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The Exchange and OCONUS Coupon Drama

If you live overseas you probably know that Army and Air Force exchanges (AAFES) and commissaries accept coupons up to six months after their expiration date. Newspapers there don’t contain them and sites often won’t let those IP addresses print them, making coupons very difficult to come by for overseas families. The policy is one of the only ways families can use coupons at all.

AFEES all but started a Facebook riot when they wrote on their wall that, thanks to the changing coupon acceptance policy of manufacturers, they were reexamining their rule around the acceptance of old coupons.

The post, which has since been removed, sparked mass confusion and panic among overseas coupon users, speculation over whether or not the commissary would follow suit and demands to know who, exactly, these manufacturers are.

I had just finished making a bunch of phone calls to find out more for you when they clarified with this:

Thanks for your feedback. To clarify policy has been to only accept current coupons yet overseas Exchanges have made exceptions. Initial posting was due to pending industry changes. Your concerns have been heard & the Exchange has no immediate plans to stop granting the exception overseas. We’ll keep you informed as info becomes available regarding the pending redemption changes directed by manufacturers & industry.
We spoke with officials at the commissary, who assured us that they have no intention of changing their overseas coupons rules. A representative with AAFES told me that they will continue to accept them for the foreseeable future but “... the Exchange is a flexible entity and prepared to adapt to industry changes as they occur.”

In short, yes -- it might change. But it isn’t changing today.

It’s important to remember how coupons work on the manufacturer and store ends. When a patron hands a coupon to a clerk, that discount comes out of the store’s pocket until the coupon is mailed in and reimbursed by the manufacturer. According to one source, each manufacturer has a different grace period for accepting the coupon after that expiration date. Even coupons submitted stateside on the last day may not be mailed-in by that window. Those out of pocket costs to AAFES and the commissary are absorbed as operating costs by the store and never reimbursed.

Coupons, particularly those used overseas, are a gift. It’s good to hear that AAFES and the commissary are not shutting down their use ... yet. But when budget crunch time comes and people start throwing around doing crazy stuff, that lax policy may go away.

Meanwhile, if you want to help OCONUS families get coupons, read this site. All expired coupons in this house (and there are a LOT) get mailed in and given to military families overseas.

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