A Word About Shelf Clearing… Revisited

Is this what it’s come to?

empty shelves

Empty shelves?

  • People racing to the store to get the deal?
  • Couponers buying out the stores just for the thrill of the deal?
  • Shoppers who only want 3 or 4 items finding bare shelves?
  • Stores losing money because couponers don’t abide by coupon rules and limits?
  • Manufacturers cracking down on coupons?
  • Little old ladies searching for their favorite shampoo with no success because some crazy coupon shopper just HAD to take all 25 bottles (claiming it was all just couponing for charity)?

We’ve read your comments, we’ve seen the chats, we’ve received your frustrated emails… and we’ve experienced empty shelves ourselves! We are sad that this is an issue lately, thus we feel the need to revisit the topic again.

Your Options:


You can get frustrated, angry, and give up, creating a resentment towards a wonderful money saving opportunity.


Relaxed child

You can take a deep breath, relax, and shake it off. You can choose how you’ll react. THAT you can control.

Here are some tips to help you achieve your stockpile with a slow and steady (and patient) pace…

Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

  1. Don’t be the problem! Practice good coupon ethics. This means:  you place an order if you want a lot of product, don’t take peelies off of products, don’t photocopy coupons, do be kind to your cashiers and those in line behind you… do all you can to give couponers a good name!
  2. Teach others to NOT be the problem! Got a friend who decided to coupon because they watched Extreme Couponing? Teach them the realities of Extreme Couponing (that it’s NOT real)! Teach them how to make couponing work… for everyone!
  3. Don’t feel the need to get every deal! Sales come back. So do coupons.
  4. Don’t feel the need to get a life time or even a years supply! Typically, many items will cycle through promos every 6-12 weeks. That means, many items you can just purchase a 1-3 month supply of. Keep expiration dates in mind! Don’t buy 20 bottles of mayonnaise if you won’t use it before it expires.
  5. Abide by coupon wording, rules, and limits. Give couponers a good name.

#5 is the one we would like to stress today…

Some manufactures have started pulling back the reigns by limiting the number of items you can purchase in a transaction, shopping trip or day on their coupons. It appears that some couponers not abiding by these limitations has been a big issue lately. When you purchase more than the limit allowed, you are not only being dishonest, but you are being unfair to other shoppers, the stores, and the manufacturers who release the coupons.


Bounty Coupon


I’d like to share an experience I had:

I spent an hour gathering, clipping and organizing my coupons, then headed to the store Wednesday morning at 8:30. Being round up week (back when we had round-ups), I was pretty excited to use up those smaller value coupons and get some great deals. One of the deals I was hoping to find was the Bounty Paper towels. The fine print on the $.25/1 Bounty Paper Towel coupon clearly states LIMIT OF 4 LIKE COUPONS PER HOUSEHOLD PER DAY, so I planned on getting my 4 then moving on. As I walked toward the aisle, a woman pushing a shopping cart FULL of the Bounty paper towel rolls quickly walked past me towards the registers. I got to the shelf where the Bounty rolls were supposed to be and there were none. Not a single one. I was bummed 🙁 Not because I didn’t get any paper towels, but because it was 8:30 in the morning on the first day of the sale and the shelf was already EMPTY. Every other shopper that day would come in to find nothing left and leave bummed like me, all because one person decided to be selfish, dishonest and commit coupon fraud…

So What Do You Do To Avoid The Frustration?

  1. Find a new store! Do you live near a heavily couponed store? Then find one that is less “shopped”. A few extra miles may be worth less frustration and a happy shopper!
  2. Be Mindful of When you Shop – let’s face it… if it’s the last night of the sale, you just can’t plan on getting many of the deals you’d hoped for. I carefully suggest you hit the sale earlier… please note that I’m NOT suggesting you sitting outside the front door at 6 am the first day of the sale! (that’s when the visions of Black Friday start popping into my head!)
  3. I mentioned it before, but placing an order is a key part of building a stockpile. If I want 20 boxes of dishwasher detergent, you can bet I’m going to place an order! If I want 5 boxes of cereal, I probably won’t place an order unless it’s going to be a really hot item. Communicate with your grocery manager! They can become your BFF!
  4. Just ASK! Don’t be afraid to ask if there is more product in the back. Sometimes they’ve been so busy, they haven’t been able to keep up with the demand. It never hurts to ask. If they’re out…
  5. Find out when the store gets shipments in! Then plan you shopping trips around those times.
  6. Call before you go! My favorite stores are stored on my cell phone! Call your nearest 3 stores and check on your top 3 items. Are they in stock? This will help you decide if it’s worth a trip to the store.
  7. Ask for a raincheck – most stores will give you a raincheck so you can still have that sale price when they get more product in stock. Mel has had instances at Rite Aid where this worked in her favor!

One Last Thought… Couponing for Charity

 First things first. We are all about giving. Using couponing as a tool to help bless the lives of others is truly awesome. BUT shelf clearing in the name of charity is not OK. Here’s why we feel this way:

  1. Remember that there are MANY MANY couponers whose couponing habits are keeping their families off of food stamps (thus saving tax payer dollars!).
  2. Some couponers aren’t trying to build a massive stockpile, but just need to feed their families that week. When the shelves are empty, they don’t have a huge stockpile to fall back on.
  3. Think about it… is your true intent to experience the high of saving and justify it by giving? That’s a great way to get your high… but not at the expense of others. Just don’t forget about your fellow couponers.

How You Can Coupon & Give Without Depriving Other Couponers:

  1. Consider just donating from your personal stockpile. That way the only shelves you’re taking product from are your own! Let’s face it… there are many couponers who just have too much!
  2. If you want to score some great deals and donate the product, then place an order! {see above}
  3. Shop a little bit at a time, in moderation. Remember there are other couponers who aren’t asking for charity, they simply want to feed their families and be self sufficient during difficult times.

You might also like to read…

This is a bit of a lengthy post, but as you can tell, these are some things we Fabs feel strongly about. We appreciate you taking the time to read it.

Learn how to extreme coupon the right way and save loads of money  on our 90-minute DVD! Use coupon code ‘FABFRUGAL’ to get it 50% off!

{Pin This}

What are your thoughts?

Please be kind in your comments. We are anticipating differences of opinion but also wish to maintain a respectful tone. Thanks in advance!


  • My store of choice is Kroger, and they have limited duplicate coupons for multiple items to 3 per visit. It doesn’t bother me, but at times they have great deals that clear the shelves for a particular item.

    Lately my coupon fun has come from the “Manager’s Specials”. The Krogers in my area all have meats, bread and other items in Special Markdown areas. They still let you stack coupons on those, so recent wins with Double coupons were free Colgate Toothpaste, Free Rotel Diced Tomatoes, and a variety of Cover Girl and Revlon items originally 43.00 for 7.00.

    When people see my big binder they often joke and ask if I’m an Extreme Couponer. I say no, I’m a Reasonable Couponer. Nobody lives on trays of ramen and bologna, so I usually pay 60-70% of retail total, not 5% to zero. I have one extra pantry shelf, and have no desire or space to expand that. Our system works well. We feed a family of five including paper products for 100.00 a week, and get a montly 40 cent fuel discount on top of that. I do not understand the hoarding and ruining someone else’s trip to the store. Unless a charity has specifically asked for items you are bulk couponing, you are not helping anyone.

  • I have already thrown away the ad, but our Albertson’s ad had a family limit per day on the paper towels.

  • Thank you Jessica for bringing this up one more time! I thought things were calming down, but lately, shelf clearing seems to be the name of the game again. I gave up on the paper towels, it just isn’t worth the time, fuel, and no inventory.

  • Excellent post! Stores need to limit purchases and follow the rules on the coupons too.

  • Thank you for posting this. Now if only the extremers who give us all a bad name would read this and abide by common courtesy. I also think that most charities would be appalled if they knew how some of their “generous” donors were getting the items they donate. The legitimate charities that I’m familiar with don’t condone greed, selfishness, or a lack of consideration of others.

  • Well sites like this do encourage couponers to stock up when they can “this is when we stock up”. Most of the thousands of couponers on this site are getting 5 plus papers worth of coupons so do the math, unless a store can predict a perfect storm coupon & sale to see the freebie/good deal coming there is not going to be that much stock to go around when there are no limits and cashiers aren’t spending the time to analyze the super fine print to see if there is a limit. If stores can get a system to reject a coupon for being expired they should also read to stop accepting after 4 if that’s what coupon says. If there is no limit, those who can will get their limit and will use as many coupons as they can and get as much free/good deal as they can. I am hoping all manufactures will eventually get with the program and limit to 4 items per family, per day whatever and cashiers will actually start checking for this limit and enforcing it! so more people can save $, not just the first hoarder through the door when the store opens. I’m sure alby’s managers have heard from tons of angry couponers this week about the paper towels and dish soap and will train their cashiers to appropriately check the coupons and actually enforce it. Besides karma comes to those who are selfish like that and take just because they can and are wastefull and greedy.

    • When I went to get my dish soap I reached up and put 4 in m cart and this woman was watching me I looked at her and she said are you done I said yes I only wanted 4 and then she took all the rest. Went to get papertowels and a woman had waited for the store to open and she got 38 rolls the woman behind her got 20 so they cleared the shelve. I was very disappointed and so were all the other shoppers.

  • Loved this post! Normally I don’t comment, but I was particularly flustered this time around. Every single time that the Bounty deal has come up on a round up, I have found empty shelves and just chalked it up to stopping in after work as opposed to before work. This time, I got my 4 coupons ready the night before and hit the store on my way into work – at 6:30 in the morning on the first day of the sale. This particular store is not 24 hours and does not even open until 6:00. Upon arrival, one of the cashiers that knows me told me that a couponer had been waiting in the parking lot for the store to open and had come in and “purchased” 130 rolls of the Bounty paper towels. At 6am. ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SALE!!! My first thought was that there was no way in Hades, I was ever going to be staking out the grocery store and Black Friday competing for paper towels. She read my look of horror and quickly assured me that the manager had been pre-gamed on the sale so he had ordered massive quantities and there was plenty for everyone, but geez people – 130 rolls??? And just a suggestion, but if you really are supporting food banks and whatnot, can’t you just wait until, say, the third day of the sale? Maybe just take care of your personal needs on the first day and then let everyone else have a couple days to do the same.

  • Wanted to thank you too for this post! Am feeding my fam on a tight single income budget and am so grateful to have discovered coupons a few months ago, its been amazing! Am doing my part to follow rules and practice courtesy (would hate to see it all go away). Appreciate the others that do as well 😀 Took 2 days, but was happy and satisfied to get my 4 Bounty rolls and 2 dawn soaps!

    • As you say so wisely – this could all get taken away from we who are trying to follow the rules. Unfortunately these extremers don’t seem to think of consequences to their actions and it may all be taken away sooner than we think – UGGG! I do think that stores need to state that if these stalker-shoppers are buying extreme numbers of items, pre-ordering should be required.

  • I too witnessed the Bounty paper towel frenzy…I have missed out on all the previous Round-Up sales because my coupon from my clipping service was $1.00/2…this time I made sure I had the right coupon and patiently waited for them to go back on sale. I coupon with my cousin & my aunt once a week as we live in a very small town that doesn’t have a grocery store. We donate regularly to our local charities and make care packages during the holidays for military and their families. We have to drive 35 miles to the next largest town to do our shopping. We were very disappointed on Wednesday morning to find out that couponers had wiped out all 4 Albertsons stores, 3 of them are 24 hour and one opens at 8:00, within minutes of Bounty, French’s mustard, & Dawn dish soap. They arrived at the 24 hour ones shortly after midnight and according to the other store, they followed her in from the parking lot at 8:00am. According to the manager, one woman purchased 12 cases of paper towels & 50 bottles of mustard. While it is upsetting that people have no concern for shelf clearing, it’s not the end of the world. There will be other sales, and other good deals. I will just continue to buy paper towels when I have extra Up rewards from RiteAid or RR from Walgreens and be happy that my “coupon karma” is in good standing. 😉

  • We bought a lot of white hand towels and we wash them weekly- We use them in the kitchen and it has cut back on how many paper towels we go through.

    In the end, it is up to store to hold greedy people accountable. I have stopped shopping at certain stores, who don’t play by the rules. I agree with others that until the manufacturers wise up and the stores follow the rules MANY people are just plain greedy and committing coupon fraud- shame, shame. It all comes back to them though. 😉

  • Shelf Clearer / Frugal Mom

    I was attempting to refrain from commenting in order to accept the post for what it was, a reminder. Then I read the comments and I couldn’t resist any longer.

    What a bunch of whining comments. Seriously people? Yes there are more couponers out there. I hear the stores don’t know what will come out in order to order enough for our couponing needs. I went to several stores between Spanaway and Auburn WA and found bounty on the shelves. Sure I found some Dawn soap cleared but I also placed an order.

    And seriously, coupon fraud? Wow. Isn’t that what the store is doing when they double and the coupon says not to double? If the store allows it, and the item matches well then so be it, I’m using it for as many as I need for my stockpile. I will clear a shelf or two, but I place orders when I can.

    Sounds like some couponers need to plan ahead a little better when they hear there will be a round up. Karma…whatever makes you sleep better as I know I’ll be prepared with a comfortable stock pile. LOL 🙂

    • The store eats the $1 that’s doubled ..hence them loosing money .. But Walmart no longer does accept that .. In fact they according to thier policy witch I have pointed out to corporate don’t accept double coupons lol… But Albertsons will eat the cost .. And Walmart wants the biz .. Even if its against their own policy .. My Albertsons now is sticking to rules and watches their recipes for audits ..

    • Unfortunately you sound like part of the problem. Glad I don’t live around where you are and karma or not hope you’re happy with your stockpile and the rude person you are. This was a post to remind people about ethical and polite couponing. Sounds like you are part if the issue.

    • What do you mean… Coupon Fraud? Just because it scans and you can sneak it past the cashier does not make it legal or ethical. The manufacturer does not have technology to make coupons that only 4 will scan in a row. And the cashiers don’t have the time to read all the fine print. This could really slow up the lines. They rely on HONEST people to use the coupons properly. And as othes said the stores are not commiting coupon fraud because they eat the cost of the double or round up. But they may potentially be out the money from the company if the manufacturer notices they had more than the allowed in a shopping trip. And a cashier can even be fired for some slipping passed. That happened in one of our stores. So why would you even want to do something that hurts other people, stores and companies?

    • From what I understand, “Do not double” is short for “If you double, we’re still only paying you for value of the coupon + shipping.” So yes, the store eats that amount. I can’t see how it’s illegal for a store to give a customer an extra discount that comes out of the store’s pockets.

      Every time you take what you don’t need or couldn’t possibly use in a reasonable amount of time, you’re harming someone who doesn’t have the time nor resources to wake up at the crack of dawn or store-hop looking for what they need. So while your “comfortable stockpile” of paper towels may help you sleep at night, you’re making it harder for others to clean up their messes.

  • After learning how to coupon about 2 years ago, I feed my family of 8 & save about $300/month. Even with 6 kids I don’t need 40 of any given product! Love saving the money & thanks for your help. It’s greatly appreciated 🙂

  • I totally agree with what has been said. Therefore, I only have one question to ask. What are we to do with managers that clear shelves the night before the deals are suppose to start? The manager at this walgreens always works on Saturday to get a head start on her shopping. Yes, she clears shelves, exceeds limit of coupons allowed, and keeps items behind counter so others wont purchase. Week after week I encounter empty shelves on Sunday morning. Oh, and don’t get me started on rr items. Sadly enough this is the only wags on my way to work.

    • If you honestly know the manager is doing this I think it should be reported to those in charge above her. That gives the Walgreens company a bad name and I don’t think they would like that.

  • I recently had an issue with my Nampa Albertsons ..the day the round up started …I walked in at what I thought was early to get my 4 paper towels and 4 dish soap and other items .;) ..it was8 am … But the shelves were empty … I was pissed … It was 2 hrs into the morning of the sale … As I was checking out with items I did have ..I notice my cashier was not a happy camper and I was telling her how upset I was about the shelves being cleared already and asked when it was gonna be restocked …that wasn’t till sun .. And my coupons expired Thursday ;( …as I was ready to leave I saw a guy and a girl with 2 CART FULL OF PAPER TOWELS AND DISH SOAP. … So I told him wow your the one who took all the paper towels and soap and he laughed … I called him the a word and looked at the manager and cashier and said .. All I wanted was 4 ea ..why ? It’s law …no one reads the coupon …read the dam coupon .. U freaks ruin it for the ones who go by rules and the law … U don’t deserve anything … …..Yes I was mad .. And frustrated …. Turns out they had to return almost all of it and now Albertsons goes by what the coupon says and the assistant manger and cashier thanked me .. They were tired of it also … Well since new coupons came out .. I got my 4 paper towels and 4 dish soaps ..I was proud to stick up for the ones who do right .;) …

  • I’ve also been discouraged by the shelf clearing when I usually want only a couple of any particular item. (I have a small family and don’t need more than that.) I was at Walmart on Thursday, and after getting only two of the items I had wanted to “round up”, the cashier told me that Walmart is considering discontinuing their policy of accepting other stores double coupons and sales promotions such as the coupon “round up”. I’m guessing that all the shelf clearers are a major part of the reason they are considering the change in policy.


      • I went at midnight to the Walmart on Garrity in Nampa to get my four Bounty and a few other things (this was probably six months ago during a different round up). Thought I would see if getting there early made a difference. I found none. They were restocking everything including paper towels. I asked where they were and an employee took me. When we got to where the boxes of paper towels were supposed to be we found that someone had literally ripped them open in the middle of the isle and had taken every last one, leaving the boxes in shreds all over the floor. I was shocked and so was the employee. I grabbed a couple of other things and went to check out. As I was checking out two women got in line behind me with three carts full of all the free stuff including the paper towels. I talked to a manager on the way out and they said that it was like that every time there was a round up or double coupons. The same women would be there early and load up everything they could. That’s when I realized that unless I want to be a different kind of person than I am it was not worth even bothering to get certain items. Needless to say I will never get up in the middle of the night in hopes of a good deal again. I will be happy with my normally 60% savings at the store.Sometimes it takes seeing what you don’t want to appreciate what you have. I also wanted to say thank you to you fab girls for posting this again. And thank you to all you considerate shoppers out there who follow rules, and have common curtsey. 🙂

        • I agree. I tried Walmart on Garrity a little before 6 a.m. Wednesday. I was awake and up so thought..why not? Well, the why is because they are all gone. I had even been in the store the evening before so I knew they had some. Ridiculous.


    • Have tried to pre-order and every time they don’t get it right or don’t have my order when they say they do. Some stores have stopped letting you pre-order altogether because of the problem of clearing the warehouse. It is frustrating that people keep saying that is the solution. Sorry this isn’t a rant at you personally. I am just tired of hearing pre-order when it only works for a few people.

    • I have yet to talk to an Albertsons that is close to me that orders in time for me to get before the sale ends.

      • I went to Albies, and asked for a raincheck since the shelves had been cleared of the cereal I needed. I took the ad, and my coupons and asked if they would accept them with the raincheck. They did. I was amazed, and thanked them when that night, and again when I picked up my cereal later in the week, after the sale price was over.

    • I have tried to pre order and the Nampa Albies WILL NOT. Too many bad customers not picking up stuff etc. Once again someone else ruining it for the others. Like Walmart not taking B&W printables too much fraud.

      I appreciate this post but I don’t think the people who are the problem are the ones reading this….they simply don’t care.

  • I’m planning my weekly Albie’s trip for tomorrow and from the stories above I keep envisioning the Toys R Us Cabbage Patch and Furby frenzies of the past with shambling, jammie wearing people fist fighting for Bounty and Dawn at 6AM 🙂 I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve never been THAT excited by cleaning products.

    • Your post sounds alot like Filene’s Basement in Boston, when they had their yearly wedding dress sale. Could you imagine having a knock down, drag out for your wedding dress? Wouldn’t that be a wonderful memory to have?
      LOL. I guess some people just feel the need to fight over cleaning products.

  • I totally agree. My stockpiles are from months of gathering an item during their peek store season or sale cycle. I have 5 kids, all grown, who shop from my pantry but I do not clear shelves and I do not need to. I have had lots of these experiences with sale/coupon items being gone. One time I went to Rite Aid when they had a free Therma Care heat wrap (1 per customer) as one of their free items for the week. I happened to be going by there on a Sunday at 11 AM and they were all gone (I usually shop on Tuesday or Wednesday and find those things are usually gone by then). It annoyed me because I use these to help control my Fibromyalgia pain when I am up and around. I’ll just bet that a lot of those people don’t really need them or are planning on “donating them”. I checked to see if the other free items were still in stock, not because I wanted them but because I was irritated, and they were all gone too. Just try to remember that when you take more than your fair share you could be depriving someone of something that they may need or that makes their quality of life better. Maybe if you want to get them for a donation, shop the last hour or so of the sale and give others an opportunity to get a couple of the item first. And as far as the paper towels go, they could come back every day and get their limit and increase their stockpile in the right way.

  • I personally would say something to the person who is buying too many of something and the cashier ‘especially if I wasn’t able to buy because they cleared the shelf. someone needs to “check them” ‘especially if the cashier is allowing them to do that. you could also talk with the manager about the cashier allowing them to do that. just some thoughts.

  • I just got a phone call from my VERY NICE Albertson’s store manager to let me know that my special order of Bounty and Dawn were in. I placed my order on Tuesday before the sale and I am happy to say that I did not have to waste my time worrying about whether or not I would “get the deal”. If people would think ahead and communicate with their store, the items will be there. The store WANTS to sell these items and will make it possible to use your coupons if you just give them a chance.

  • Thanks for posting this reminder. I hope those abusing the system will read it. Couponing is a great way for everyone to save money. If we all are mindful of others we all can save.

  • For a minute there, it seemed like maybe we had gotten past the coupon crazy here locally in the valley. Nothing like round ups for it to rear it’s ugly head again. Ugh….

  • Unfortunately, some shelf clearers are only in it for profit. They create their personal “stores” and sell their free or cheap products.

  • Thank you so much for this post! So many people treat couponing as a competitive sport, but the old saying “Slow and Steady Wins the Race” is true. I also like your advice about finding a different store. The Rite Aid 1/4 mile from my house always has cleared shelves (and not so nice cashiers), I drive 2 miles to a different one that almost always has stocked shelves and happy cashiers! it is definitely worth the trip!!

    • 🙂 it’s been crazy lately! I think that since the HOT deals are more rare these days, people scoop them up like mad! Seriously… you don’t need 200 tubes of toothpaste! 😀 Even if it is Free! 😀

  • Thank you for this post.

    I chose one thing I’m allowed to “hoard” and even with that, I only buy one or two at a time. (It’s Dawn dish detergent. I have about 8 right now.) It felt pretty good to let go of the idea that I had to shlep all over the place to get every great deal.

    Coupons will always come back around.

  • For me when I get to go shopping I have to drive 25+ miles one way. So I make the most of my trip so I can’t always get back to the store before the sale is up. The town I shop in only has one of every store . Very small area. I hate to add match at Walmart.
    I also hate when people take the sticky coupons off products and leave the product. I have all boys so when I am stocking up on snack items it’s important to get them at a great deal.

  • For this very reason, my couponing days are very far and few. I got sick and tired of wasting so much time clipping and organizing coupons and making plans and lists to get to the store and have nothing on the shelves. Its very frustrating….

  • I try not to clear any shelves. If I want a lot of one item I get so many a day. I usually buy in quantities of 4. I will also ask my boyfriend to pick up some items at the store by his job. I have not tried placing an order I am still new. I haven’t experienced many cleared shelves thankfully. I belonged to a facebook group I recently left. People were selling coupons but not only that they had pads of tear pads and peelies they took off of products and were selling those also! I couldn’t stand it so I left the group. People were also are going into stores and taking all of the flyers and selling the coupons in them. That’s ridiculous! I have learned one thing there is always a sale. If I miss one then there is always another and usually a better then one I missed.

    • That’s a great attitude! And we appreciate your attitude towards selling Tearpad coupons! It’s why most of the time, the average couponer can’t find them… and it’s sad!

  • And then you have the one like a local woman here. She clears the store shelves, so nobody else can get the deals, then takes it to the flea market and to online local yard sale sites and sells it at a profit. Disgusting!

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