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Jill Cataldo, Published January 17 2014

Coupon Queen: Attack of the coupon fairies

What’s a “coupon fairy?”

Coupon fairies are people who leave unneeded coupons in the store for others to find.

Do you do this? As it turns out, some of my readers do.

Dear Jill: I read your column often, and I have a strange story about what I do with coupons.

After I cut out coupons from the newspaper that I will use, I cut out about 200 more. Then, I will go to our local store and head up and down the aisles leaving these coupons on empty spots on the shelves.

I will see people picking up the coupons that I leave, going through them. I don’t know if this is against the store policy, but the “coupon police” never arrested me. They never told me that I couldn’t do this, but then again, I never told them I was doing it!

– Ron H.

A. Here’s my take on “coupon fairies.”

While I believe that everyone who’s cutting coupons and leaving them in the store has the best intentions, there are several reasons this isn’t the best idea.

First, stores may not wish to have stacks of cut coupons placed on the shelves for aesthetic reasons. If there are many coupons spread around the shelves, they’ll also be in the way when the store’s employees restock and face products, which they do daily.

It’s highly likely that if there still are coupons on the shelves when it’s time to stock, the employees will simply clean up the coupons and throw them away.

Another reason not to play “coupon fairy:” Most coupons contain verbiage stating that they are void if transferred. Many brands believe that a coupon is void at the moment it changes hands from one person to another.

Now, this certainly isn’t something that is heavily enforced – coupon clubs and swaps abound. But it technically is a violation of the terms of some coupons. If you’re sharing printable coupons, you personally can get in trouble for transferring your coupon to another person.

I’ll leave you with one more email with a store manager’s perspective.

Dear Jill: I’m manager at a large supermarket, and I would like you to share a message with your readers.

Please tell them to stop bringing coupons to the store and leaving them on the shelves. I’m sure they think they are helping other shoppers, but they don’t realize what a mess the coupons make. I have had coupons get pushed to the back of the shelf by stockers, and then people find them long after they’ve expired and insist they should be able to use them as they found them “in your store.”

Shoppers leave coupons on the edge of the shelves in the refrigerated and freezer cases. These coupons have blown into the refrigeration vents and burned up more than one compressor. A very expensive repair caused by a piece of paper that doesn’t belong there.

– Nicholas G.

Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.