Petsmart Redefines Coupon Expiration Dates

If a coupon says that it expires on July 4th, most people assume this means that you can use it on July 4th. Not so, in Petsmart’s universe. In their coupon vortex, July 4 ends at 6:00 AM on July 4th. Which is a little weird for an online coupon, but completely insane for a printable in-store coupon when no Petsmart store opens until several hours later.

Kelsey writes:

This is a new one on us, and a pretty dirty trick. Look at the coupons below, which were emailed out on Thursday to PetSmart rewards card holders. In bright, large letters they say “Hurry–offer expires 7/4/10”. So you can imagine that most consumers would bring these coupons to PetSmart stores on that day, July 4th — not having read the mouseprint and realized that the coupons expire 7/4 at 6:00 AM, before any PetSmart store has even opened. And of course lots of people will learn this at checkout, with piles of pet supplies that of course they’ll wind up buying anyway at full price. Sneaky!



Lesson learned: always read coupon fine print before loading up a cart with Kong toys and feathers on a stick. But you already knew that, didn’t you?


Edit Your Comment

  1. pantheonoutcast says:

    Thursday (the day the OP received the coupon) was July 1st. So people had three full days in which to take advantage of the coupon in a store, or could have received $5 off if they used them online. Plus, the disclaimer is printed at the bottom.

    What’s the problem? It says “Hurry.”

    • Marshmelly says:

      Then why not say that its good through July 3rd? Considering there is literally no way for them to use it on the 4th since the store isn’t even open that early (or maybe not even at all)…unless they get up at 5am to shop online. Its pretty deceptive.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        You don’t have to get up at 5 AM to shop online. The internet is open 24 hours a day. Customers had ample time to buy kitty litter or chew toys or whatever.

        It’s only deceptive to people who do not read, or who only read portions of things.

      • Randell says:

        I love how people assume that anybody awake at 4 or 5 am shopping online is the one int he wrong here. It is clearly spelled out on the coupon. Many people who live opposite hours of “YOU” and may work odd shifts want the ability to take advantage of it online as well. SO, they made a gesture to say, you can use it until the next morning. Quit whining, and READ the rules. Its really not that complicated. The deception is you failing to read the coupon.

    • coren says:

      Yes, people had time to use the coupons (although 3 full days, no – not unless they got the coupon before 6 am on Thursday) but expiring them so early on their final day of use is misleading – have you ever had a coupon for in store use that expires at any point other than midnight/the store’s closing (let alone six am?)

    • Polish Engineer says:

      It’s deliberately misleading. Expiring a coupon at 6 am is simply a gimmick to allow them to put July 4th on the coupon instead of July 3rd. They get a little wiggly room because you can use it online, for those people who buy their dog food online at 4 am.

      I think the better question is not why didn’t the consumer read the fine print, but why do coupons have fine print. This is no different than “x dollars off your next purchase” in big letters and then list of disclaimers excluding the majority of the brands or items you would be interested in.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        “Expiring a coupon at 6 am is simply a gimmick to allow them to put July 4th on the coupon instead of July 3rd.”

        They would stand to gain no advantage by placing one date on the coupon over another date, when the terms and conditions are clearly stated right on the coupon.

        Sorry, the whole “coupon culture” is a pet peeve of mine. An offer was made by a company to save you some money, but there are conditions that go along with that offer. If you don’t agree with / don’t like / can’t read them, then throw the coupon away and don’t use it. Whining about getting a free five dollar discount, but not liking the parameters set up by the company is sort of pointless. Another example of people feeling like they are somehow entitled to something for nothing.

        • Polish Engineer says:

          They do stand to gain something from putting July 4th on the coupon over the 3rd. When I am standing in at PetSmart on July 4th with my coupon and cart full of stuff I normally would not buy without the discount, the sad reality is I will probably still buy it after the coupon is not accepted. There is the motivation.

          Am I responsible because I didn’t read the fine print, yes. On that I agree. However, they put on the coupon expires 7/4/2010. One can reasonable assume the coupon to be valid through the whole day.

          If you read the fine print, “Terms and conditions of this offer are subject to change at the sole discretion of PetSmart.” Basically they can do whatever they want with this offer. You could walk in during the actual valid timeline, buy your dog food, only to find out the offer is now three instead of five dollars. Is that OK? It’s in the fine print.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            “One can reasonable assume the coupon to be valid through the whole day. “

            Unless one misses, or conveniently leaves out, the part where it clearly says “6:00 AM ET.”

            No matter how you try to slice it, it’s an inane argument. The world would be a better place if people would read things and abide by them, rather than ignore them and then attempt to complain loudly later in order to cover up the fact that their reading comprehension skills are lacking. Especially trivial things such as a $5 off coupon for urine stain remover.

            • Aphex242 says:

              I don’t think it’s a terribly inane argument, actually. I see where you’re coming from, but it’s deliberately misleading.

              It’d be like having a $20 rebate on a digital camera, and on the rebate form, after $20 there’s an asterisk, and at the bottom of the form it says:

              “$20 back in the form of coupons for motor oil.”

              Yes it’s spelled out, but it requires an inane amount of research on every deal. If you’re a retailer and you’re going to bother to give your customers a discount, don’t try to hose them at the same time. The whole idea is to spur sales and generate goodwill, is it not?

              Looks like they forgot the latter part.

              • Big Mama Pain says:

                The whole idea of a coupon is not to generate goodwill, it’s to get people to spend more money than they’d otherwise spent (at least in the case of a coupon like this). Nothing in life is free, and if you want a discount, you have to follow by the rules. If you’re stupid enough to buy the items after finding out that the coupon is invalid, that’s your own problem. There’s also a bunch of other disclaimers on there, as well-are those sneaky tactics, too?

                • Aphex242 says:

                  Actually I beg to differ, as one of the marketing functions of a coupon is to build your customer base. You will not build that base with deceptive advertising.

                  Ask any small business, like a restaurant, why they put out coupons. It’s not so they can get people to spend more money than they normally would, it’s to get people in the door, enjoying the food, so they’ll be repeat customers after the promotion ends.

                  A small business putting a coupon in the paper then treating customers like garbage not only loses money on the cost of printing the coupons and having them mailed, they lose money on the sales (which may be at or below cost), and don’t have anything to show for it long term.

                  Now take that to a large corporation: PetSmart issues coupons that value-driven people are interested in. They go to redeem them, expecting them to function as other coupons do. They don’t. Maybe those people are ‘stupid enough’ to purchase the stuff anyway, maybe they aren’t. The net result, though, is that those bargain-conscious consumers who all got lured in by an offer all just got screwed.

                  Do you think they might think twice about visiting PetSmart down the line for their pet needs, or do you think they’ll berate themselves for being so stupid to have not read the fine print?

                  I submit the latter. Coupons are mostly about long-term effects. Or should be, to a business that’s interested in remaining in operation.

                  I probably know something about this, as I’m pursuing my PhD in management.

                  • Aphex242 says:

                    (you’re not wrong about these types of coupons giving incentive to higher purchases, however)

          • Matzoball says:

            While I see your point if you had read and comprehended the fine print (I am assuming you read it before you commented) you would have noticed that this was for online purchases through there portal.

  2. kylere1 says:

    Were any Petsmarts open on the 4th itself? Is this even relevant?

    • coren says:

      They would have done the same were it the 3rd or 5th, so it expiring on the 4th probably isn’t relevant, no.

    • scientific progress goes boink says:

      They were open 10 am to 6 pm, standard Sunday hours… not that it really matters.

    • Matzoball says:

      Fine Print indicates this is for their virtual store.

  3. OSAM says:

    Umm, weren’t Petsmart stores CLOSED for July 4th?

    I know they were in Canada on the 1st (for Canada Day)

  4. legwork says:

    Honestly, while Petsmart’s use flies in the face of coupon convention, it greatly satisfies my OCD. “Expires” has too much uncertainty. For coupon-y uses at least, the word should die quietly and be replaced with “valid through…”.

    • MyTQuinn says:

      Agreed. I’m always suspicious of dates on which things “expire”. The prepaid wireless service I have for my wife and son is a perfect example. Balances expire 120 days after being added – a balance that expires on July 4 is actually valid through July 3. If I wait until July 4 to add to the balance, it’s too late – it’s gone. So, like clockwork, I add to the balance every 119 days.

  5. Nytmare says:

    Lots of coupons “expire” on the last day of the month — they are good through the very tippy end of the month. I don’t recall ever seeing a coupon expire on the first day of the month. And I’ve never ever seen a coupon expire at a particular hour. Petsmart, you’re a freak.

  6. Tim says:

    If something expires on July 4, then on July 4, it is expired. In fact, it should expire at 12:00:00 a.m. on July 4.

    Similarly, if my 22nd birthday is on July 1, then I am 22 on July 1.

    Now, if a coupon’s last day is July 4, then it is valid on July 4 and expires on July 5.

  7. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Well. I mean. Most coupons – you have to read the guidelines. Who doesn’t know that?
    Also, since this coupon was sent to an email address, and there’s an online coupon code along with it – that’s why it says 6am.

    All people have to do is read.

  8. vastrightwing says:

    Save BIG at the Barnacle Bros 60 second sale, where if you’re not already here, you’re too late!

  9. ophmarketing says:

    “with piles of pet supplies that of course they’ll wind up buying anyway at full price.”

    Any store that pulls that kind of crap with me winds up with a checkout counter filled with unpurchased items, and a former customer walking out the door empty-handed.

  10. RAEdwards says:

    Actually, the OP must have manipulated the submission. The three coupons shown above were in store coupons only. They were valid all day on July 4th. The disclaimer text shown below was for an ONLINE ONLY coupon that was only valid until July 4th at 6am. I have the full email in my own inbox and can provide a PDF of the non-edited email if needed. I know the coupons (the three in-store ones) were valid all day on the 4th as I used them myself at Petsmart for my dog’s food.

  11. COBBCITY says:

    The PROBLEM is it is accepted industry standard that coupon expiration date means the coupon expires at MIDNIGHT of the date printed on the coupon. That is how manufacturer’s coupons work, it is how the coupons of 99.5% of other retailers work.

    Petsmart either has employed marketing people who have no idea what accepted standards are and have embarrassed their company or knows what consumers expect and is trying to pull a fast one hoping to sell alot of full priced merchandise on July 4th to people expecting a discount. Also knows as “one step right of fraud”.

    I look forward to hearing Petsmart’s explanation of this.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Midnight of July fourth would be 6 hours before the expiration time listed on the coupon. Because midnight is 12 AM. If anything, Petsmart has given customers 6 extra hours to shop online.

  12. milkman says:

    I used to work at Petsmart and truthfully there probably isn’t many stores that wouldn’t take this on the 4th. Since it is a Petsmart coupon, it really doesn’t have a true expiration date like most coupons do and in the end is the discretion of the manager on duty if they’ll accept it or not.

    • COBBCITY says:

      Good to know. However, people do not have time to shop a store, make their selections, go to checkout with other customers in line and then wait for “discretion of the manager on duty if they’ll accept it or not.” before learning how much their merchandise will cost them.

      There should be a corporate message to all managers TELLING them how they will handle the coupon. Manager’s discretion is too slippery for any retail chain.

      • milkman says:

        That’s why you ask if they’ll take the coupon BEFORE shopping. Petsmart is one of those companies that is not strict on coupons and such because its just not worth the hassle fighting over a few dollars because of some poor wording. I would like to see if anyone actually had an issues with this, or we’re just having a fit over nothing.

      • Randell says:

        Yes, and most people do not have the time to deal with idiots who can not be bothered to read the details of a promotion. Unfortunately, people like you think the world revolves around what THEY do. Please show me ANYTHING that was deceptive or a lie? Oh, the deception is you do not know what 6 am means? Sorry, PetSmart is not responsible to fix stupidity.

  13. rocklob says:

    Quiznos pulled the same tactic on a coupon I tried to use back in the early 2000s, except their fine print didn’t even give a time like 6:00 AM. When I presented the coupon on the same day it expired, the cashier said that “expires on xx/xx means it expired on xx/xx which is today, so you can’t use it.” Making matters worse, I had rounded up a group of about 6 or 7 people from my office to take advantage of the coupon. I reluctantly paid full price for a stinky sandwich. I’m a consumer that holds grudges; I have not set foot in any Quiznos store since.

  14. miss_chevious says:

    While I agree that people should read the details of the coupons they have, unless PetSmart stores were open before 6 am on July 4th, these coupons expired at store closing time on July 3rd for the in-store value offered. (FWIW, PetSmarts in my town don’t open until 9.) Sure, it looks like you can get $5 off online using a coupon code, but $5 is not that same as $15. Long story short, these are misleading coupons. Their in-store value could not be redeemed on July 4th (unless some manager took pity on the customer, as Milkman pointed out).

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      Apparently they could be used in the store at 4am.

      As someone else pointed out – the 6am ‘rule’ is only for the online coupon which wasn’t included in this post.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        I meant, the coupons could be used in the store on the 4th.

        Still waking up.

      • clickable says:

        That’s enlightening, huh.

        I don’t work for Petsmart or own their stock, just shop there (& elsewhere) for our furry family members. In my area at least (Brooklyn & Long Island, New York), I’ve always found the Petsmarts to be very accommodating about coupons. When I use one of their in-store promo coupons, they check the expiration date – but even if it’s expired, as long as it’s just a few days, they always honor it. And they do it graciously, too.

        It’s kind of a shame that Consumerist slams a non-offensive retailer without bothering to provide, or maybe not even research, the full picture. In this sense, literally. They post an article with a picture of part of an ad that conveniently cuts out the middle (!) of the page to make it look confusing, and then calls them completely insane. I don’t know if they (Consumerist) did it deliberately, but considering that we can now see the entire ad, thanks to you, what they wrote is a hell of a lot more misleading than the actual ad, which is self-explanatory if you see the entire page.

        Thanks for posting that. I wish Consumerist would be decent enough to update their original article with an explanation that they posted only part of the ad, and post the full ad in their update.

  15. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I’ve had this happen before at other stores where a coupon says something like “Expires 7/4” and I go in to use it on the day it expires. I have had staff refuse the coupon and say I had to have used it by 7/3.

  16. mmax says:

    Petsmart stores take email coupons long after they have expired. I am sure you could take the coupon in today and they would honor it.

  17. psm321 says:

    The TV converter box coupon cards worked this way (if the expiration date was Jan. 15th, You had to use it by the end of Jan. 14th). And they even said “good thru” which to me seems pretty clear.

  18. kyras says:

    what i’ve done is loaded up cart-fulls of stuff, and leaving them at the checkout if they misled me. I’ve done this like twice, once over a coupon that was like the one mentioned above, and the other time, one of the few times I shopped at walmart, the checker closed out right before me and all the other lines were long.

    There have been other times at a variety of store, that I’ve had a few products were ready to check out and they had only a single register open with 5+ people in line, I’d set my stuff down and just walk out.

  19. clickable says:

    The fine print is marked with an asterisk, so it seems to be a footnote for the top part of the ad page, which was not sent to Consumerist. But it’s clear that it has nothing to do with the in-store coupons that are printed above the text.

    It refers specifically to buying online, at, instructing online shoppers to enter a discount code into the promotions field in their shopping cart while checking out. The terminology should be a tipoff that this is meant for online shopping – in a real-life store, shoppers don’t “enter discount codes” into “promotional fields.” They only do that when they shop online. In the store, they hand a coupon to the clerk. In this case, a coupon that even specifies “in store only.”

    The offer was probably meant for two days – Friday and Saturday, but I’m guessing they start site maintenance at 6:00 AM, so they extended the offer through Saturday night until 6:00.

    Either OP didn’t have the whole ad or didn’t pay too much attention to it. Part of the ad gave information about a discount for online purchases, and part of the ad consisted of coupons for those who prefer to shop at the stores in real life.