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SUPER COUPONING: When does a coupon actually expire?

SUPER COUPONING: When does a coupon actually expire?


‘Dear Jill

I wonder if you could explain: when does a coupon expire? I recently tried to use a coupon on September 5 at a local pizza restaurant. The coupon noted the expiration date as ‘Expires 9/5/16’ and the store manager refused to honor it saying it expires today and the day prior was your final chance.

Now, my interpretation is that it expires that day so it is your last day to utilize it.

Words of wisdom? Thank you for sharing your couponing stories and views. Am very much intrigued by your advice.”

Scott M.

Manufacturer and store coupons are indeed good through the date printed on them. A coupon with a 9/5/16 expiration date is valid through the end of the day on September 5. The coupon’s bar code contains the expiration date, and it will automatically scan as valid through the date printed on it.

That said, coupons for independent retailers, restaurants and the like aren’t tied to the same bar code standards used for traditional coupons. I, too, would assume that the date on a restaurant coupon would be the “valid through” date, just as it is on a manufacturer coupon. However, if the pizza place that creates the coupon states it is no longer valid on the expiration date, there isn’t much you or I can do. The pizza place is the one creating the coupon, so it is up to them whether they’ll accept the coupon.

If it’s a pizza place that you frequent and with which you have a good relationship, you might suggest that they word their coupons “Valid through 9/4/16” to avoid confusion.

“Dear Jill,

I bought a box of crackers that had a coupon inside the box. The coupon expired in August, but the crackers do not expire until January! It has given me pause to think about the long shelf life of crackers now, but why would a company put a coupon inside the box knowing it would expire before the product would?”

Cora T.

While it’s hard to give specifics since you did not provide the brand of the product, I suspect this is a case of the “right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!” Consider that the departments involved in consumer promotions likely printed and provided the coupons for insertion into the cracker boxes through a certain date. I bought a box of crackers this week that doesn’t expire until September 2017. Assuming your crackers likely had a similar date that was around ten months out when they hit the store, the company may have assumed that all boxes containing those coupons would be sold through by August and no longer sitting on shelves.

I would recommend contacting the brand and explaining that you purchased an unexpired box of crackers with an expired coupon inside. It’s likely they will offer you a coupon for your troubles – this time, one that isn’t expired.

“Dear Jill,

Who invented the coupon? When? Where? I’m sure you know the answer.”

Tom S.

Believe it or not, coupons are close to 130 years old. The first coupon was invented in 1887 to promote a new beverage invented the previous year by John Pemberton. This beverage was advertised as being “Delicious! Refreshing! Exhilarating! Invigorating!” However, sales were sluggish until Mr. Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, started giving away tickets for free beverages.

A year later, Asa Candler bought the beverage company and expanded on the “free ticket” idea. (Have you guessed the beverage this story is about yet? If not, you’re about to find out!)

Candler’s coupons read. “This card entitles you to one glass of free Coca-Cola at the fountain of any dispenser of genuine Coca-Cola.”

So, who really invented the coupon? John Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, was the original coupon-maker. Asa Candler often gets historical credit, too, as he took Robinson’s original free-ticket concept for Coca-Cola and produced it on a grand scale.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, Email your own couponing victories and questions to


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