Coupon Disclaimers 101: Everything You Need to Know
One of the most popular strategies for drawing in new customers and keeping existing ones is to provide special offers and discounts that motivate consumers to choose your business over another.
These promo codes can easily be added to all kinds of marketing material, from postcards and flyers to emails and social media posts. However, it can be difficult at times to determine what, if any, details you should include about your promo code.
In this article, you’ll find disclaimer examples as well as information about whether they’re necessary and what kinds of details they should include. Read on to learn more!
Do Coupons Really Need Disclaimers?
For the majority of the United States, coupon disclaimers are not required by law. However, you will almost never see a coupon anywhere that doesn’t include at least a basic disclaimer. Why? Disclaimers help to protect the merchant and reduce confusion for the consumer. Adding a disclaimer to the coupons you produce allows you to clearly convey a number of important pieces of information, including (but not limited to):
- Expiration date and usage window
- Whether there are additional fees or taxes involved
- Locations where coupon can be redeemed
- Statement that copies will not be accepted
- Statement that selling or transferring coupon is illegal
- Restrictions on the hours coupon can be redeemed
- Statement that coupon has no cash value
- Statement limiting how many times the coupon can be used
- Limitations on whether coupon can be combined with other offers
- Statement that coupon redemption is subject to availability
Just a little note about honesty and integrity. As long as you're operating in good faith and not out to take advantage of anyone, there aren't a lot of legal hoops you need to jump through. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does require that any terms affecting the advertised price of a product need to be "clearly and conspicuously" printed near the advertised price and that any percentage or dollar amount reduction in price must be based off the price the product was “openly and actively offered for sale, for a reasonably substantial period of time.” In short, make your best effort to over-communicate and be honest in all your marketing materials
Examples and Samples
As it is with all things in marketing, coupon disclaimer styles run the gamut from minimalist to over-the-top, staid and strait-laced to off-the-wall and silly. A general rule of thumb would be to create a disclaimer that not only lines up with any existing coupon or discount disclaimers you have on your website or in your brick-and-mortar, but also reflects your brand identity. We’ve put together some real-life examples to help you gauge your own style and also provided a couple of generic sample coupon disclaimer texts to get you started.
Keep It Simple / Minimalist Styles
The disclaimers on the above coupons are all fairly basic, but they still communicate essential details to the consumer. The first coupon, a coffee and doughnut deal, includes a restriction on the number of coupons per person and on combining the coupon with other offers. It also lets the consumer know that it might not be accepted at every location, that it has no cash value, the expiration date, and that the printed coupon must be presented at redemption. In example number 2, a pizza coupon 4-pack, the disclaimer is just two simple lines: one limits redemption to dine-in and take-out orders and the other requires the consumer to present the printed coupon or show on a mobile device at redemption. Finally, the “Veterans & Elderly” coupon disclaimer lets the consumer know that the business only allows one coupon per residence, the coupon cannot be combined with any other offers, and the coupon must be presented when paying. Basic coupon disclaimers are a good fit both for businesses with a casual culture and those that are the “just the facts, ma’am” type.
Random pop culture factoid: While fans of Dragnet have a shared memory of Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb, above) uttering this famous catchphrase, it turns out he never actually said it. In much the same way Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) never said "Luke, I am your father," Detective Friday's original line has been misremembered for decades due to a bit by comedian Stan Freberg. Who knew? Source: Showbiz CheatSheet
All. The. Things. / Maximalist Styles
In stark contrast to our first 3 minimalist examples, the above coupons include extensive disclaimers. The first example, for Bath & Body Works, the coupon disclaimer includes the steps needed to redeem the offer and a detailed explanation of the offer’s terms and what the discount can and cannot be used for. Our second coupon, from Carter’s Babies & Kids, also includes a list of restrictions and exclusions and some seriously tiny text laying out all of the terms involved in redeeming the offer. What really makes these coupons maximalist, though, is the sheer word count of the disclaimer in comparison to that of the basic offer details. If the fine print is almost too fine to read, then it’s maximalist!
If you operate a business that retails products from suppliers with their own restrictions on discounts and pricing, you’ll likely end up in the maximalist disclaimer realm. This is the coupon home of many department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops. Or, if you’ve had trouble with people abusing your coupon policy in the past, you may feel better about life by maxing out your coupon disclaimer section!
Have a Little Fun With It!
Image via Chipotle Mexican Grill
The text of this coupon disclaimer from Chipotle Mexican Grill conveys all the essential limitations of the coupon, but does so in a way that is somehow fun and lighthearted. When a consumer picks up this coupon and reads the fine print, they will more than likely start to smile. That smile may just motivate them to take that coupon, call a friend, and meet up at their local Chipotle for a couple of burritos. Why? Because the tone of the disclaimer text matches their impression of what the business itself is like. They can reasonably expect to enjoy the coupon redemption experience in the same way they appreciated reading the coupon disclaimer itself.
Coupon disclaimers that have a little fun work best for those businesses whose culture is light-hearted, casual, and maybe even a little quirky. If that fits you, then this is likely already your inner monologue when thinking about what a disclaimer is really saying – so say it!
Finding Your Just Right / Goldilocks
Goldilocks Effect Image via Reading Partners
We all know the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Little Goldilocks breaks into the home of the Three Bears (Baby Bear, Mama Bear, and Papa Bear) while they are away and proceeds to test out just about everything in the house on her quest to find her “just right.” The bears return and engage in a round of “who’s been sitting on/eating/sleeping in my chair/porridge/bed?” until they finally come across Goldilocks asleep in Baby Bear’s bed – it was “just right.”
Figuring out which combination of disclaimers to use is a lot like Goldie’s quest for the perfect chair/porridge/bed. You may have to try a few things out together before you settle on your “just right.” To help you make those decisions, we’ve included some sample coupon disclaimers below. Unlike Goldilocks, you can mix and match to make your “just right” (I mean, couldn’t she have just stirred together Papa Bear and Mama Bear’s porridges to reach the temperature of Baby Bear’s?).
% Off Coupon Disclaimer Sample Text
Offer valid on online purchases only. Not valid on in-store purchases. Expires MM/DD/YY. Cannot be combined with any other coupons, discounts, offers, or promotions. Offer valid for one-time use only. Subject to product availability, no rain checks issued. Not redeemable for gift card purchase. Void if altered, copied, transferred, or sold. Percentage discount for merchandise pre-tax total only, excludes shipping & handling. Cannot be used for prior purchases. Other restrictions may apply. No cash value.
$ Off Coupon Disclaimer Sample Text
Offer valid on in-store and online purchases. Expires MM/DD/YY. Cannot be combined with any other coupons, discounts, offers, or promotions. Offer valid for one-time use only. Subject to product availability, no rain checks issued. Not redeemable for gift card purchase. Void if altered, copied, transferred, or sold. Minimum purchase amount of $XX.00 applies. Sales tax and shipping & handling do not qualify toward the minimum purchase amount. Cannot be used for prior purchases. Other restrictions may apply. No cash value.
- Offer void where prohibited.
- Offer valid at participating locations only.
- Cannot be redeemed for cash.
- Value of coupon cannot exceed product value.
- Excludes [XYZ] brands.
- Offer valid on regular-priced items only.
- Coupon must be surrendered at time of purchase.
Wrapping It All Up
Finding your “just right” coupon disclaimer just takes a little time. As you can see from all of the examples in this article, there are a variety of ways to create your own set of disclaimers. You can pick and choose until you find your fit, or you can just copy and paste one of the above sample coupon disclaimers and replace the placeholder text. After you get it figured out, simply place it on your coupons and send them out into the world!
MyCreativeShop’s extensive collection of customizable templates and easy-to-use online editor make it easy for you to create your own marketing materials that feature your coupons or special offers. Our all-in-one direct mail service is one of the best ways to send out coupon-laden postcards to those in your community or region. You can use your existing mailing list, send to a geographic area, or build your own list with our best in class list-builder tool. Try it out today!