You've probably used a coupon at least once in your life, or if you're like me you use them all the time! I do a lot of my shopping online now, and it's so easy to just type in '~ coupon' into Google for whatever it is I'm looking to buy or whatever store I'm planning on purchasing from. Nine times out of ten I'll have at least one valid coupon come up, and some companies (like Godaddy for example, you can find coupons for them by clicking here) have several different promotions running most of the time. I can usually get at least 20% off of whatever I'm looking for. I make a comfortable living, but I figure why pay full price for something if I don't have to?
But where did it all start, what was the first coupon ever issued for? Who issued it? Well, the word coupon comes from the French word 'couper' which translates to 'to cut', and 'coupon' means a 'piece that has been cut off'. However, the French were not the first to use coupons. It all started in Atlanta, Georgia back in 1887 with one of the greatest success stories of American marketing: Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola company had previously sold tonics with fairly poor levels of success, but in 1887 they incorporate in Atlanta and one of the partners was Asa Candle who had a very keen mind for marketing. He had Coca-Cola employees and sales reps hand out paper tickets for free glasses of Coca-Cola, as well as placed them in newspapers and magazines. By 1895 Coca-Cola was being served in every state in America. To cover the cost for all the free drinks, Coca-Cola provided soda fountains with free bags of their syrup. Thus, the coupon was born.
In 1909 the C.W. Post company decided to borrow Coca-Cola's idea to try and sell their Grape Nuts breakfast cereal. They offered a coupon that would net you 1 cent off your purchase of Grape Nuts, I know that doesn't sound like much but remember that this was 1909! It was a huge success, and those coupons were considered the first widely distributed ones use in the United States. Once 1930 rolled around and the Great Depression hit coupons saw a big increase in usage. The late 1930's also saw the rise of the American supermarket, but they didn't take off right away because you had typically had to drive to get to them and fuel was very expensive at 10 to 15 cents a gallon. To help off-set the cost and encourage consumers to make the drive 'in-store' coupons started being offered, and the popularity of supermarkets grew as they typically offered a wider variety of products than the local markets.
Then in the late 1950's, we almost lost coupons altogether. They had actually became so popular that manufacturers started having a hard time keeping up with reimbursing the supermarkets, some of whom decided to stop accepting them since they weren't getting their money back. So in 1957 the Nielsen Coupon Clearing House was created to handle coupon redemption, and they were saved! From then on coupons trundled along much as they always had, until the rise of the internet in the mid-90's allowed people to print their own coupons at home. They would undergo another evolution around 2008, as smartphones allowed coupons to be delivered directly to people's phones through cellular networks. And that brings us to today, what a time to be alive as a coupon-er!