Couponing Basics

What Is Shelf Clearing, and Why Is It Bad?

Some etiquette is obvious: say please and thank you, be considerate of others. However, when it comes to couponing and the idea of shelf clearing, it may not be so obvious.

When you spot a good deal, etiquette may not be at the front of your mind. You might be tempted to get as much of the product as possible while the getting is good!

Before you load your cart to the brim, pause for a second. Shelf clearing is not only inconsiderate of other shoppers, it can also have far reaching implications that may affect your ability to save down the road.

What Is Shelf Clearing?

Shelf clearing is the practice of taking all or almost all of a product that’s on sale. Extreme couponers and other deal hunters sometimes swoop in and clear out the stock before other shoppers have a chance.


Some coupons and/or stores may already have policies that prohibit shelf clearing, but even if the fine print doesn’t forbid it, shelf clearing can still create some major problems.

Why Is Shelf Clearing Bad?

Shelf clearing can upset and disappoint other customers, but it can also lead coupon distributors and stores to change their policies. Here are a few problems associated with shelf clearing:

  • Other shoppers who came to the store specifically to buy the product may leave empty-handed and disappointed. Put yourself in their shoes – they’re deal hunters just like you and wanted that deal as much as you did.
  • If shelves are cleared often enough, stores may seek to curtail the problem by limiting the number of coupons customers can use.
  • Coupon distributors want their coupons spread out among customers to encourage them to try different products. When one person uses a large number of the same coupon, some distributors may institute policies to limit coupon usage. They could impose rules limiting coupon usage to one per transaction or even one per customer.
  • Even though you’re technically getting a huge discount on all the products, you don’t need them and are spending more than you need to at the end of it all.

Remember: you don’t have to get every deal. Enjoy your deal hunting, but the next time you spot a great deal, think of the other shoppers who will be happy to discover it! While your stockpile may not grow as rapidly, your karma will.

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