It’s Official: Facebook to Start Charging Users


Now that I have your attention, the above statement is false.

Following yet another change at Facebook, a new version of an old hoax is spreading throughout the Internet warning users that the company will soon start charging for their service.

Starting early last week, many of my Facebook friends and fans sent private messages and texts seeking advice on whether they should join the new subscription service or move their friends to Google +

So widespread was the rumor that the subject was topic of numerous conversations during Presidency 5 and CPAC in Orlando last week.  Many politicians and political strategists were openly wondering whether they would now have to pay for someone to “Like” them.

In fact, several of my colleagues openly questioned this “new policy” while watching the Fox Presidential Debate and munching on Google candy in the media center of the Orange County Convention Center.

The rumor – which is spreading as a chain letter on Facebook – warns users that the world’s largest social network will soon start charging as a result of upcoming profile changes.  Notwithstanding the Facebook disclaimer that “It’s free and always will be,” hundreds of thousands have fallen for this hoax.

The posts have been reported in numerous languages and in numerous countries:

“IT IS OFFICIAL.  IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS.  FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING. DUE TO THE PROFILE CHANGES.  IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU.  PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON,  IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY.”

Another post offering various levels of Facebook membership:

“FACEBOOK JUST RELEASED THEIR PRICE GRID FOR MEMBERSHIP. $9.99 PER MONTH FOR GOLD MEMBER SERVICES, $6.99 PER MONTH FOR SILVER MEMBER SERVICES $3.99 PER MONTH FOR BRONZE MEMBER SERVICES, FREE IF YOU COPY AND PASTE THIS MESSAGE BEFORE MIDNIGHT TONIGHT. WHEN YOU SIGN ON TOMORROW MORNING YOU WILL BE PROMPTED FOR PAYMENT INFO…IT IS OFFICIAL IT WAS EVEN ON THE NEWS. FACEBOOK WILL START CHARGING DUE TO THE NEW PROFILE CHANGES. IF YOU COPY THIS ON YOUR WALL YOUR ICON WILL TURN BLUE AND FACEBOOK WILL BE FREE FOR YOU. PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON IF NOT YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DELETED IF YOU DO NOT PAY.”

Mashable.Com has reported that the widespread rumor is just that, a rumor.  Despite the recent changes, Facebook continues to maintain on its homepage, “It’s free and always will be.”

After all, Facebook is expected to generate over $4 billion in advertising revenue in 2011.  They would not be able to do this as a paid subscription service.  Users would abandon them in droves in search of free social networks like Google +

Among the changes revealed last Thursday at the F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg discussed several new features covering everything from food to music.  One of the new features will provide a complete history of a Facebook users life on their profile page called “Timeline.”

“Timeline” will change a users profile page and will also display a large cover photo dominating it.  Facebook hopes this new service will better express who you are to others.

Even more interesting, “Timeline” will also allow Facebook users to check those who have defriended them.  This service has never before been available.

As a general rule of caution, Facebook users should not believe everything they read on their friends profile wall.  Although your friends may mean well, blindly copying and pasting false warnings and chain letters only allow rumors such as Facebook charging for its service to continue and thrive.

In dispelling other rumors: No, the Google candy available in the media room of the Fox Presidential Debate on Thursday did not contain transmitting devices. Therefore, you will not start glowing in the dark making you more searchable on Google search engines.

This is true – I was there and thoroughly enjoyed the candy bar provided by Google.

This Week on The Credit Report with Bill Lewis


Interesting guests and timely topics will be on the air this week on AM 1470 WWNN and The Credit Report with Bill Lewis.

Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney David Singer will appear and discuss Tuesday’s “Up-the-River” Cruise on behalf of Jail and Bail as well as the Broward unit of the American Cancer Society.

Broward Republican Party Executive Director Rico Petrocelli will discuss Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell and her successful book signing last Thursday on behalf of the party at the Coral Ridge Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale.  O’Donnell appeared to discuss her new book, “Troublemaker: Let’s Do What It Takes to Make America Great Again.”

Florida’s 34th Senator and current U.S. Senate candidate George LeMieux will appear and discuss his candidacy in the Republican race to replace Democratic Senator Bill Nelson.

Foreclosure defense attorney Carlos Reyes will discuss the latest developments and controversies surrounding the foreclosure crisis in Florida.

Davie Mayoral candidate Mike Crowley will appear and discuss his candidacy for mayor and his plan to create jobs by attracting high-technology business to Davie.

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney John Contini will discuss the importance of the sealing or expungement of criminal history records when seeking employment in a tough economy.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti will appear and discuss Hurricane Preparedness and other initiatives of the largest fully accredited law enforcement agency in America.

Immediately following the Steve Kane Show on AM 1470 WWNN, The Credit Report with Bill Lewis is a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.  Bill can be heard weekday’s at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN in south Florida or by streaming audio at www.wwnnradio.com.  Phone lines are open at (888) 565-1470.

The Evolving Nation of Facebook


With over 600 million members and hundreds joining every hour, if Facebook were a nation, they would be the world’s third largest behind only China and India.  At seven years old, Facebook continues to develop an existence within society.

With that said, “change” is once again occurring at the social media utility as Facebook has released a cleaver and convenient way for users to convert non-personal profiles into business pages all without losing the social presence previously established.  A key difference between the two features is the fact that users can “like” a page while they must “friend” a profile.  Facebook believes that a page is a much better solution for businesses and public figures.

Over the last couple of years, numerous profile and privacy policy changes have occurred at the world’s largest social media network.  Most of these changes have been in relation to personal profiles and not those of businesses. Facebook’s main target with this move appears to be businesses and public figures that have previously setup a profile instead of a page.  In addition to a somewhat different feature set, personal profiles also have a 5,000 friend limit.

A Facebook personal profile created for a business, band, brand, organization, cause or product is a direct violation of the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and could result in the removal of all content and the connections the user has built over time.

Facebook business accounts offer page administrators special features that allow them to better connect with fans and customers while allowing them to manage their social ads and presence on the Internet.  Facebook blocks business accounts from viewing fans’ personal profiles and content and restricts businesses from “friending” personal accounts.

In an effort to “change” its position on such personal profiles while no longer simply removing those that violate its stated policy, Facebook has developed a new business type page.  This change is a welcome move for those who want to move their friends to a page and setup a new profile to maintain a more personal relationship with people they actually know.  It can also help those who should have exercised better judgment when they accepted certain people into their Facebook network.

When a “personal” user converts an account, all friends will migrate with the profile and will become “fans” on the new business page. The profile picture will also migrate, but all other content (photo albums, wall posts, notes, links, etc.) will be lost.  Inside Facebook recommends using the “Download Your Information” tool before converting an account to retain its contents for use elsewhere.

If the personal profile has more than 100 friends, a new page name will have to be chosen.  All login, email and password data will remain the same on the new business page.

Facebook has created a profile migration portal to help users make the change. Users can assign a page to the category (local or place; company, organization or institution; brand or product; artist, band or public figure; entertainment; cause or community) that will best define the page’s content and audience.

Facebook also has a Help Page to guide users through the process of converting personal accounts to business accounts.  It is important to note that profile migrating is irreversible, so be sure you really want to make the switch before completing all the steps.

To learn more about Facebook business accounts and profile migration, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php?migrate.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

Facebook Makes Sweeping Changes


With over 600 million members and hundreds joining every hour, if Facebook were a nation, they would be the world’s third largest behind only China and India.  At seven years old, Facebook continues to develop an existence within society.

With that said, “change” is once again occurring at the social media utility as Facebook has released a cleaver and convenient way for users to convert non-personal profiles into business pages all without losing the social presence previously established.  A key difference between the two features is the fact that users can “like” a page while they must “friend” a profile.  Facebook believes that a page is a much better solution for businesses and public figures.

Over the last couple of years, numerous profile and privacy policy changes have occurred at the world’s largest social media network.  Most of these changes have been in relation to personal profiles and not those of businesses. Facebook’s main target with this move appears to be businesses and public figures that have previously setup a profile instead of a page.  In addition to a somewhat different feature set, personal profiles also have a 5,000 friend limit.

A Facebook personal profile created for a business, band, brand, organization, cause or product is a direct violation of the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and could result in the removal of all content and the connections the user has built over time.

Facebook business accounts offer page administrators special features that allow them to better connect with fans and customers while allowing them to manage their social ads and presence on the Internet.  Facebook blocks business accounts from viewing fans’ personal profiles and content and restricts businesses from “friending” personal accounts.

In an effort to “change” its position on such personal profiles while no longer simply removing those that violate its stated policy, Facebook has developed a new business type page.  This change is a welcome move for those who want to move their friends to a page and setup a new profile to maintain a more personal relationship with people they actually know.  It can also help those who should have exercised better judgment when they accepted certain people into their Facebook network.

When a “personal” user converts an account, all friends will migrate with the profile and will become “fans” on the new business page. The profile picture will also migrate, but all other content (photo albums, wall posts, notes, links, etc.) will be lost.  Inside Facebook recommends using the “Download Your Information” tool before converting an account to retain its contents for use elsewhere.

If the personal profile has more than 100 friends, a new page name will have to be chosen.  All login, email and password data will remain the same on the new business page.

Facebook has created a profile migration portal to help users make the change. Users can assign a page to the category (local or place; company, organization or institution; brand or product; artist, band or public figure; entertainment; cause or community) that will best define the page’s content and audience.

Facebook also has a Help Page to guide users through the process of converting personal accounts to business accounts.  It is important to note that profile migrating is irreversible, so be sure you really want to make the switch before completing all the steps.

To learn more about Facebook business accounts and profile migration, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php?migrate.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

“Change” Once Again at Facebook


“Change” is once again occurring at social media utility Facebook as they are set to release a cleaver and convenient method for users to convert non-personal profiles into business pages without losing the social presence they have previously established.

Over the last couple of years, numerous profile and privacy policy changes have occurred at the world’s largest social media network.  Most of these changes have been in relation to personal profiles and not those of businesses.

Facebook business accounts offer page administrators special features that allow them to better connect with fans and customers while allowing them to manage their social ads and presence on the Internet.  Facebook blocks business accounts from viewing fans’ personal profiles and content and restricts businesses from “friending” personal accounts.

A Facebook personal profile created for a business, band, brand, organization, cause or product is a direct violation of the social network’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, and could result in the removal of all content and the connections the user has built over time.

In an effort to “change” its position on such personal profiles while no longer simply removing those that violate its stated policy, Facebook has developed a new business type page. 

When a “personal” user converts an account, all friends will migrate with the profile and will become “fans” on the new business page. The profile picture will also migrate, but all other content (photo albums, wall posts, notes, links, etc.) will be lost. Inside Facebook recommends using the Download Your Information tool before converting an account to retain its contents for use elsewhere.

If the profile has more than 100 friends, a new page name will have to be chosen.  All login, email and password data will remain the same on the new business page.

Facebook has created a profile migration portal to help users make the change. A user can assign the new Page to a category (local or place; company, organization or institution; brand or product; artist, band or public figure; entertainment; cause or community) that will best define the page’s content and audience.

Facebook also has a Help Page to guide users through the process of converting personal accounts to business accounts. 

A word to the wise – review any and all changes prior to finalizing the switch from a personal to business account as once completed, you cannot convert back.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.  To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

Managing Your Online Reputation


What is your good name and reputation in the community worth? Are you being represented correctly on the Internet through the Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL or Bing search engines?

Not sure how you rate on the search engines? Go ahead and check the first 20 listings on Google. Depending on how common a name you have, the results are likely to produce links to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Naymz, Twitter, MySpace or other social networking accounts. You may also find some embarrassing details or skeletons from your past or something totally inaccurate.

More and more individuals are searching cyberspace and the online reputations of those seeking employment, a romantic interest, or customers for their business. While the Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL and Bing search engines have become the de facto public record of modern time, reputation management consultants believe you have a right to control how your name is presented online.

Reputation management is not a unique concept since everyone from small business to Fortune 500 companies relies upon their reputation to protect and enhance their livelihood. Reputations can sway public opinion, have a positive or negative impact on a career or employment opportunity, a romantic interest, and wreck havoc upon businesses, whether newly established or decades old.

Online reputation management is a cross between forensic analysis, search engine optimization, and legal maneuvering. For those seeking to monitor, manipulate or correct their online reputation, a number of free or inexpensive tools are available:

Google Alerts sends keyword search results via e-mail for specific mentions in news, websites and blogs, videos, as well as group categories.

Google Blog Search is a Google beta search engine for blogs.

Technorati is the leading blog search engine indexing millions of blog posts in real time while also tracking their authority, influence and popularity.

BoardTracker monitors discussion boards and forum threads within specific categories and sends keyword search results via e-mail.

Naymz is a social network focused on reputation, personal branding, and identity verification. The basic version is free.

Yasni is a search engine dedicated to finding people on the web through publicly available information, including images, videos, social networking profiles and posts. The basic version is free.

BackType Blog Comments Monitoring indexes conversations from blogs, social networks and other social media. It also has an alert function that e-mails updates whenever a search term is mentioned in a comment.

BackTweets is a service by BackType that provides an engine to search for specific links mentioned on Twitter.

BlogPulse is a blog search engine with several complementary tools such as Trend Search and Conversion Tracker that analyzes data it collects.

Monitter is a real-time Twitter monitor for up to three keywords at a time.

TweetBeep provides hourly Twitter alerts via e-mail on specific keywords, people and links.

Twitter Search searches all Twitter activity for keywords, links or user activity in real time.

WhoLinksToMe is a link search tool tracking backlinks making them sortable by anchor text, origination, and target URL. Links can be imported from Google Webmaster Tools for enhanced analysis.

Having a plan in place to address negative feedback is important when dealing with online reputation management. By monitoring public perception you will be able to evaluate and act should your online reputation come under fire.

At the end of the day, all you have in the community is your good name and reputation. Do what you can to protect it.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series at the Highlands Today, visit http://www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, on AM 1470 WWNN.

The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, as reported in the Highlands Today, a Media General Group publication: http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2011/jan/30/managing-your-online-reputation/

Cash for Clunkers – Stimulus Money for Air Conditioning Units


First there was Cash for Clunker cars. Then there was Cash for Clunker appliances. With little fanfare and a lot of hassle, Cash for Clunker air conditioning units starts Monday.

Following many months of speculation, state officials announced last week that Floridians can earn a $1,500 flat-fee rebate for replacing their central air conditioning systems with a more energy efficient unit.

Funded by the Governor’s Energy Office, the program will run through the end of 2010 or until the $15 million allocated runs out. The money, which comes through federal stimulus funding approved last year, will cover only 10,000 rebates. By comparison, the cash for clunker appliances program was funded for approximately 70,000 rebates.

Obtaining a rebate will be more complicated than it was for the new refrigerators, dishwashers and other items that tens of thousands of Floridians bought during the wildly popular cash for clunker appliance program earlier this year. The Energy Star air conditioning program is tied to duct system inspections. Homeowners must provide proof their ducts leak 15 percent or less after their new units are installed, and pay for tests and required repairs.

State officials warn that approximately 12 percent of homes may not qualify, as their ducts cannot be accessed for repairs. “It is strongly recommended that the homeowner discuss any concerns with a Florida-licensed installer before pursuing this rebate,” the rebate website explained. After expenses, the rebate should put at least $800 in the pockets of most Floridians.

A few details on the Cash for Clunker air conditioning units program:

1,)  Am I eligible for the program? Rebate applicants must be a Florida household resident. Commercial properties are not eligible.

2.)  Will I qualify if I recently installed a new air conditioning unit? No, there are no retroactive rebates. Contracts must be signed on or after Aug. 30, 2010.

3.)  What air conditioning units qualify? The program covers central air conditioners, air source heat pumps or geothermal heat pumps. Units must have SEER energy ratings equal to or greater than 16 for central split systems, 14 for central package systems, 15 for air source split systems and 14 for air source package systems. The systems must be new and cannot be installed in homes under construction.

4.)  What is a duct inspection? Air conditioning duct work must be inspected and certified as leaking no greater than 15 percent after the new system is installed. Said inspection must be performed by a Florida Class 1 rater, a Florida licensed mechanical contractor, or a recognized test and balance agent.

5.)  What if my duct work is inefficient or cannot be repaired? Florida residents should have a contractor inspect the general condition of their duct work before signing a contract in an effort to determine rebate eligibility and financial feasibility of replacement.

6.)  How do I apply for a rebate? Florida residents must submit an application form along with (1) an installation receipt; (2) a copy of the mechanical building permit required by your city or county; (3) a copy of the final duct leakage report; and, (4) the first page of the “manual j program” that shows how the new unit was sized to fit your home. Rebates forms are available online, must be postmarked by Dec. 31, 2010 and will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

7.)  May I combine the state program with other rebates? Yes. The energy rating requirement for the Florida program is equal to the federal energy tax credit at 30 percent of the system price and a maximum of $1,500 each. Consumers can file for both, in addition to any power company rebate and/or manufacturer’s rebate. Combine them all and potentially save in excess of 50 percent on a new central air conditioning system while at the same time, reducing your energy bill.

8.)  How will my rebate arrive? As with the cash for clunker appliance program, rebates will be given as an American Express prepaid card. The card can be exchanged for a check or an electronic funds transfer.

For more details on the Cash for Clunker Air Conditioning Units program, Florida residents may visit http://www.rebates.com/floridahvac

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune.  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/aug/29/cash-clunkers—stimulus-money-air-conditioning-un/

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

Florida AG Investigates Five for-Profit Colleges


Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced last week that his office has begun investigating allegations of unfair and deceptive practices at five for-profit higher education institutions.The civil investigation focuses on consumer complaints made against the University of Phoenix, the MedVance Institute, Argosy University, Kaplan Inc., and Everest University. Allegations have been made that the colleges misrepresented financial aid, accreditation, graduation rates and future job placement in the recruitment and enrollment of new students.

While some of the schools advised they have yet to be contacted about the investigation, they pledged cooperation. The University of Phoenix on Friday reported receiving a subpoena from the Attorney General for records dating back to Jan. 1, 2006.

Several dozen students throughout Florida have filed complaints with the attorney general’s office stating they were saddled with exorbitant debt, being harassed by debt collection agencies, and were not able to secure employment.

“The investigation is currently in its infancy and it would not be appropriate for us to speculate.” said Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Hearings from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, as well as an undercover investigation conducted by the Government Accountability Office, found misleading and questionable practices at 15 schools. These schools include Kaplan College in Pembroke Pines, which has suspended enrollment of new students, and the MedVance Institute in Miami.

Federal officials found incidents at both schools where admissions officers told an undercover applicant not to worry about paying back student loans. A Kaplan College admissions officer also falsely told the applicant the school had the same accreditation as Harvard and the University of Florida.

Officials from Kaplan College indicated they would cooperate with the investigation, while officials from the MedVance Institute, owned by Baltimore-based Education Affiliates, could not be reached for comment.

“We fully support efforts to root out fraud and deception across all of higher education,” said Jacquelyn P. Muller, spokeswoman for Education Management Corp., which owns Argosy.

The for-profit higher education industry has been concerned not only by the investigations, but also by proposed federal regulations that would strip them of much needed federal aid should their students fail to find jobs following graduation or are unable to repay their student loans.

Enrollment at for-profit colleges has grown from about 365,000 to almost 1.8 million in the past few years, federal officials said. In 2009, students at for-profit colleges received more than $4 billion in Pell Grants and more than $20 billion in federal loans provided by the U.S. Department of Education. For-profit schools see community colleges as their main competitors for students as well as federal money.

But the negative publicity has resulted in enrollment declines this year and drops in share prices at some of the publicly traded companies. So much so that Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, which is not part of the investigation, has filed a lawsuit against two administrators at Florida State College in Jacksonville, alleging officials there led a smear campaign.

Industry advocates say it’s not fair to vilify an entire industry because of complaints about individual employees.

“The attorney general should not take allegations and assume they represent an industry-wide pattern,” said Lanny Davis, an attorney for The Coalition for Educational Success, an organization comprised of 72 for-profit schools serving 200 thousand students in 37 states, “I have every confidence that General McCollum’s office will conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged misconduct of a few rotten apples.”

If you would like to learn more about this investigation or file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, visit their website at www.myfloridalegal.com or call (866) 9-NO-SCAM (866-966-7226).

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group) – http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/oct/24/LCNEWSO1/  To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, please visit http://www.williamlewis.us

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Coupon Shopping 201 – Learn the Terms and Policies


For the 13th consecutive year, National Coupon Month serves as a reminder that clipping coupons is an easy and fun way to save at the grocery store. Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart or Winn-Dixie, Americans have become more frugal when shopping for groceries in these tough economic times.

Both coupon distribution and use have increased substantially this past last year. A recent study shows that 89 percent of Americans have regularly used coupons when shopping for groceries and general household goods. With over 164 billion coupons offered by retailers in the first half of 2010, this growth builds on the record-breaking trends of 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace.

While retailers continue to allocate the largest share (85 percent) of coupons to the free-standing insert cooperative coupon booklet, Internet distribution continues to grow faster than all other media distribution. Among the more popular Internet coupon sites are www.smartsource.com, www.coupons.com, www.valpak.com and www.redplum.com

Many of my friends, co-workers, and social networking acquaintances continue to wonder how I save between 50 and 60 percent on my weekly shopping trip to Publix. Although I have started accumulating printable coupons from the Internet, the Sunday editions of the Miami Herald and  Sun sentinel remain my favorite. Accumulating coupons from multiple papers, including the Spanish languSge edition as the coupons are generally different, I have plenty for use when an item goes on sale or becomes a “BOGO.”

Understanding the following grocery store terms and policies will assist you in obtaining the most “bang for the buck” when using coupons:

BOGO’s or Buy One – Get One Free: Grocery stores offer one free item with the purchase of another at full price. Considered a “store rebate,” shoppers are welcome to match with a manufacturer’s coupon on each item as the incentives are split between the store and the manufacturer. Coupling the multiple coupon method with the BOGO will drastically reduce the sale price and may even result in free food.

Double Coupons: Grocery stores will “double” the face value of the coupon. This means you will receive a discount equal to twice the face value of the coupon. Considered a “store rebate,” they are not reimbursed beyond the face value. Although some stores limit the number of coupons they will double at one time, the benefit is an additional incentive for purchasing at that particular store.

No Doubles: Grocery stores will only accept these specially marked “Do Not Double” coupons at face value. No additional rebate or price reduction is allowed.

Coupon Stacking: Most grocery stores will allow you to “stack” their store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon for additional savings. These store coupons can arrive by email, snail mail, store ads, flyers or monthly magazines. In general, these store coupons should be viewed as a “sale price,” with an additional discount for your manufacturer’s coupon.

Store Loyalty Cards: Some grocery stores offer one-step rebates, where all store and manufacturer coupons and are tracked through a loyalty card with a single check issued back to you as a rebate on a monthly or quarterly basis. You can apply coupons to items as you purchase them, essentially “stacking” the deals. The rebate check is wonderful, but only if you have already purchased the item at a lower price. If it is not at a discount before the rebate and coupon, it might not be a “real deal”.

Competitor Coupons: Certain grocery stores, such as Publix, will accept traditional competitor’s coupons, while others, such as Albertsons, Sweetbay, Walmart and Winn-Dixie do not. Although no longer common and not to be expected, it does not hurt to inquire as to store specific policies while shopping at your favorite grocery store.

Expired Coupons: Few grocery stores, if any, accept coupons that have already expired. While rules vary tremendously, it does not hurt to inquire as to store specific policies while shopping at your favorite grocery store. You may also give expired coupons new life by sending them to military bases overseas as they are valid for an additional six months at most commissaries.

To learn more about National Coupon Month, visit http://www.nationalcouponmonth.com.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group).  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/sep/12/lc-coupon-shopping-201—learn-the-terms-and-polic/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.

Coupon Shopping 101 – September is National Coupon Month


In this tough economic time, Americans have become more frugal when shopping for groceries. While we continue to be concerned about high unemployment, the foreclosure crisis, the rising cost of food and living in general, consumers are seeking more bang for the buck. As such, consumers are clipping more coupons and saving more dollars.

September is National Coupon Month and a reminder that clipping coupons is an easy and fun way to save. Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart or Winn-Dixie, each week this month I will provide advice on how to save 40 percent or more on your grocery bill.

Clipping coupons and seeking deals remains commonplace as consumers brace for National Coupon Month for a 13th consecutive year. Both coupon distribution and use have increased significantly over the past 12 months. A recent study shows that 89 percent of Americans have regularly used coupons when shopping for groceries, household and healthcare items.

The coupon itself dates back to a handwritten one for Coca-Cola in 1886. While retailers continue to allocate the largest share (85 percent) of coupons to the free-standing insert cooperative coupon booklet, Internet distribution continues to grow at a pace faster than all other media distribution. Among the most popular online coupon services is www.coupons.com and www.redplum.com.

According to an NCH Coupon Facts Report, shoppers saved nearly $2 billion with coupons in the first-half of 2010 as redemption increased 7.9 percent during that period. “While the coupon has long been a mainstay of marketing campaigns to build brand loyalty and attract new buyers, it has evolved over the course of time to reach fragmented consumers in innovative and creative ways,” said Charlie Brown, NCH vice president of marketing and member of Promotion Marketing Association’s board. “It is a core tool of today’s and tomorrow’s consumer who will continue to demand savings and value.”

Approximately 164 billion consumer packaged goods (CPG) coupons were offered by retailers in the first half of 2010, an increase of 11.4 percent from a year ago. This growth builds on record-breaking trends in 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace. In 2009, coupon redemption increased 23 percent – the second highest year-over-year rate ever recorded. The average consumer reported a reduction of eight percent on their grocery bill with a $3.5 billion savings nationwide.

There was a different mindset when the PMA launched its first National Coupon Month campaign in 1998. Aimed at heightening awareness and increasing coupon usage, the majority of coupons were in print. Today they are available from a variety of sources – in print from free-standing inserts, from the retailer, directly attached to the product, on the Internet via printable coupons or coupon codes, as well as mobile devices for point-of-sale scanning.

Not only have the delivery methods exploded, but the categories have expanded greatly from grocery stores to restaurants, clothing, home improvement and everything in between. In fact, I now find myself bargaining on everything from food and clothes, to household goods and vehicles, to my children’s private school tuition.

“Today’s shopper doesn’t leave home without coupons and actively seeks out savings,” said Bonnie Carlson, PMA president. “While the state of the economy has spurred this new shopping behavior, marketers are taking note and answering the consumers’ call by putting more coupons in the marketplace. Today’s informed and strategic shopper is here to stay as lessons learned during the recession have transformed the way they spend and save their hard-earned money.”

In celebration of the 13th annual savings campaign, RedPlum.com, is offering high-value deals each day throughout September. As one of the fastest growing online coupon and value lifestyle Internet sites, they are offering a “Dash for Deals” campaign whereby an exclusive page featuring printable coupons, coupon codes, samples or free offerings can be found at www.redplum.com/dash. As coupon quantities are limited, visitors must “dash” to download that day’s offer. Advertisers range from restaurants to retailers, grocery, health and beauty care, drugstores and much more.

To learn more about the Promotion Marketing Association and National Coupon Month, please visit http://www.nationalcouponmonth.com.

Source:  The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group).  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/sep/05/coupon-shopping-101/columns-welewisjr/

William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues