The more boldly they launch, the more humbly they fold.

Pushpins wasn’t the first app that promised to kill off the paper coupon. But judging by its promotional material at least, it was one of the brashest: “We need super smart people to help us put an end to the paper coupon… You hear that Mr. Scissors? You’re going down.”

Sorry, Pushpins – scissors and paper coupons are still around. And Pushpins isn’t.

Seven years after it was founded, and four years after it was acquired by Ebates, the would-be coupon-killer’s corporate owner has quietly pulled the plug on the app that promised you would never have to cut out coupons again. Neither the Android nor iOS versions of the app, nor Pushpins’ social media accounts, had been updated in several years – which is never a good sign. But the apps and Pushpins website remained functional until last week, when they were all taken down for good.

“Ebates is not currently focused on the grocery coupon space, which was Pushpins’ primary business, which is why the site and the apps are no longer functioning,” Ebates spokesperson Alessandra Nagy told Coupons in the News.

That’s a complete 180 from what Ebates said when it acquired Pushpins in 2013. “Expanding into grocery categories is a great way for us to expand opportunities for our members to save with coupons, deals and cash back every time they shop,” Ebates’ then-CEO Kevin Johnson said at the time. “The Pushpins application provides a wonderful tool for consumers to shop smarter.”

By that time, Pushpins had evolved into something of an all-in-one grocery shopping and saving app – allowing you to build and sync shopping lists, navigate the store with an aisle-by-aisle checklist, and load digital coupons to your store loyalty card.


But when it started in 2010, Pushpins’ main purpose was to obliterate that dreaded paper coupon. All you had to do was open the app while shopping, scan the bar codes of the products you picked out, and Pushpins would suggest digital coupons that you could apply to your purchase so you didn’t have to go searching for them.

Pretty handy, and maybe a little revolutionary, at least way back in 2010. “We want to make sure you never have to clip another paper coupon again,” the app’s founders, two recent college grads, boasted. “We love saving money, but don’t have the time to clip coupons every weekend. We have cartoons to watch, people!”

As the app’s creators aged out of cartoons, the app itself matured as well. In addition to adding the newer list-making and store-navigating features, the app began downplaying its original aim of eradicating paper coupons. And it ultimately attracted the attention of Ebates, which bought it for a reported eight-figure sum.

Nice payday, for Pushpins’ founders. Who needs coupons – digital or paper – when you’ve just pocketed some $10 million for selling your startup?

Whether it was money well-spent for Ebates, though, is another question. Because by then, there was nothing particularly unique about Pushpins. There are plenty of grocery list-making apps, plus several others that let you search for coupons and offers by scanning bar codes. If you want to load digital coupons to your store loyalty account, all you need is your store’s own app. And however convenient some may find them, digital coupons aren’t about to snuff out their paper counterparts for good, any time soon.

The move from paper to digital is, perhaps, inevitable. Eventually. But it’s foolhardy for a lone startup to claim it will be the one to change the entire coupon industry single-handedly. “No coupons to clip or print!” the Endorse app boasted – before it folded in 2013. A company called FreeMonee promised to “change the economics of advertising forever, marking the death of coupons” – before it went bust in 2014. Mobeam pledged to “bring consumers one step closer to phasing out paper coupons entirely” – before disappearing earlier this year.

And paper coupons are still alive and kicking.

Anti-paper coupon bravado has seen many a startup turn into a castoff. And now it’s happened again. So, in the end, “Mr. Scissors” can breathe a sigh of relief – he’s managed to survive yet another attempt to put him out of the coupon-clipping business for good.

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