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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Coupon clipping taken to illegal extremes

Boise woman steals newspaper inserts

Kathleen Kreller McClatchy

BOISE – Value-conscious shoppers are snapping up newspaper inserts and heading to local retailers to get hot deals and cut spending for their households.

But last month, after McClatchy Newspapers staff noticed all the ads from an Idaho Statesman newspaper rack had been taken from a stack of Sunday papers – without being paid for – Don Waters, sales manager for single-copy sales, set up a stakeout at a Boise restaurant.

The stakeout revealed a woman systematically taking all of the pre-printed advertisements and coupons from the box. She had paid for a single paper.

“She said people just throw them away,” Waters said.

He told her that her actions amounted to theft, and the Statesman filed a police report.

“It is becoming a real problem on Sundays because of the value of the coupons and the local interest in couponing over the last few months,” said Statesman Circulation Director Frank Peak. The value of coupons in a Sunday edition ranges from $300 to $1,000, he said.

Peak ties the rise in coupon interest and newspaper theft to the show “Extreme Couponing,” which started airing this year on the cable channel TLC. The flagging economy and price of gasoline also factor in, Peak said.

To combat the rise in newspaper and coupon theft, the Idaho Press Tribune in Nampa places signs on its boxes reminding buyers that taking papers without paying is theft, said Publisher Matt Davison.

“Since we have put the signs up to gently remind folks to use their good judgment, we have seen a dramatic drop in theft from the boxes,” Davison said.

Davison said his office also is hearing complaints of ads being taken from papers in grocery stores and from front porches. That, he said, shows newspapers have a business model that works.

“At this point, we haven’t pressed charges against anybody,” Davison said. “Our goal is just to educate people that they are stealing. The people who are doing it, I guess they wouldn’t consider themselves a criminal. They are just trying to save money.”

The Idaho Statesman has had to handle numerous callers trying to get multiple copies at a discount – or for free, in the case of papers headed for recycling. But the newspaper has agreements with advertisers to destroy unsold copies, said Travis Quast, Statesman vice president for sales and marketing.

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