Coupon Grandmaster Scores $1658.53 Of Stuff From Walgreens For $19.99, Donates All To Charity

Epic is the only word to describe this coupon genius who bought $1658.53 of stuff from Walgreens for only $19.99. It took 6 hours to check out the over 100 transactions necessary to complete the purchase. Why did the manager gladly let him do this?

Because the guy, who calls himself “The Coupon Prof,” is going to donate all the items to a local charity.

Ok, enough with gooshy, how did he pull it off? The scheme hinges on something called “Register Rewards” which dispense from the Catalina device at the Walgreens register. They give you money off just about anything in the store, except for the item that generated the coupon. Each week there are different items at Walgreens that will give out Register Rewards, you just have to check the local circular.

By combining a manufacturer’s for $1 Crest toothpaste that generated a $10 off Register Rewards that was then used to buy another item that generated Register Rewards, and then that was used to buy another item that gave out Register Rewards, and so on, cycling through 10 different products in a daisy-chain of savings, he was able to rack up the impressive shopping spree for little cost.

(One caveat with Register Rewards is that they only work on one transaction. So if the deal is a box of cereal that’s normally $4 for $1, and you buy 5, only 1 of them will be discounted. So to max your savings, you would need to use five separate coupons in 5 transactions).

Here’s the breakdown:

Transaction A
Crest Toothpaste $2.99
Oral B Toothbrush $2.25
Scunci Hairbands $1.99
Colgate Toothpaste $2.99
Campbells Soup $0.59
Candy Cane Pen $0.20

Total: $11.01
– $1 Crest Coupon
-$10 Register Rewards from Trans. B
= $0.01 out-of-pocket cost

Transaction B
Robitussin to Go $2.49
Old Spice Body Spray $3.99
Secret Body Spray $3.49
Canned Oranges $0.39

Total $10.36
– $10.25 RR (Trans. A)
= $0.11 out-of-pocket cost

And this is his final tally of plunder

55 Old Spice Body Sprays for a total of $3.99. That’s $3.99 for 55.
75 Oral B Toothbrushes ($2.25)
88 Crest Toothpastes ($2.99)
17 Olay Body Washes ($3.49)
24 Degree Deodorant ($0.99)
51 Colgate Toothpastes ($2.99)
55 Secret Body Sprays ($3.49)
22 Nivea Shaving Creams ($2.99)
87 Campbells Soups ($0.59)
41 Scotch Bubble Mailers ($0.39)
4 ThermaCare Heat Wraps ($2.49)
15 Advil ($0.99)
24 Canned Oranges ($0.39)
53 Hair Bands ($1.99)
76 Robitussin ($2.49)
46 Candy Cane Pens ($0.20)

“Best day so far in the life of the Coupon Ninja,” he writes. Yes, the key word there is “so far…” – can’t wait to see what he gets up to next!

How the Epic Purchase was constructed…. [The Coupon Prof] (Thanks to Josiah!)
Post-Thanksgiving Super Ninja at Walgreens! [The Coupon Prof]

Walgreens: Register Rewards Guide [Mommys Ideas Book]


Edit Your Comment

  1. cynical_reincarnation says:

    that poor cashier!

    • YamiNoSenshi says:

      I’m not sure about that. If the guy making the purchase informed the manager ahead of time and was as organized as it says he was, I doubt it would be that bad. Took a long time to scan everything, I’m sure.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        Definitely the poor person behind them in line. After getting caught up in this last week I really wish they had a dedicated “let’s make a deal” line so everyone else that only has minutes to get back to work can.

        • clickable says:

          Actually, I was that person behind the coupon lady last week. And it was awesome. She had about $70 worth of items in her cart, then started handing coupons to the cashier, who just scanned them in. Her total cost came out to two dollars and change. Even the cashier congratulated her.

          Luckily I wasn’t in a huge rush, so I enjoyed the performance. I appreciated the virtuosity, because I used to do the coupon thing with CVS, until I eventually gave up and just started buying at cheaper stores.

          Yes, it takes some extra time. But if the shopper is organized and has the correct products that match the coupons, and the coupons are all valid, it goes quickly. The cashier just scans and scans and scans as if she were scanning products through the register, only this time the total price is going down, down, down, instead of up.

        • invisibelle says:

          Hear, hear. I pretty much stopped shopping at drugstores for this reason – seemed like I was always getting caught behind coupon lady in line.

    • minjche says:

      As a former CVS cashier, if you could guarantee me six solid hours with one polite customer, and even more so 6 hours where I didn’t have to stock shelves, answer questions, develop photos, or answer phone calls, all the while being paid of course, I’d come in on my birthday to do so.

  2. dulcinea47 says:

    That would be better if there were fewer noxious smelling “body sprays” which serve no function, and more personal hygiene products or food.

    • Kitty Conner says:

      Sure, in a perfect world. But couponing is so obtuse that in order to get the best deals, you often end up with stuff you don’t need.

      Which is worse, some extraneous smelly stuff or paying full price for things like soup and body wash?

    • ellmar says:

      Agreed. Perfume (in all forms) is poison to my migraine addled brain.

      • Groanan says:

        Same, I feel like Wolverine at an Old Spice factory just being near bounce dryer sheets.
        I blame the French personally.

    • allknowingtomato says:

      Think of it this way:

      Dude was able to get 75 Oral B Toothbrushes ($2.25), 88 Crest Toothpastes ($2.99), 17 Olay Body Washes ($3.49), 24 Degree Deodorant ($0.99), 51 Colgate Toothpastes ($2.99), 22 Nivea Shaving Creams ($2.99), 87 Campbells Soups ($0.59), 15 Advil ($0.99), 24 Canned Oranges ($0.39), and 53 Hair Bands ($1.99), all for 20 bucks.

      Sure, he also ended up with a bunch of things (body sprays) people don’t “need” but might still want and appreciate being donated. Could you do “better” without ending up with “unnecessary” things in addition? Isn’t it a little paternalistic to tell people how exactly they should amplify their charity dollars?

    • Chaosium says:

      “That would be better if there were fewer noxious smelling “body sprays” which serve no function, and more personal hygiene products or food.”

      Specifically, antiperspirants instead of ineffective deodorants.

    • sonneillon says:

      hopefully he donated that stuff to a homeless type charity. Homeless people could definitely use that stuff. I’ll take low grade body spray over the normal smell of homeless people any day.

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      I hate that stuff too, don’t get me wrong, but there are a number of programs through Lutheran Social Services in my city that work with teenagers and they’re always thrilled to get donations of that stuff.

  3. discounteggroll says:

    this guy took “rolling cats” to an astronomical level. I bow to his achievement

  4. Supes says:

    Is this really the kind of press Walgreens wants? I’m surprised they let him do it…. it might give other people the same idea, costing them lots of money and register time.

  5. jaya9581 says:

    A great way to save some money. When money was extra tight for us last year, I used this method at Walgreens combined with some coupons I got off ebay to buy my husband Gillette Fusion razors (the kind that come with 2 cartridges). I ended up spending less than $15 cash and had enough cartridges to last approximately a year. He’s been extra careful with them, so about 14 months later we still haven’t run out. So I spent less than what 8 cartridges would cost and bought around 30 cartridges.

    It can be done at grocery stores, too. Last year during some amazing sales at Shaw’s I got around $800 worth of food and paper products for $19 and change.

    • reddbettie says:

      Thats really amazing. Id love to try that with razors!

      • Dover says:

        I buy all my razors at CVS. With Extra Care Bucks combined with coupons from the Sunday paper, I’ve spent practically nothing on razors for the past couple of years.

  6. ellmar says:

    So, if he itemizes his tax deductions will he be able to claim that he made a charitable contribution of $1658.53 – or just $19.99?

    • mike says:

      It would be total cost paid, including any gift cards. Since the $10 rewards count as gift cards, he would be able to write off the total cost minus coupons.

      • edman007 says:

        I don’t think so, IRS generally requires that you pay on value, not what you spent (thus you generally get taxed at the full rate even is you say you paid some discounted price). But it dosen’t only apply to donations, it applies to anything someone gives you which is why winnings are taxed, even if it was free for you. I would expect you would probably be able to deduct $1658.53, but the cheap food may need to count as income which will negate most of deductions.

        • RandomHookup says:

          My accountant disagrees (and I couldn’t find anything in the relevant regs to contradict), but there’s always been a debate over how to value a donation that you haven’t spent any (or much) to acquire.

          • Dover says:

            The IRS rules refer only to “fair market value”; it’s a tricky question. If he is able to deduct the whole thing, there are some documentation rules he’ll have to follow for a donation of that size.

          • Geekybiker says:

            What if you donate your professional services- That costs nothing technically, yet has real value. What if you make something? The material costs might be far less than the final value. Valuing donations only based on how much you paid wouldn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.

            • RandomHookup says:

              Donating time usually isn’t deductible (it’s the same as volunteering). I don’t always follow the logic of the IRS, but it’s really hard to take deductions for things that don’t cost you out of pocket (though plenty of accountants will disagree).

        • Dead for tax purposes says:

          I didn’t think so either, because it didn’t make sense, but I researched it in what limited time I have and came up with this:

          A gift of property to a qualified charitable donee ( ¶ 2102 ) is a charitable contribution to the extent of the property’s fair market value (FMV) at the time of the gift, whether or not it has appreciated ( Reg § 1.170A-1(c) ), except for gifts of ordinary income-type property ( ¶ 2107 ), and certain gifts of tangible personal property or capital gain property ( ¶ 2110 ). FTC ¶ K-3150 et seq.; USTR ¶ 1704.40 et seq.; Tax Desk ¶ 331,601 For substantiation requirements, see ¶ 2136 .

          Which in hindsight does make sense because almost all other types of property are reported at their fair market values. When he reports it on his form 8283, the basis number (20 dollars he paid) vs. FMV of property donated will probably be a red flag for an audit, but I think he could safely prove the validity of the deduction. But if he was my client, I would let him take the 1600 as a deduction.

          He could be a non-itemizer which means this whole point is moot! lol

          • lockdog says:

            I work with 8282 and 8283 on a semi-weekly basis and this is the way we would interpret it too. Including the caveat that it would almost guarantee an audit.

    • bishophicks says:

      Yes he would.

    • aloria says:

      He would technically be able to donate the market value, but if I were in his shoes I’d decline to do so just to avoid the audit nightmare it could potentially create.

  7. edosan says:

    I think this is the guy I’m always behind in line at Walgreen’s.

  8. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Are there charities that take medication?

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      OTC? I would think there are.

    • ellemdee says:

      Shelters appreciate donated meds. They usually have tight budgets and being able to supply some OTC meds to residents is a luxury that they often can’t afford to provide.

    • bullymom2 says:

      The UN has a program to take prescription drugs. But, I don’t have a clue about how to donate.

  9. Hungry Dog says:

    I thought I was doing good with the free razors with this tactic from them. I must go train in the mountains now to hone my skills.

  10. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    This reminds me of the time Shoprite had a “cash back” deal where if you purchased 10 Power Bars, you got a coupon for $10 off your next order. The Power bars were on sale for 10 for $10. They also gave you a $.60 off coupon on the Power Bars, so you would have to buy a pack of gum to get a positive balance so you could pay and get another coupon. I stocked up this way with about 150 Power Bars. I also learned some Chinese News tidbits while eating them.

    • cmdr.sass says:

      Hey, Deng Xioaping died!

    • jessjj347 says:

      They have a similar deal right now called “holiday bucks” or something along those lines. I bought $20 in P&G products this week, and got $20 in store credit back (Catalina coupons). P&G = Bounty, Tide, Charmin, Pantene, etc.

      Look it up on slickdeals if curious :)

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      How were the apple cores?

  11. mythago says:

    Good on him for donating this stuff. Personal care and hygiene items are really needed by places like homeless shelters.

  12. amgriffin says:

    These sort of coupon supernovas are a rare alignment of circumstance. Articles like this one make it sound like this is the standard experience for the mega-coupon maniac set, when, in fact, this sort of success is rare.

    I use coupons and I use them diligently, carefully matching store circulars and printed or online coupons to get the best deals. It’s work and though I can save significant amounts of money doing it, enough to make it worth the effort and time, this sort of story should be followed by the fine print one sees on diet aid ads:

    “Results not typical.”

    • mythago says:

      I think the level of detail in THIS story makes it clear. It’s not like one of those “Coupons can save you hundreds of dollars per trip!” stories where the details are buried in the last paragraph.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Actually, you’d be surprised at how much free stuff people get using coupons and store promotions…
      For people that get tons of Sunday inserts, it may be typical for them to save 1000s every month.

      Of course, you have to factor in costs like printing coupons (ink, paper, etc), time going to stores, buying any inserts, etc.

    • ellemdee says:

      I used to get some insane deals when I was a hardcore couponer. I never found a manager this coupon friendly, though. Some managers treat couponers like they are costing the store money. I think they honestly don’t realize that the store gets reimbursed for each coupon and that coupon users are actually helping the store by increasing sales. It wasn’t unusual for me to get $100 worth of stuff and made a $10-$20 profit. I stopped because it was getting time consuming and I was running out of storage space. On the plus side, I haven’t had to buy basics like toothbrushes or handsoap for quite some time and everything I “bought” was free, profitable, or extremely cheap (often pennies). For those willing to plan ahead and spend at least a few hours a week learning the nuances of register behavior, coupons, and store loyalty programs, clipping coupons and reading deal forums, there’s a lot of money to be saved out there.

    • cheezfri says:

      @amgriffin: You’re doing it wrong. No need to carefully match anything, really. If you live in or near a fairly major city, there is someone who has already done this work for you and put it online. I definitely do not waste my time doing it myself. I live in a fairly major city where there is a blog that lists tons of store offers, coupons available, etc. I don’t even cut coupons from the newspaper until I know for sure I’m going to buy an item. The blog will tell you, in “Couponese”, “Kraft Mac & Cheese on sale at Kroger for $1 this week. Use the 50 cent coupon from the 11/28 Red Plum and Kroger will double it, making the product free.” No sense cutting ALL the coupons, when you might end up never using them.

      And this is not really that rare. Yes, that one guy’s particular situation is rare, but for most consumers, this whole get-stuff-free thing is pretty easy if you would just look into it. I do it all the time. Just racked up a bunch of free sample size products from Walgreens today with no coupon cutting or online ad-browsing needed. Walgreens and CVS are probably two of the best places to *regularly* get free stuff.

  13. xxmichaelxx says:

    “Epic is the only word to describe this coupon genius who bought $1658.53 of stuff from Walgreens for only $19.99.”

    Maddox would disagree:

    • Turnabout is Flair Play says:

      That website is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in a while. Not that I particularly enjoy the ridiculous number of times I hear/see “epic” in a day, but Maddox’ self-righteous attitude is what stinks, not the “swamp foot” that he mentions at the end of the page.

    • Bativac says:

      Ahh Maddox. One of those old internet standbys when I need a good mean-spirited laugh. His book was fantastic and I highly recommend it.

  14. Scuba Steve says:

    Seems like the Walgreens let him do this. No one would get away with a stunt like this for Personal profit or use.

  15. mbgrabbe says:

    I actually think this is pretty unethical. Its more than obvious that Walgreens never intended for RR to be used in this way. And ya sure, its a giant, faceless corporation and you’re technically following their (ill-conceived) rules, but does that mean its right for someone to receive over $1650 in merchandise for just $20? I don’t think so.

    And donating the goods to charity is a nice thing to do, but these are goods that he received by brutally exploiting a customer loyalty program. I mean, think about it, Walgreens will treat this as a $1600 loss and some innocent cashier might lose their job because of this.

    • Hoot says:

      If you RTFA, the manager let him do it.

      • mbgrabbe says:

        Ya, but if this little act of charity was done without the blessing of a walgreen’s regional manager or whatever corporate hierarchy they have, the employees and/or manager could easily get fired for letting someone do this.

        • Chellie says:

          Why would anyone get fired? Isn’t the whole point of managing or working as a cashier at a store to sell lots of products?

          As long as The Coupon Prof used the coupons properly (and a glance at his breakdown shows that he did), that store moved nearly $1700 in product in a single day above & beyond their other daily sales numbers. Good for Walgreens as a whole, good for the store itself, great for the employees who get more hours because of the increased business.

        • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

          Negatory. Someone would be disciplined (not fired, sheesh, calm down) if they refused to cooperate with legitimate transactions that were within corporate policy, as this little shenanigan clearly was.

    • Dover says:

      “Walgreens will treat this as a $1600 loss”

      Walgreens probably made money out of this as the manufacturers pay for these promotions. Now, those manufacturers rethink the strategy, but I doubt it as cases like this are the exception and they probably make money from most consumers.

      “some innocent cashier might lose their job because of this”
      This case was blessed by the manager. Also, if the customer and cashier follow the program rules, why would the cashier be punished?

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      We used to use the Grocery Game website religiously, which tracks deals like that. We would buy 3-4 papers a week, clip coupons, then hold onto them and make the best of them. Anyway, we often got items we weren’t interested in for free or dirt cheap. Sometimes we would check them out and then plop them straight into a big collection bin for the local food bank. Not only did the people at Kroger’s not mind, we had employees who thanked us for donating.

  16. DanRydell says:

    76 Robitussin ($2.49)

    Those will be used for recreation, not charity

  17. DanRydell says:

    I assume when he claims this on his income taxes he has to claim the amount he actually paid, right?

  18. HBoyter says:

    My surprise is that a Walgreens would have that many in stock of some of those items. My Walgreens would not have that many.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      No kidding. At my local Walgreens, you’re lucky if you can find the advertised items still in stock on the second day of the sale.

      • drmk says:

        The article implies that he actually had the Walgreens special order some of the items so that he could do this.

    • drmk says:

      The article implies that he had Walgreens special order some of the items that he could do this.

  19. jessjj347 says:

    He could’ve actually spent less money and/or gotten more items. There are BOGO coupons for Old Spice/Secret (transaction B), Coglate coupons for transaction A, and probably others I’m missing.

  20. sopmodm14 says:

    i think its good for walgreens also…yea, they might be loss leaders, and for the “coupon ninja”, they lost out financially, but the PR more than makes up for it

    other shoppers will have gotten other items to offset any “losses”

  21. aleck says:

    Please, no!!!!!

    It is bad enough when a good deal is posted online and some jabroni who lives in his mother’s basement buys up all the stock for his “ebay business”

    Now my local Walgreens will be out of deodorant and toothpaste for the same reason.

  22. psychocellochica says:

    I coupon, and this is definitely not an everday occurence, but it can happen! My partner and I both only use 1 kind of razor (Schick Intuition, normally $9.99-ish for a 3 blade refill). When I noticed a target coupon for $4 off and a manufacturer’s coupon for $4 off, I ordered 30 of each from a coupon seller (cost me about $7 with shipping). I managed to find the packs with a new razor and 2 blades for $8.29 at my local Target. Stacking both coupons, i paid $8.70 for 30 packs. A grand total of $15.70 for 60 blades, making the per blade cost $.26 instead of $3.33 saving a little less than 95%. 18 months later, and we’ve still got about 10 blades left…

  23. chocotanya says:

    The coupon craze seems to be primarily American. I don’t know if I have ever seen anyone use a coupon here in Canada.

    • blue123 says:

      I’ve been doing the hardcore coupon thing for 4 months and have enough free/nearly free diapers, wipes, soup, toilet paper, cleaning products, toothbrushes/paste, shower gel, razors etc etc etc to last probably a year or more. But yes, very time consuming.

  24. electrasteph says:

    I have a friend who does this regularly at the grocery (although not nearly at this scale) and then donates the whole kit and kaboodle to the food bank. This is why she always gets grocery gift cards from us at the holidays; she has more fun doing this than any present.

  25. Hi_Hello says:

    I don’t get it… sorry can someone explain this to me. I even read his blog and still don’t get one part.

    For Transaction A, how can he use the reward from Transaction B? Don’t you need to complete Transaction A before you can get rewards for transaction B? And when you complete transaction B, how can you use reward from B on a transaction you are done with??

    maybe it’s some sort of manager override since the manager let him do it. or maybe it’s a walgreen thing.

    thank you

    • Chellie says:

      He likely walked in that day with $10 or so in rewards from other purchases the week before, used that to pay for his first group of items, and then from there did what’s known as “rinse & repeat.”

      Buy the items in Transaction A. Pay for the items in previously earned rewards. Receive rewards back.
      Buy the items in Transaction B. Pay for the items with transaction A’s rewards. Receive more rewards back.
      Buy a new set of Transaction A items, pay with rewards from B.
      Buy a new set of Transaction B items, pay with rewards from A.

      You just bounce back & forth, back & forth between the two groups of items. He did over 60 separate transactions all told which is why it took 6 hours to check out.

  26. daemonaquila says:

    *applauds* I bow to your kung fu, sir. Perhaps next year you’ll organize a cadre of coupon ninja secret santas for a really mind-blowing charity trip.

  27. coren says:

    This is pretty incredible, but keep in mind that it’d be about 110 more if he hadn’t donated it all to charity (doing so negated tax liability)

  28. mbgrabbe says:

    This whole situation is just weird. Why would they make someone (slash why would someone want to) jump through so many hoops to accumulate all that stuff for almost nothing just so it could then be donated to charity? Why not just have the walgreens store donate those goods directly to charity in the first place? Just seems like a lot of wasted time to do something that’s relatively simple.

    • RandomHookup says:

      1) Walgreens is paid by the coupons (manufacturers are underwriting these), so Walgreens isn’t just giving the stuff away. The manager gets a better deal by taking the coupons.

      2) People do this for their own reasons. For many, they can give more to a charity by doing this than just volunteering to ladle soup or some other low-skill tasks (needed, no doubt, by the charity, but easily replaced). Why do people go donate their time at soup kitchens?

  29. Sam2k says:

    Something is fishy about this story. Catalinas are normally programed not to give you a manufacturer’s $x off next purchase when you use that manufacturer’s coupon on the purchase. ie Buying the crest toothpaste for $2.99 less $1.00 manufacturer’s coupon equals crest toothpaste for $1.99 and no $10 off next purchase.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Actually, I’ve never had that happen with a Catalina — even when I get the item for free with a coupon.

      In Walgreens, it won’t print out a Catalina if you use a Catalina from the same manufacturer to get the deal, but he was alternating his deals. I did this with the Dr. Pepper deal at Walgreens. I used the 99 cent Catalina to buy Advil and that gave me another 99 cent Catalina which I used to buy Dr. Pepper…and so on.

  30. Intheknow says:

    What’s the manager going to do? Refuse? I can just see the negative press for Walgreen’s – along with the seriously negative repercussions from the higher-ups. You have to KNOW that cashier was not having a good time – even if it WAS for charity. Good for them though!

  31. Intheknow says:

    I want to know if this was arranged in advance – perhaps by Walgreen’s themselves?

  32. rosalita says:

    At this point in my (year-old-ish) couponing endeavors, I only go into Rite Aid once a week to *make* money. During that time, the following items I’ve either gotten for free or made money purchasing: toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, mouthwash, razors, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, tampons, make-up, Olay products.

    I mention Olay products separately because their high-end Regenerist and Pro-X lines can cost $20-$40 per product. In November, I made $4 getting two Olay products priced at $31.99 each.

    I just follow the instructions on various mommy/couponing blogs. Anyone can do it.

  33. Charmander says:

    Who the heck wants candy cane pens?

  34. chirish1025 says:

    I take my Register Rewards to Jewel and use them to pay for my groceries. I get organic veggies, meats, milk, the things that don’t normally have coupons attached. They are a manufacturers coupons. Though I did roll some at Walgreens to get some non sale stuff that I wanted.