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October 29th, 2002

Two Concepts I Don’t Understand

Expiration dates. You need ’em on milk and you need ’em on medicine, but why are there expiration dates on rebate checks and gift certificates?

When I get a rebate check, there’s usually a 30-90 day window that I have to cash the check in, or else I’m out of luck. I guess I can kind of understand where this comes from: perhaps the company only sets aside a certain amount of money for a certain amount of time for a particular promotion. Still, I’ve missed out on a few checks because I forgot to cash them until after the deadline.

What I totally don’t understand is the expiration date on gift certificates. If someone pays $25 for a gift certificate at a store, the store has received money, but hasn’t had to give anything in return, other than a promise that someone else can use a piece of paper as cash. The store earns interest on the money while they wait for the reicipient to make use of the gift certificate. But why is it that after a year or two, a gift certificate all of a sudden “goes bad?” Money doesn’t stop working after two years, so why does a gift certificate expire? The money’s already been paid, so in my eyes, an expired gift certificate is like a store stealing money and refusing to give any goods or services back for it.

Can any storeowners in the audience enlighten me?

Posted in Everyday Life

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