A friend of mine asked me today how to tell if a coupon is legitimate. There are actually several different ways to know for sure that coupon you’re about to use is a legitimate coupon, and that the store will be reimbursed for your purchase. First, it depends on the printing software being used to print your coupons. Coupons.com and RedPlum (RedPlum recently changed their software) coupons can be validated by using the dot bar code in the upper right hand corner of the coupon itself.
I’m sure you have a Coupons.com (including bricks) or RedPlum printed coupon sitting around somewhere. Grab one that you’ve got and head over to Veri-Fi, powered by Coupons.com. Enter the dot bar code (as pictured below) and all of the juicy details of the coupon will pop up.
I entered the dot bar code in the image above for giggles, and this is what popped up:
I then entered a valid coupon that I printed this morning. I removed the UPC and EAN code from this picture before posting.
Now, I don’t know that this information will help much when you’re standing in the checkout line, but check out what SmartSource has started including on all of their coupons.
I’m sure you’ve seen QR codes (the black box) just about everywhere lately. If you have a smart phone, you can download the QR code reader application and take a picture of the QR code on the coupon itself. If you need a SmartSource coupon to test, here’s a nice $2/1 ANY Biz product coupon.
Once you print your SmartSource coupon and you have the QR code reader on your phone, take a picture of it. It will automatically open your browser and tell you everything you need to know about the coupon. This is very similar to the Veri-Fi provided by Coupons.com, but obviously more portable.
The majority of printed coupons that I personally print and redeem are powered by Coupons.com, but in the instance that I needed to prove a point, I could take the picture and show them that my SmartSource printed coupon is in fact a legitimate coupon. You could use your phone’s mobile browser to use Veri-Fi in the store, but chances are you won’t have that kind of time while checking out.
Other printed coupons, including pdfs, can be difficult to verify. Thankfully, not too many manufacturers release pdf coupons. The ones that we see routinely are from 3M brands (think Scotch tape). Most retailers are very picky about pdf coupons, with good reason. To read up on how pdf coupons work, you can read my post from several months ago.
Moral of the story? If a coupon looks too good to be true, it probably is. You can visit the Coupon Information Corporation for further information, and you can “like” them on Facebook so that you can be updated when a fraudulent coupon arises.