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If you ever page through an old magazine or dig through grandma’s junk drawer, you just might come across the couponing equivalent of the Holy Grail – coupons that never expire. Never!

Decades ago, brands weren’t so picky about making sure their coupons were only valid for a few weeks or months at a time. Many had “No expiration date” imprinted at the top, so there was no rush and you could use them whenever you got around to it.

So does that really mean they never, ever expire and you can use them even today? You could always bring them to the store and see for yourself. What’s the worst that could happen – the store might decline to accept them?

Well, you could get arrested and hauled off to jail for counterfeiting. That could certainly make your couponing Holy Grail seem a little bit tarnished.

Once featured prominently in an episode of “Extreme Couponing”, and occasionally the subject of conversation among longtime couponers, “no expiration date” coupons recently came back to the forefront, sort of. What appear to be a couple of three-decade-old coupons for Purex laundry detergent are now on the Coupon Information Corporation’s list of counterfeit coupons.

“This counterfeit was not created by or authorized (by) Henkel and should not be accepted at retail stores under any circumstances,” each coupon alert reads. Anyone attempting to redeem the coupons pictured “may be subject to criminal prosecution and/or civil action,” the alerts warn.

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The coupons in question offer 50 cents off any size of Ultra Purex detergent, and 55 cents off any liquid Purex detergent. Both have “no expiration date” and, based on the product descriptions and images, look like they may have been issued in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

But, no, Purex manufacturer Henkel insists. They’re not old – they’re fake.

“We have checked into this and can confirm that the coupons are counterfeit and the Coupon Information Center was correct in sending out the notice,” a Henkel spokesperson told Coupons in the News.

Really? Would someone actually go through the trouble of creating low-value counterfeit coupons from scratch that look like they’re 30 years old and probably won’t even scan correctly at any modern-day store? If so, why, considering there are plenty of current, legitimate, higher-value coupons for Purex readily available? Did someone perhaps photocopy old coupons and try to pass off the copies as being legitimate? If so, shouldn’t the notices have been a bit more specific about that, so anyone who might actually try to redeem a legitimate old Purex coupon doesn’t get branded a criminal by a store employee who sees these counterfeit alerts?

Henkel didn’t respond to any of these requests for clarification. So, case closed – these coupons are totally bogus!

Or, it’s likely that Henkel is exhibiting the unfortunate tendency that some companies have when confronted with a coupon they don’t recognize and would rather not accept – they just brand it a fake and call it day.

The coupons’ redemption instructions name the Dial Corporation, which has long since been acquired by Henkel. So it’s technically true that the coupons were “not created by or authorized by Henkel”. Presumably, no one currently responsible for creating Purex coupons was doing so back when coupons like these were first issued, so no one can be completely sure they’re legitimate offers. Henkel didn’t say why it chose to brand them as counterfeit, though, instead of simply explaining that they’re no longer valid.

And that’s the problem with “no expiration date” coupons. Despite what they claim, most of them, for all intents and purposes, are indeed expired.

You wouldn’t know it from watching reruns of “Extreme Couponing”. One episode of the TLC reality series that featured Shavon from North Carolina explained how she “inherited a stack of coupons from her grandmother that are good forever“. It seems grandmother Flossie was a big couponer in her time, and amassed a huge collection of coupons with no expiration dates.

So in her episode, Shavon heads to the store with her vintage coupons and watches as the cashier scans them without blinking an eye. “Nice and smooth, no complications, doubled right off, like they should,” Shavon says. “Granny would be so proud!”

But that episode was shot back in 2011. Since then, retailers have tightened up their coupon policies, to help curb the very excesses inspired by “Extreme Couponing” itself. Many stores now state that coupons must have an expiration date and a scannable bar code. Since UPC bar codes were officially replaced with the new, longer GS1 DataBars a few years ago, anything issued before then is probably not going to be accepted at most stores – especially if the coupon has no bar code at all.

Shavon’s episode, incidentally, is also somewhat notorious in that Lowes Foods, where she shopped, later renounced its participation in the program, acknowledging that it allowed her to bend its couponing rules in order to amass her made-for-TV haul. “Things aren’t as they always appear,” Lowes said in an apologetic statement after the show first aired. “We definitely made a poor decision by participating in the show.”

Since then, Lowes now states in its coupon policy that “we will not accept expired coupons or coupons that don’t have an expiration date”. So don’t go trying to use coupons “that are good forever” at Lowes and expect things to go “nice and smooth” like they did for Shavon.

Even so, there’s a difference between old coupons that are no longer accepted, and old coupons that were once valid but are now suddenly, for some reason, considered “counterfeit”. Maybe Henkel knows something it’s not letting on about the validity of the two coupons that it’s told retailers across the country not to accept. But that seems unlikely.

So while actual counterfeiters are using and selling millions of dollars worth of fake coupons, coupon insert diverters are stealing and selling pallets of uncirculated coupon inserts, and everyday coupon fraudsters are knowingly using high-value coupons on lower-priced items for which they’re not intended, you could end up getting hauled away in handcuffs for trying to use an old coupon you found in your basement that says it never expires.

So if you come across any coupons like these, you should probably keep them as a curiosity instead of trying to redeem them. And if you want a discount on some detergent, you’re better off looking for some current offers – before you end up in the slammer for taking those “no expiration date” coupons at their word.

2 Comments

  1. It appears that the Coupon Information Center was asleep at the wheel on this one. Surprising since their entire existence is solely focused on coupons! #YHOJ (You Had One Job)!

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