Should someone pay when coupons don't arrive?


Dear John,

I have been receiving an ad circular each week for many years. It is usually delivered to my porch. For the past several weeks, I have not gotten it. When I spoke to the publisher of the circular, they said that the problem should be fixed but did not seem to think there was a problem. I am a senior citizen, and I depend on coupons to help me save money on food. This is important because of my fixed income. Can I sue the publisher for the extra money I have had to pay for groceries?


Bothered Barbara

Dear Barbara,

I understand the importance of coupons in our society. There are TV shows that demonstrate the power they have in fighting the rising cost of feeding a family. I would not want to go a week without receiving my circular.

The contract that is being breached is not between you and the publisher. Receipt of the circular is covered under contract law. The publisher receives money from the advertisers in exchange for the promise of distributing the circular to a particular market. So in some ways, your complaint is similar to complaining that you are not receiving the proper amount of junk mail.

Fortunately, many of the companies who advertise and send coupons in the circular also publish their weekly promotions on their websites. This means that you can stop relying on the circular for the coupons.

If you perceive that the circular’s publisher does not take your concerns seriously, it might be a good idea to take your concern to the companies who advertise in the publication. If they are paying for distribution, they might be interested in learning they are not getting what they are paying for. If they were to speak to the publisher, I am sure the company would be more responsive.

I would suggest that you speak to your neighbors. Perhaps, they are not receiving their circular either. If multiple customers are having the same problem, you are probably more likely to have your concerns addressed.

I am sure that the publisher would appreciate knowing that there is a problem with their distribution. It surprises me that your attempts to notify them have not resulted in resolving the situation. In my experience, the people I interact with at the weekly circular have been quite diligent in assisting me.

I hope you receive the issue of the circular that answers your question.



John Hartzell is a practicing Walla Walla attorney. No attorney-client relationship is established via this column, which is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Any information given is to illustrate basic legal concepts and does not state how any court would decide any matter. Have a question? Ask John at


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