General Question

MrItty's avatar

Can a company legally impose an expiration date on coupons initially created without an expiration date?

Asked by MrItty (17366points) July 27th, 2010

Southwest Airlines recently announced they are changing the way they issue drink coupons. The current coupons have no expiration date. Beginning August 1st, all new coupons issued will contain an expiration date. That’s all well and good. What is not well in good, in my mind, is the fact that they also announced they will stop accepting the current, no-expiration-date coupons on August 31, 2011.

My question is, can they legally do this? The way I see it, the coupons were produced without an expiration date, and that basically forms a contract between them and the customer that they will be accepted at any time. I am looking for any sort of legal decisions or laws that might support (or refute, I suppose) my point of view.

And before you make this comment, yes, I understand that I’m talking about a coupon for a $4 alcoholic beverage, and that in the grand scheme of things this is really unimportant. I’m simply curious about the legal aspects of this decision.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

9 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Wow, I have one of those without an expiration date, and I am bummed to learn they will not honor it.

JLeslie's avatar

I had soemthing similar to this happen for a coupon at a local pizza place. It was $3 off on $20 I think, and the new coupon it was $3 off on $25. They tried to give us a hard time, that it was an old coupon they had not produced in years. I said to the waitress, “there is no expiration date, can’t we at least use it if our meal is over $25. She got her manager and they actualy had to think about it. I was kind of annoyed. We did get to use the coupon in the end.

I don’t know the law, but when I worked in retail if we had marked something the wrong price, or wrote a bad coupon we honored it. If we lost a little on the transaction it was the price of doing business and building long term relationships with our customers.

That is ridiculous to me that your $4 coupon drink would not be honored. I would guess they are making more than $4 profit per passenger, it is good business to honor that coupon. I have less tolerance for a major airline not honoring it then the local pizza guy, because he may be an idiot when it comes to advertising and offers, but a big corporation like an airline has professional advertising and marketing departments and if they developed a poorly thought out coupon, this is coupon 101 to put an expiration date, then the company should eat the mistake.

Austinlad's avatar

My gut tells me they can do it legally, but P.R.-wise, it’s a dumb move, as this thread indicates. I know SW, like other airlines, is under pressure to cut costs wherever they can, but I’m not sure how abruptly trashing old coupons and putting expiration dates on new ones is going to do much for their bottom line in the long run.

Man, for an airline that originally promoted itself as friendly and customer-responsive (I know, I worked on their ad account), Southwest has gone pretty far south.

john65pennington's avatar

Just finished a roundtrip to Seattle and used the coupon you are asking about. seems to me that i read an expiration date, on this coupon, somewhere in their flight material. the material on the back of each airplanes seat.

MrItty's avatar

@john65pennington The coupons I’m talking about have no expiration dates. If you saw an expiration on the coupon, it’s not the one I’m talking about.

MrItty's avatar

These are the ones I’m talking about. I just photographed one of mine and uploaded it so you can see.


The fine print reads “This coupon has no cash value. Drink coupon is void if altered, sold, purchased, brokered, or bartered. Nonexchangeable for other goods or services. Southwest Airlines reserves the right to discontinue its drink coupon program at any time.”

I don’t believe that “discontinuing its drink coupon program” covers modifying the existing coupons they have already distributed.

Brian1946's avatar

It seems to me that “discontinuing its drink coupon program” could include not only ceasing to issue those coupons, but also ceasing to honor them.

If the fine print had read only, ”...reserves the right to stop issuing drink coupons” then you’d probably have a case.

UScitizen's avatar

The program under which your coupon was issued will be discontinued on August 31. They have clearly reserved the right to cancel this program at any time. SWA is certainly no fool. From the begining, this marketing program was engineered to enable unilateral modification and/or cancelation. It may be poor PR, but they have clearly weighed that in their decision.

Andreas's avatar

@MrItty They could argue that they have discontinued their drinks programme as per the back of the ticket and then started a new one at the same time.

But, as others have said: It’s bad, very bad, business to do so.

I think they’re on their way to bankruptcy.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther