Once popular pastime of extreme couponing has become increasingly rare

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OLATHE, Kan. -- It's just a typical day at the grocery store for Chelsea Ruiz, except this time she's recording it on her phone. Her cell phone video shows her getting into an argument with the cashier who Ruiz has accused of preventing her from price matching the items she wants to buy with the same items from another store, so that she can pay the lowest amount.

Ruiz said arguments like this are typical every time she shops at this particular Walmart in Olathe because she and her friend and fellow shopper, Amy Fleming, are extreme couponers, a once common hobby that's become increasingly rare.

"I try and be thoughtful, but it's gotten to the point where a hobby is something we don't even want to do because we get mistreated so badly," Ruiz told FOX 4 Problem Solvers.

Walmart, according to one shopping expert, is the last outpost for extreme couponers, so it's ironic that's the store Ruiz and Fleming accuse of pestering them.

"They will follow you around the store," Ruiz said.

That's something Walmart denies, but watching her shop would be fascinating. Her Olathe home is full of dozens of bottles of shampoo, diapers, soap and other items all in large multiple amounts and all purchased for free with coupons.

" I have enough dishwasher soap to last me another 10 years," said a smiling Ruiz.

On their latest trip to Walmart, the women bought 115 toothbrushes without forking over a dime by matching prices and using coupons. But it's purchases like all those toothbrushes that cause former extreme couponer Kelly Snyder to shake her head.

"I would question why anyone would have to have 100 toothbrushes unless you are waiting for Armageddon to show up," said Snyder, who understands why stores become irritated by extreme coupons who she said can clear out shelves on good buys.

"(Stores) are not in the business to give you items for free that you can turn around and sell at your garage sale," Snyder said.

Ruiz and Fleming insisted they don't sell anything. They give away what they can't use to other family members or homeless shelters. Plus, they insisted they are always mindful of other shoppers and never take the last item on a shelf.

Experts say extreme couponers have become more and more rare since stores started instituting strict coupon policies. Those policies, which most retail outlets have listed on their websites, give them control over which and how many coupons to accept. Plus, inside the store, now there are often limits posted on the number of items any one shopper can purchase.

Price Chopper spokeswoman Casie Broker insisted that stores still welcome extreme couponers, pointing out that stores make money off of manufacturers' coupons. However, she acknowledged that when extreme couponing was at its height several years ago, stores did feel the pain.

"If you came in and had 15 coupons for an item that we only had 10 or 12 of on the shelf, then we had nothing left for other customers," Broker said.

Plus she said there started to be a lot of coupon fraud, particularly with online coupons. A Walmart spokeswoman in a phone interview told FOX 4 that the company had to be vigilant to protect customers from shoppers who are illegally trying to game the system. That's something Ruiz and Fleming said they never do. They said they follow a strict extreme couponer code of honor and want stores to treat them with the same respect that they show the stores.

As Ruiz puts it, "I don't see it as crime or something I do bad. It excites me. It's fun."

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