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Why do my coupons expire?

Engaging in a discussion about expired coupons with an avid couponer is like opening a can of worms. Many shoppers believe they should be entitled to use coupons past the printed expiration dates. Before we delve into that issue, there's an important question to answer: Why do coupons expire at all?

Many years ago, coupons often had extremely long expiration dates - some even carried the proclamation, "No Expiration Date." But, today's coupons, on average, expire in 3-6 months. As with anything, there are exceptions. You may find a short-dated coupon that expires in six weeks or a long-dated one that's good for nine months or more.

Why do coupons expire? Companies want us to use coupons to buy their products within a specified time frame. The coupon, whether found in the newspaper or on the Internet, is typically part of a promotional campaign that includes other forms of advertising, such as in-store signage and promotion, newspaper and magazine ads and TV spots all scheduled around the same time. This is especially true for new products. With a new product, the goal is often to get people to try the product quickly after the launch, so the company can determine if the product is likely to be successful.

For example, a detergent manufacturer recently released a new product for pre-treating laundry stains. There are similar products on the market, so the manufacturer needs to make an impression and entice shoppers to switch brands. I especially enjoy watching new products hit the market because marketers typically will offer much higher-value coupons when a product is first introduced than they will when the product has been on the market for awhile.

Convincing a shopper to try a new brand when there are already similar, proven products on store shelves is a big challenge. A high-value coupon is often the incentive a shopper needs to take a chance on a new product rather buying a tried-and-true brand. The manufacturer often will run multiple advertising campaigns to try to get shoppers to buy an item during issued a coupon promotion.

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