Now, if we are talking about paper manufacturer coupons for products like canned corn and pasta, you’re probably out of luck. The only way that I know of that you can use those coupons if they are expired is to donate them to military families (see Swap2Save Coupon Club for details on doing that). If you have a coupon for a restaurant or store, though, you probably shouldn’t toss the coupon just because it has expired.
- Call first and ask. It is always a good idea to check with the manager to see if they honor expired coupons or not. Sometimes they even honor expired competitor coupons, but it is usually at the discretion of each store or location.
- Bed, Bath & Beyond has one of the better coupon policies that I’ve found. Not only do they honor expired coupons, but they also honor coupons brought in later with the receipt. I was once making a purchase only to learn that I had failed to put the coupon in my purse. The clerk told me that all I needed to do was bring in my receipt and the coupon later, and they would honor it. How cool is that!
- Red Lobster recently told me that they honor coupons for the calendar year. If you have one for 2011, you’re probably safe to use it.
- Sometimes sister stores will honor each other’s coupons. In the example above, Red Lobster is owned by the same company that runs Olive Garden. It wouldn’t hurt to ask if they honor each other’s coupons and have a similar policy about expired coupons.
- Don’t be afraid to hear no. A while back I had a coupon for a local restaurant that had expired the previous day. We were deciding between that restaurant and another one that we had a coupon for but it wasn’t quite as good of a deal. I phoned and the manager told me that he would not honor the coupon. We decided to go to the other restaurant. I wasn’t snarky about it. I was polite and straightforward. He made a decision to not honor the coupon and I respected it. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what an interesting business decision he had made. Wouldn’t it have been better to have our paying business? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and all that?
- Don’t abuse the policies. As with all couponing, I encourage you to practice under good ethical guidelines. Treat people how you would want to be treated. As a business person, I would want a customer to ask me questions because it demonstrates interest. A happy customer is one that tells others about your business and draws other people in. Don’t be rude or entitled when asking a question about a coupon policy. Also don’t mess it up for the rest of us. In the example above about Bed, Bath & Beyond, I had left the coupon at home as a genuine mistake. If I did that every single time I shopped there, to me that would be abusing the system. Even though I’m technically following the rules, I’m not treating others how I would want to be treated. I’m taking it a step to far. See the difference?