New Legislation Gives Coupons “Equivalent Cash Value”
[Note: This was Wise Bread's April Fool's Gag for 2011. Please don't take it seriously, but by all means read it to see what all the fuss was about.]
An old law, established over 80 years ago, has been overturned due to a violation of section 15 of the FTC Act. And it’s making those coupons you clip every week a whole lot more valuable. It also means that coupons will most likely be disappearing from the weekly circulars very soon, or risk bankrupting the issuing companies. So if you’ve got them, hold onto them!
As you may be aware, coupons have always had a cash value. Usually, it’s something small, like 0.01 cents. The reason for that stems from legislation passed back in the 1930s, which was established to protect small grocery stores from what was deemed “unfair competition.”
Here’s a more complete explanation:
Back then trading stamps, what most people refer to as "green" stamps, were offered by stores to draw in customers. Each time you spent a certain amount, you would receive a stamp which could be used to buy goods at a stamp store or be traded in for cash. These cash claims varied widely, often with a bait-and-switch: the value would be very high to get people to start shopping at a store, then later dropped. People would be unwilling to switch because they already had some stamps collected.
Several states enacted laws requiring a common cash value to be printed on these stamps to stop these scams. Many of these laws are still on the books, and they cover all coupons. Since they're state laws, national coupons have to include the value disclaimer so they're legal wherever they're used, but local coupons might not if they're printed in a state that doesn't have a common value law.
No Advertising Should Be “Misleading in a Material Respect”
In this case, thousands of US Citizens from multiple states filed a petition stating that coupons were misleading. If something is $2 less, that coupon should have a cash equivalent value of $2, and not 1/100 of a dollar.
Section 15 of the FTC Act explicitly states that “deceptive acts or practices” are prohibited, and coupons that are not offering the equivalent cash value are deemed to be deceptive, and therefore, illegal.
To avoid immediate prosecution, companies that have issued coupons now have no choice but to honor the value of the cash on the front of the coupon with an equivalent cash offer. And that means you can cash in big time by collecting those coupons currently in circulation, and mailing them off to the issuer.
Customers in a local Safeway wait to swap coupons for cash and produce
You could make hundreds of dollars just from the local free papers and circulars that you get in your mail box. The address is listed on the back of each coupon, so group them together by manufacturer to save on postage. Your check will arrive within 6-8 weeks.
Grocery stores are also playing a part in this. By taking your coupons to the customer service desk, you can cash them in for a 10% service fee.
But hurry, this run on coupons will make them become very scarce very quickly. Right, where are my scissors.
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