon forums are ablaze with talk about all printable coupons being rejected, and all coupons being closely scrutinized - new developments since the Facebook coupons came out. Even though I never used one of the Facebook coupons, I have been worried that my printable coupons will be rejected at the stores where I've never had any problems before.

If there is a lesson for the average consumer here, it is to be knowledgable about coupons and be able to recognize when a coupon is suspicious. And hopefully, the independent marketing firm that started all of this has taken enough of a financial hit that no one will do anything this careless again.

What do you think about the Facebook coupons and the subsequent fallout?

Hat tip: IheartCVS.


Red said...

CFO, I would not be surprised if I know you from HCW ;) I purposefully didn't use the facebook coupons because I KNEW this would happen. Knew it. These makers of these widgets fail to realize that there are bad people out there who are looking to get something for nothing by fraudulent means. It sucks, because then corporations treat EVERYONE like a criminal, when all us couponers are trying to do is get by.

We'll outlast this one too.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read about the facebook coupons until after all the fallout so I don't really know what they looked like. I'm always leary of any internet printables that don't come from any of the major sources or direct from the manufacturer's sites.

Anonymous said...

I had read about the Facebook coupons, and I'm shaking my head at the fact that the company didn't even take to using control numbers or anti-fraud measures. If you're going to market to something as big as Facebook, you better think of security first.

What a PR and financial nightmare that must be.

BusyMom said...

Initially, I was very hesitant about the coupons, but early information on sites like A Full Cup and HCW were reflecting that people had checked and they were legit. I never saw any crazy high value coupons, everything that was available when I logged in was $1. I printed a few out, but before I used them, there was new information that said, don't use. Then all the details started to come out.

I think companies like this make it harder for those of us that do coupon. I already have one grocery that doesn't take IP, but was considering it. Something like this will likely keep them from considering it for a while. Their concern - "How do we verify that the coupon is legitimate and not edited".

They have done a huge disservice to coupon users.

Anonymous said...

I found your previous article, How Fake Coupons Cost Everyone, very interesting. Thanks!

Mercedes said...

I hope this company gets sued. They infringed trademark laws to the detriment of the owners. Bad will was generated against the manufacturers of the products. This is a very strong case for fraud here, I think.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post..! Well, I always be aware when ever I use printable coupons.