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When the coupon says 'free' but the business says 'no'

September 25, 2013|By David Lazarus

Nikola had a special offer from Supercuts: Buy 12 haircuts and get the 13th free.

However, when he tried to redeem his card for the freebie haircut, he was told the offer was no longer good -- even though the card had no expiration date.

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Nikola wants to know: Don't they have to honor their own coupon?

As far as I'm concerned, yes. A coupon is basically a contract.

But apparently that's not what a lawyer would say. The legal view here is that a coupon represents a marketing pitch, not a binding contract. As such, a business is under no legal obligation to make good on past offers.

That strikes me as unfair. If I were in Nikola's position, I'd ask to see the manager, show him or her my free-haircut card and ask for Supercuts to do right. Many company managers, I think, will do the stand-up thing in such situations.

If not, Nikola could try his chances in small claims court, but that seems excessive. I'd just take my business elsewhere. And I'd go straight to Yelp so I could share my experience with others.

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If you have a consumer question, email me at or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.

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