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Retailers Combat Coupon Craze

While the recession has left many struggling, it’s also revived the importance of coupons.

The craze has sparked blogs and TV shows, but now some retail chains are fighting back against those who take it to the extreme.

Wheeling your way through most any grocery store, you’re likely to find casual coupon clippers like Helena Walker.

“But only on the stuff that I use,” said Walker.

Then there are those who play it like a sport; the checkout register their finish line.

“People with the binders,” said Walker.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said shopper Melissa Tonks. “I hear that it’s a second job.”

It keeps Natasha Perschon busy behind her counter at Smith’s in Idaho Falls, where one out of every three or four customers uses coupons.

“I think it’s making everyone happy,” said Perschon.

According to NCH Marketing Services, 332 billion coupons were redeemed in 2010 alone, worth $3.7 billion. It’s no doubt a reflection of the still-struggling economy.

Filling up her cart, Walker remembered one of her biggest bargains.

“Cereal,” she said. “I didn’t pay more than .50 for a box of cereal that’s usually $4, so that’s a good one.”

Managers said it’s rare, but extreme cases of “coupon-ing” can empty entire shelves in one fell swoop. It’s what’s prompting policy changes at stores across the country.

The days of using two “buy one get one free” coupons to get two items for free without buying any are gone at Target and Kroger Co. The Kroger Company owns Smith’s and Fred Meyer stores.

Target has also banned online coupons that don’t require a product purchase.

“We try to limit it at times to retail quantities, because obviously we want to make sure all of our customers are able to partake in the ad,” said Smith’s co-manager Carthell Williams.

“I guess they should stock a little bit more,” suggested April Smith.

“With this economy, gotta do what you gotta do to save money,” said Tonks.

“I had no idea they were doing that,” said Walker. “But it’s good for those of us that don’t go to the extreme, so there’s items left when we get to the store. I like that.”

We couldn’t find the binder bearers and coupon queens of Eastern Idaho, but we know they’re out there.

Williams said if you want to buy the big, bulk deals, you can always special order a bigger quantity, rather than deplete the store shelves.

For a list of most Idaho stores and their policies, go to

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