It’s not often that coupons get the attention of Hollywood. But, that’s exactly what has happened with the new blockbuster, “Queenpins.” Inspired by the real-life story of three Phoenix-area women who were ultimately convicted of orchestrating a $40 million coupon fraud scheme, the comedy tells the tale of two fictional housewives, played by Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who turn to coupon fraud to make money. Vince Vaughn and Paul Walter Hauser co-star as the fictional investigators trying to stop them.
The beauty of this comedy is that it might hold the key to developing a more serious approach to coupon fraud.
Here’s a small sample of the kind of humor we’ll get to experience when we head to theaters or tune into Paramount+ to see the movie.
Imagine this scene:
While riding in an armored vehicle, a law enforcement team in full SWAT gear prepares for an impending raid. One of the officers excitedly turns to a heavy-set gentleman wearing a plaid shirt and khaki pants and asks, “So, what are we dealing with here? Gun runners? Drug dealers?”
The gentleman answers quite seriously, “It’s two women who were counterfeiting coupons.”
The puzzled officer pauses awkwardly before responding. “This feels like a lot. You don’t think we’re coming in a little hot here, boss?”
The comedic genius of scenes like this stem from the way they cleverly contrast and caricature two very different perspectives on coupon fraud.
- On the one hand, there is a tendency, especially from those outside the coupon industry, to trivialize coupon fraud. After all, who does it really hurt if somebody games the system to get an unearned 25-cent discount on a roll of paper towels?
- On the other hand, there is an understandable tendency among some to sensationalize fraud. After all, those little discounts really do add up to large sums of money that can materially impact manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
A more serious approach to coupon fraud — unlike the caricatures presented in the movie — has to move beyond these extremes.
Yes, coupon fraud is a problem, and it needs to be taken seriously. Its persistence and sophistication should not be dismissed with hyperbolic claims about being able to quickly eliminate fraud altogether.
But, taking fraud seriously is not the same as sensationalizing it. The reality is that our industry continues to advance the analytics, technology and controls that are being deployed to counter fraud. And, those advances are making a significant and measurable impact. By leveraging these tools, trading partners have an opportunity to keep fraud in check while continuing to benefit from the unique advantages coupons provide for inspiring consumer action.
So, how exactly do we get to a more serious and well balanced approach to coupon fraud?
- Trading partners need to stay vigilant in their efforts to counter fraud. In fact, now may be a good time to get extra vigilant about watching for anomalies in your company’s coupon redemption. And, it may be a good time to review the tools you’re already using to fight fraud while exploring what additional tools may be available to enhance those efforts.
- At the same time, make sure you’re not contributing to unnecessary panic. Educate other stakeholders throughout your company about everything you’re already doing to keep fraud in check. Make sure they understand that fraud is not unique to couponing; it rears its ugly head in all sorts of advertising and promotions. And, make sure everyone understands the many benefits that your company gets from couponing.
“Queenpins” appears to be a hilarious take on a really serious subject. And, while it makes perfect sense that a comedy would deal in caricatures, those of us who are in the business of countering coupon fraud in real life understand that farcical action just isn’t enough to fight such a serious problem. The irony is that this comedy, in presenting two very extreme and opposite views, actually hints at what a truly serious approach looks like.
For more details on what that approach looks like, check out our earlier blog: A Smart Strategy for Countering Coupon Fraud.
Laura Czekala is the vice president of product management for NCH, a Vericast business. Laura positions NCH’s retailer and manufacturer clients to benefit from robust analytics, actionable insights, and advanced risk management by consistently innovating the technology, data collection, and information platforms that underpin the company’s coupon audit, settlement, and analysis services. With more than 30 years of experience, she is a respected industry expert, contributing to initiatives by the Association of Coupon Professionals (ACP), Joint Industry Coupon Committee (JICC), and the Coupon Information Corporation (CIC).