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It was the day some single-minded couponers were dreading, and exasperated CVS employees were eagerly anticipating – the day that the retailer was no longer required to hand out coupons for any expired product that shoppers found on its shelves. That day has arrived – but the coupons will keep on coming.

CVS reached a settlement with the state of Pennsylvania several years ago, after the state accused the retailer of violating an earlier agreement aimed at ensuring that expired products were not being offered for sale. Under the terms of the agreement, CVS would provide a $3.50 store coupon for any expired product that a shopper discovered in any of the state’s hundreds of CVS locations. That policy was to remain in place until five years from the date of the January 20, 2016 settlement – which made its end date last Wednesday.

“It should end in 2021, so I am counting down!” one frustrated CVS employee who’d grown tired of giving out coupons wrote in a CVS Reddit group last year.

But it turns out the coupon policy hasn’t actually… expired.

“Though our agreement with the State of Pennsylvania has ended, we remain committed to ensuring that expired products are not sold to customers,” CVS Pharmacy spokesman Matt Blanchette told Coupons in the News. “In Pennsylvania, we continue to offer enhanced discount coupons to customers who notify store employees if they discover certain expired products.”

While Blanchette did not say how long CVS expects to keep the policy in place, extending it would appear to be a good-faith effort to stay on the good side of customers – and the state. CVS has reached similar settlements with several other states in the past, agreeing to provide coupons – and pay a steep penalty each time. By keeping the coupon policy in place, CVS just might convince Pennsylvania regulators that it’s serious about keeping expired products off of its shelves, avoiding another potential rebuke and another potential six-figure penalty in the future.

That’s reassuring news for CVS shoppers in Pennsylvania. It’s less welcome news for CVS employees in the state. And it’s great news for the coupon seekers that employees deride as “outdaters.”

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“I despise the outdaters,” a CVS employee wrote on Reddit. “Outdaters are insanely obnoxious,” another agreed. “They’ll come into the store 20 minutes to close, to rifle through the freshly faced aisles for any expired items that may have slipped our attention.”

Outdaters are customers who consider CVS’s offer of $3.50 coupons to be less of a reassurance, than it is a challenge. Most shoppers who happen upon a product that’s past its expiration date might be grateful to receive a coupon as an apology and a thank you. But outdaters deliberately, and regularly, seek out as many expired products as they can, in order to get as many $3.50 coupons as possible.

“I’ve had people come in with the sole purpose of finding outdates to get free coupons which they can redeem on almost everything,” an employee commented. Another described “a regular couple who would come in multiple times each month and literally examine each shelf with a fine-tooth comb to find outdated stock.” And another told of a shopper who “raided our 69-cent candy display, pulled 20 of them and got a $3.50 coupon for each one.”

Outdaters are nothing if not determined. One member of a CVS couponing Facebook group recently showed off his coupon haul. “I killed it today at CVS! Went out-of-date shopping… My total in coupons I brought home is $638.50, $591.50 of which is the out-of-date coupons!”

“If you accidentally find an expired product and bring it to our attention, then sure,” an exasperated CVS employee wrote. “But when you intentionally come in with no motivation to actually buy anything and just search for outdates, that’s when I have a problem.”

Other employees have resigned themselves to the outdaters. “People with no life want to come into the store and do my job for $3.50 worth of coupons? Be my guest,” one wrote. “I would gladly pay out in store coupons for someone to come and check my outdates monthly,” another commented. “At that point, those customers are just employees for a very specific task with no benefits and being paid in store coupons,” a third employee wrote.

CVS itself hopes handing out any more $3.50 coupons won’t be necessary. “We have a clear product removal policy and procedures in place at all of our stores to help ensure that items are removed from shelves before they reach their expiration dates,” Blanchette said. “Any unintentional deviations from this policy that are brought to the company’s attention are quickly rectified for customers.”

And, at least for the time being, they’ll still be “quickly rectified” with coupons – to some determined shoppers’ delight, and to some weary employees’ chagrin.

One Comment

  1. Mark Singer says:

    I was at a CVS store in Old Forge, PA…Store #1188. I was going to purchase 14 Lean protein bars. I noticed 12 of those bars were expired. I didn’t even get an apology. I guess CVS still doesn’t care about the health of their customers.

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