The Washington Times-Herald

Food

October 19, 2011

The Reality Behind ‘Extreme Couponing’

WASHINGTON — “Extreme Couponing” is back.

The second season of the TLC cable TV show with its over-the-top coupon shopping trips and shoppers with enormous, house-filling stockpiles premiered last month. Almost immediately, shoppers from around the country filled my inbox with questions.

“Have you seen ‘Extreme Couponing?’ Is it real?”

“Why haven’t you taught readers how to do extreme couponing like on that show?”

While “Extreme Couponing” is considered a reality TV show, it’s important to understand that what you see on the show is entertainment, not reality. You and I will never easily duplicate the level of savings shoppers achieve on the show for a simple reason. Some of the stores where the extreme shopping trips are filmed don’t play by the same rules they enforce for the rest of their customers.

In the season premiere, a shopper told of her goal to feed a bargain-priced lunch to her church’s parishioners. She purchased 60 bags of salad and 100 boxes of pasta that were on sale for $1 each. She used 50-cent coupons that the store doubled in value to $1, so she took home all the items free.

The problem is, the store featured in this episode doesn’t double coupons. At least, not for anyone else.

As soon as the episode aired, coupon savings forums lit up with comments from shoppers familiar with Bello’s Market, the family-owned grocery store in Erie, Pa. where the segment was filmed. These shoppers shared the same outrage: “Hey, that store doesn’t double coupons!”

I called Jim Bello, the owner, and asked if it was his store’s policy to double coupons for shoppers.

“It was not the policy to do this,” he said. “We normally don’t double, but we did double for them, because it was for the church.”

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