Okay, this is a subject that pretty much every bargain blog in the universe does at one point or the other. I'm not going to preach to you on how to do your coupons. I learned a valuable lesson in college when I took "Business Ethics" (YES there is literally a college course...actually a LOT of college courses...that are done JUST on this subject). I'll save you the 500+ dollars that you'd spend taking the class and give you the summary. NO ONE can tell you what you consider to be right and wrong. That's all up to your conscience. But, I'll just clear the air and give the things that I consider to be right, wrong, and downright grey.
1) Entering other zipcodes to get different coupons:
Me, I could personally CARE LESS if you do this. Heck I'm actually sort of endorsing it because not only do we not get coupons in the paper, but we also get no coupons online compared to a lot of other places when you put in our zipcode. I have no problem giving out zipcodes so that you can print off a certain coupon. I consider it like this. If I had a relative that lived in that area, I'd ask them to send me multiple copies of a coupon that was only available there to use here and I'd give them out to others to help them save money too. It's basically doing the same thing online with giving out a certain zipcode.
2) Coupon Clipping Services:
I used to work for "Advance till Payday", so I quickly learned a lot about legal loopholes. Some people consider Coupon Clipping Services to be outright illegal, but actually they are not TECHNICALLY illegal. They found a legal loophole to slip through. If "Advance till Payday" can slip through a legal loophole the size of a microscopic needle, I'd say that the Coupon Clipping Services are just fine. If they were not legal, they'd be shut down by now. Trust me, companies will do anything in their power (heck so will the feds) to make sure that things work the way they want them to work (such as keeping coupons in only a certain area) if they can possibly stop it. The fact that the services have not been shut down yet shows you that they ARE legal on a technical basis, no matter your personal opinion. So, if you use one, good for you (I can't afford them right now *sniff*...the shipping is too darn high).
3) Photocopying coupons:
Okay, to everyone who is new to internet coupons, this is WRONG! Absolute, 100% no-no! It's a common mistake for newbies to be tempted to do this, thinking that the UPC's and stuff are all the same, but 99% of internet coupons (with the exclusion of legal PDF coupons) are usually only allowed to be printed twice and they are printed with a identifying individual number code on them. So, when you photocopy them you are duplicating them, which is completely against the law. The worst part of it is even if you do it in ignorance the company will only reimburse the store for ONE of those coupons and they'll get shafted for the rest, which if this happens too much you end up with stores that won't take internet printed coupons anymore. So, please if you are doing this or are thinking of doing it...don't!
4) Using coupons for an item that is not on the coupon or using it for the wrong item:
Yes, a lot of times a coupon will scan even if it is for the wrong item (say you have a coupon for All Spice Deodorant and it'll scan on All Spice body wash type of thing) due to the coding on the coupon. If you do this, knowingly, in my opinion, it's wrong. The company matches UPC's to reimburse the stores for things (if they ask for the invoices from the stores) and the stores can see to lose a pretty substantial amount of money if enough people do this regularly. So, please, I KNOW it's tempting, but is it worth saving a buck on something now only to see coupon redemption policies become HORRIBLY difficult to do and see more and more companies not offer coupons at all? I don't think so and I hope you think so too.
Now, I'm not going to say you can't do this ignorantly. I've done it myself only to realize later I'd grabbed the wrong size of something or whatever. Just try to be careful, give yourself some slack and just figure next time you'll know better.
Oh and when coupons have very vague wording on them, I figure that's the companies fault and all the more power to you (and all of us couponers) to exploit this. I figure at that point it's the companies fault, not yours, and they'll know better next time so work it for all it's worth (like putting no size specification on a coupon :-).
And those are the major areas of debate it seems and my take on them. For all it's worth. I just wanted to share in the hopes to stop some poor newbie from making a big mistake and inadvertantly committing fraud or something. And I'm off the soap box for now to go and stagger to the coffee pot before I have to go and hit the stores to use my coupons (and exploit them for all they are legally worth *laugh*).