Queenpins: The True Story of the Coupon Schemes

‘Queenpins’ follows the story of two best friends, Connie Kaminiski and JoJo Johnson, who undertake a massive couponing scheme in order to become debt-free. Starring Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell Baptiste, the 2021 comedy film enraptures viewers with a riveting storyline focusing on quick money and little hustle. When Connie files a complaint to a cereal company for sending a stale product, they send her a coupon as an apology. The incident inspires her to become richer with her best friend JoJo and scam companies. Directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, it follows a compelling tale of risk and riches.

The story takes a lucrative turn when Connie and JoJo decide to create a whole ring of coupon counterfeiting. While their seemingly altruistic intentions remain a major contributor to their plan, the truth remains that they undertake a massively illegal operation and even hire a tech genius, Tempe Tina, to ensure the police don’t follow their trail. For countless people across the country, couponing is as much a habit as it is a fascination. As such, viewers continue to wonder whether the narrative is rooted in reality.

The Story Behind Connie and JoJo’s Coupon Scheme

Yes, ‘Queenpins’ is loosely based on a true story. Directors and writers Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly were inspired when they read about a $40 million counterfeit coupon scam in Arizona. The story is loosely inspired by Robin Ramirez, Marilyn Johnson, and Amiko “Amy” Fountain, who were past their prime when they got involved in the operation. Ramirez, the ringleader and the youngest of the group, was 40 at the time of her arrest.

The head of the operations, Ramirez, began her scam as early as 2007 when she started sending coupons overseas to be replaced and counterfeited. These coupons would then be altered and offer deals like $50 of free dog food instead of the original $1 off Pringles. Like Connie and JoJo’s website ‘Savvy Super Saver’ in the movie, the three women followed a similar pattern.

Naturally, their scheme had them amassing so much wealth that they would fly in private airplanes, own sports cars, and even guns. The grandeur of their life had such an impact on people that their story was even featured in the CBS documentary series ‘Pink Collar Crimes’ in 2018.

With local detectives comparing the riches and opulence of the women’s living style to that of an average drug cartel, the three women are etched in history for pulling the biggest coupon scam. With as many as 93% of Americans using coupons for menial household items and basic requirements, the story rests upon a strong foundation of coupon culture.

The married filmmakers soon decided to put pen to paper and create characters that would indirectly emanate the story of the women who orchestrated a massive counterfeit scam coupon. In an interview with Collider, the writer-director duo iterated how departmental store JCPenney lost as much as $4 billion and almost teetered towards bankruptcy following their decision to cut couponing.

Naturally, when the writer-director duo sensed a solidified pattern to coupons and the economy, they ventured to Arizona to find the three women who orchestrated this scam. Not just this, the two even got on a call with a detective in Phoenix, Arizona, to understand the gravity of the matter. However, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly took a comedic turn in their oeuvre. They showcased how two women, ridden with debt and bills, didn’t just cheat the system but also made several mistakes while doing it.

From JoJo going on YouTube to publicly share the money-making scheme to Connie not knowing how to keep up with the tech genie’s plan, the story of the women evokes just as much a chuckle as it does profound horror. Naturally, the postal service gets involved, and chaos ensues. While the story does represent the lived realities of actual people, it is not clearly based on the lives of the three women who orchestrated the scam, giving the makers and creators the room to embellish facts.

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