For years, I have known about the policy that allows overseas commissaries to use coupons to be used for up to six months after the expiration date printed on the coupons. I don't know the entire history of the policy, but as I understand it, it is because there is often a delay in coupons making it to overseas locations. There are many volunteer groups dedicated to sending expired coupons to overseas bases to help military members save money. I've been a sender, when in the US, and now that I am overseas, I help the Navy-Marine Corps Relief society manage the coupon boxes at the entrance to our commissary. I love using these coupons to save money, and I wouldn't have access to regular newspaper coupons without the generosity of the many kind Americans who send these coupons to our base.
I've never tried to use expired coupons at the Exchange on our base because I have always been told that the Exchanges won't accept them. Because of this, I was super-surprised when I found a comment on another post today, asking for more information on the overseas expired coupon policies of the exchanges. Thankfully, Paula from Monroe on a Budget gave me directions to more information, available on the AAFES Facebook page. And, wow, there is a lot of conversation there..
After spending a ridiculous amount of time reading the AAFES Facebook page, and the Navy Exchange Facebook page, and the AAFES website, and the Navy Exchange website, I've gathered quite a bit of interesting information.
For starters, the Navy Exchange does not accept expired coupons at overseas locations. Never have. That explains why I've never heard about it. Apparently AAFES was an entirely different story. They have never "officially" accepted expired coupons overseas, but it seems that some stores did. Or some cashiers did. Or someone did. And then they said that they were going to start enforcing the rules (and blaming it on changes in manufacturer's redemption rules). And then they changed their mind, at least for now.
I'm all sorts of conflicted about this. First, I am confused. Do the commissaries have some sort of special deal with each and every manufacturer? Do the Exchanges not have this same agreement? And why would there be a different set of policies between the AAFES and the Navy Exchange? (I can't find one darn thing about coupons at the Marine Corps Exchange.)
If this really is a manufacturer issue, then being mad at the exchanges isn't going to help. It is not in the customers' interest for the exchanges to accept coupons that they can't redeem. That money is lost from revenue and that lost must be made up somewhere. And guess where it is going to show up - in higher prices across the board. Complaining that AAFES should accept expired coupons as support for military families is thinking exactly backwards - accepting unredeemable coupons is making things more expensive for military families. It isn't an issue of being fair, or right, it is a simple economic truth.
If this is some sort of confused policy schmozzle, then it the higher ups in AAFES need to get together and put together an accurate, consistent, enforceable policy that is applied every day, at every store. And if AAFES is able to negotiate longer redemption dates for their customers, the Navy Exchange should be able to do the same thing.
What is your experience? Have you used expired coupons at overseas exchanges? Is it a hassle? Is it worth it? Are the policies applied consistently at your store? I want to know!