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Tech-Challenged Seniors Denied Digital Discounts by Grocers

Shrimp digital offerThey look like great bargains in the weekly supermarket flyer: chicken breasts $1.97 a pound and bags of large shrimp for $5.97.

But If you are a digitally-disconnected senior citizen, a lower income person, or someone of any age not technically savvy, you may pay more for grocery specials like these because supermarket chains across the country are increasingly making some of their better sale items “digital-only,” according to a review by Consumer World.

Historically, in order to take advantage of all the sale items featured in a chain’s weekly circular, all shoppers had to do at most was to show their loyalty card to the cashier. Now some prominent supermarket chains are adding an extra step that requires internet access. Shoppers who want to buy any item flagged as a digital deal must in advance preselect and load it into their online account on the store’s website or app in order to get the advertised sale price in the store.

This extra technical hurdle disproportionately hurts digitally-challenged seniors in the pocketbook because they are the least likely to have internet access or a smartphone. In fact, according to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, 39 percent of those 65 and over do not own a smartphone, and 25 percent don’t use the internet. Lower income people lack online access to a similar degree. This means that millions of seniors and others can’t take advantage of digital-only deals.

Compounding the problem, in the past year, some supermarkets are now extending digital-only deals beyond dry groceries to meat, fish, poultry and produce. These items often replace some conventional weekly specials and are given prominent placement in their advertising flyers.

Star Market ad composite

Among the 50+ supermarkets checked by Consumer World, two-thirds of them advertise some weekly digital-only deals, including at Albertsons, Acme, Baker’s, Dillons, Fred Meyer, Frys Food, Food Lion, Jewel Osco, Kroger, Pick ‘n Save, Ralphs, Randalls, Safeway, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Smart & Final, Smith’s, Star Market, Stop & Shop, and others.

“Digital discounts are no deal for many seniors. They are a clever ploy by big supermarket chains to get people into the store knowing full well that many of them will wind up paying more than the advertised price,” commented Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and founder of Consumer World. “A substantial number of shoppers don’t have online access, don’t understand how to take advantage of digital offers, or won’t be able to follow the cumbersome online procedure no matter what their age is.”

This month, to find out about their policies and any alternative means of obtaining digital-only deals, Consumer World contacted a number of supermarket chains including Albertsons Companies and The Kroger Co. that combined own 5,000 stores operating under about 40 supermarket nameplates. They offer digital-only deals in at least some of their divisions. Neither Albertsons nor Kroger corporate responded. Stop & Shop (a unit of Ahold Delhaize) confirmed it “does not offer an alternative to digital coupons at this time,” but ignored the tougher questions.

Calls to the customer service departments of Albertsons Companies and The Kroger Co. provided the expected response, similar to instructions on their websites: You must load the digital offers onto your loyalty card account online to obtain the savings. Call center representatives at both companies said that there is no non-internet alternative currently available. One said, “We get calls every day” asking for an offline way to take advantage of weekly digital specials.


Sample supermarket FAQ about digital-only offers:

Q. Can I still take advantage of these coupons if I don’t have a smart phone or a computer?

A. These coupons are only available electronically. Manufacturers continue to offer paper coupons through local newspapers.

Informal conversations with store employees provided more insight. One head cashier said she was sure many people don’t understand the advertised digital offers and mistakenly believe that just using the loyalty card would give them the sale price. She said her chain doesn’t allow cashiers to provide the digital discounts directly to customers.

There are some bright spots, however, in dealing with this digital dilemma. Not all chains have adopted digital-only deals and many are using them sparingly. A few chains such as Giant Food use “clip or click” coupons in their weekly ads that allow the customer to choose their preferred redemption method. Texas-based H-E-B provides physical coupons in-store for those who do not use the Internet. And store-level customer service employees at multiple chains said that its cashiers or help desk workers can provide the discounts if asked despite the official policy.

The use of digital-only offers appears to be accelerating. (These in-circular digital deals are separate from stores offering digital versions of manufacturers coupons on their website.) A closer look at 10 of the 50+ chains checked reveals that most doubled or tripled the number of digital-only deals offered in June 2022 compared to the same week last year. Some are even advertised in-store like the chicken above, or on the ice cream shelf tag below. Any shopper without a smartphone will pay much more because they have no way to load the offer onto their account.

sheft tag

“With inflation at a 40-year high, it’s time to stop discriminating against the digitally-disconnected, particularly seniors, and offer them the same discounts already enjoyed by tech-savvy shoppers,” urged Dworsky in a plea to supermarket executives. “Many, if not most seniors are on fixed incomes and need all the financial help they can get.”

What do you think? Should supermarkets make digital deals available to those without internet access? Please add your comments below.

Here are sample digital only deals from some leading supermarket chains:

Digital offers sampleClick graphic above TWICE to enlarge

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67 thoughts on “Tech-Challenged Seniors Denied Digital Discounts by Grocers”

  1. I see this all the time. Surprised that there is not some requirement for stores to provide the savings to those not being able to use the digital method. I expect those using digital is less than the shoppers usually using coupons when they were being used.

  2. AND when the digital coupons don’t load on your card , there is no recourse at Kroger. You go to the service desk ( IF it is being staffed and open). They will then give you a Phone # to call Kroger and complain. Kroger will then????
    I don’t know what they will do, since the service desk is often closed AND when open I have to take the little time I have left on this planet to stand in line, complain, call, listen, and still not be eligible for those digital coupons. IF they load $$ onto my card as a credit for not having it load to my card, it still doesn’t compensate for my life hours.
    BTW, my Kroger is 15 miles away, They can’t load it so that I will add another 30 mile RT to purchase the item.
    Yeah, there has to be an alternative, especially for those without computers, smart phones.

  3. Yes….digital sales/coupons should be offered to Seniors in a manner that they might be able to take advantage of……OR, offer the digital sale price to Seniors Only on specific days of the week.

  4. So true. They know that most of us 65 and older, never had computers inn school and a lot of us don’t understand how to access the coupons. Hey Kroger and Meijer you are one of the main culprits. All of a sudden our loyalty “cards” you have us carrying no longer work. Don’t worry, I make it my mission to show other seniors exactly how to load the “digital coupons”. I do appreciate the coupons sent in the mail for frequently used items.

  5. Yes, seniors should be allowed to use the digital only coupons. I find going through the list of offers at each store while at home very time consuming. Also, it makes an on the spot decision to buy something while in the store difficult, if you did not add that particular coupon to your loyalty card while at home. it is horrible to stand while your ice crean is melting to go on the website in the store to find the coupon. Walgreens and cvs have digital coupons and if you want to go onto the walgreens site in the newton 4 corners walgreens there is no cell service.

  6. I think it’s unfair, perhaps ageist, so think of seniors as technologically handicapped. I’m a senior and a major computer geek. My mom is 100 and is not only on email, but shops online constantly, is on facebook, and has multiple online “personalities.”

    • Phil… I am hopefully in no way suggesting that all seniors are digitally-handicapped. I am referring primarily to the Pew statistics that 39% of seniors don’t have a smartphone and 25% don’t use the Internet. So by definition, they are shut out. On top of that you have everyone of any age who simply don’t know how to avail themselves of these digital deals because no supermarket flyer I’ve reviewed even offers instructions!

      • I agree with your point, Edgar. I also think it can be a real pain in the rear even for tech. savvy seniors (well, I’m 64) like myself to have to use the store apps for digital coupons. Even I find the process of finding and loading these coupons time consuming and aggravating at best. Often the programs are quirky and the user interfaces inconvenient to use. It’s just more time spent on “busywork” that makes shopping more tedious and time consuming. It was so easy to find coupons at a glance in a flyer. Now we have to go through 10 steps to do the same thing. The older I get the less I need to spend all that time on such stuff. I don’t see any convenience to the user in them at all. If they made life easier I might feel differently, but they don’t. And older people just don’t need that. Life doesn’t get any easier as we age even without these annoyances. We don’t need more of them.

        Also, I know a lot of younger people that aren’t tech. savvy because they grew up poor and didn’t have access to the internet and even as adults own older phones that don’t make it very easy for them to use such apps. So it’s not even just discriminatory to older people, but poor and uneducated people as well.

      • There are people who are tech-impaired, vision-impaired, color-vision-impaired, or anything-else-impaired. Supermarkets need to step up even if the impairment isn’t within ADA.
        MY POINT is that there’s no reason to use statistics (or prejudices) to justify or rationalize generalizations.

      • This not only applies to the “elderly” but also to those who cannot afford smart phones and their costly smart phone plans.

        As Phillip stated there are people who have different impairments — visual, color perception, manual dexterity and more. This is a barrier to access. Should there be a call to say these are not compliant with ADA and that it falls under the discriminatory practice of ableism as well as intentional economic discrimination?

        I have been shamed by cashiers and managers in my pursuit for asking for the digital coupon price. SHAMED, that I don’t have a smart phone but a dumb phone. That’s all I can afford. SHAMED that I cannot afford Internet service. A manager on duty told me I could go to the nearest public library to download the coupons.
        Forget the fact my work hours do not fall within library hours and it would mean I would have to spend time and money to go the nearest public library to get a 50 cent coupon.

        Seems that the more connected people are, the more disconnected they have become to other people and their barriers. It should never be OK for companies to shame people for not having access to digital coupons. We fight for higher wages, employees picket for fair labor practices. Why are consumers willing to be treated as “less than” because they too would like to partake in those deals.

        Paper coupons were more equitable. If I knew my neighbor bought certain items, I could clip those coupons for her and she in turn would clip coupons for me or let me know that a store was having a sale on certain items I tend to buy.

        I sometimes shop for my friend who has macular and no Internet or cell phone. I would like to be able to get those discounts on high priced food items. but cannot because the cashier refused to honor the digital coupon even though I had already spoken to the manager and they said they would. Her response was, “I can’t help if you don’t know how to use technology. Everyone has a smart phone, that’s no excuse.” I told her she could call the manager that I had his OK. She refused. I paid the higher prices. She was a twenty-something cashier. Nice to know empathy has left the building.

  7. I don’t understand how the stores benefit from this digital coupon system at all. Is it to prevent using multiple of the same coupon? That was already covered with the loyalty card system, with or without paper coupon. Surely all this extra work and stress for all customers is in any case not worth preventing a few miscreants.

    The only way I can see that the stores may benefit is because at the website they place scads of other coupons (which often have minimal value) that wouldn’t be worth printing. They hope to put these products in front of your face while you are there getting the ones you really wanted.

    • Barry,

      I think the benefit for stores here is two-fold. One you get the user to download your app or visit your website, which allows you collect much more information about them. For instance, if you’re using their app and are connected to their in store Wi-Fi, they have all the information they’d need to see where in the store you’re accessing the website from. That could indicate to them that you saw a coupon for something you may not have bought before and went in to clip it.

    • Barry,

      This is a pure case of data mining. It is a big business. Stores collect that information and sell it off for lots of $$$$$$$.

      In the meantime your privacy is being violated. Those seemingly harmless apps you download onto your smartphone or computer have security holes in them. They can access other parts of your phone or computer.

      Your smartphone is connected to the CLOUD. That also means you have geolocation software on your phone. That data is being collected. All in the name of targeted marketing. Your location can be pinpointed down to the block as to where you are, what other stores are near you and where you have gone every minute you have that smartphone turned on.

      Before companies could ask you for your social security number to “track you.” Not so anymore now that we have gotten wiser not to share our SSN. Now we have smartphones. Try and make an account online without a smartphone — I dare you. You can’t. Everyone now wants your cell phone number, not your land line but your cell phone number as a means to identify you. People don’t even protest. We should.

      Big data – data mining – big business.

      It also let’s the data miners know your cell phone model — Apple means you can pay more and buy more; cheaper models mean they can give you smaller deals on items similar to what you buy. They know when you are buying, what you are buying and the quantities. Now look at it in a big brother way . Would you want them to sell that info to your health insurance company that you bought all that unhealthy food?

      Your cell phone also contains private information — your name and where you live. Cell phone companies are more than willing to share that info. Have you noticed we get more junk calls on our cell phones even though we are on the DoNotCall list?

  8. Price Chopper chain in NY also plays that game, via two-tiers: A discount with their (“old school”) card, and a bigger discount via digital. However, I am a savvy senior who chose to ditch his “smart” phone a few years ago; just as I ditched his TV before that. This is not to be argumentative, but rather to dispel two stereotypical characterizations mentioned in the intro. I chose to untether myself (well, other than my PC) from tech control as much as possible. And so, I do use my plastic grocery store card and forego saving a few extra pennies.

  9. As a counterpoint – In the past, if you didn’t get a newspaper you missed out on paper coupons, circulars, etc., and therefore would be naive to the savings you are missing. In the present, if you don’t have the internet you miss out on that same opportunity to save. I don’t see it as a big difference or a specific attack on seniors. I think the digital coupons are just the current way to measure ad spend, response rate, etc. to gather their precious data, just like coupon use rate, subscriber rates, etc. was how it was measured in the past. I know that since I personally don’t use social media, I miss out on whatever flash sales and promotions are announced through that platform. I just accept that if I don’t put in the time and effort that I am going to lose out on the savings.

    • Mike, let me add something to your good post: “If I don’t put in the time, effort,” AND money, I’m going to lose out on savings. It costs money to buy a computer, internet plan, or a smartphone. If you’re really short on money, you have to consider those factors. I try never to make the mistake of thinking that everyone has the same resources I do.

      • Worth the cost,to live in the 21st century.Computers are much cheaper than the past.Democrats continue offering internet welfare and phone welfare,making both cheap.

    • Mike,
      There are some assumptions you are making that are erroneous. We could still pick up paper ads in the store and voila! we had paper coupons.
      Also our friends and family and even neighbors were more than willing to pass on coupons to us. I still have a friend if she sees a coupon for a brand of tea that I buy, she will clip it for me and so on.

      Sometimes you could pick up coupons in the store next to the product. Not so anymore. We were able to share resources, which is not what happens now. The more connected we have become, the more disconnected we have become from social empathy and social graces.

      My uncle who was retired, loved perusing his newspaper with his morning meal and coffee. He would clip out coupons and share them with us. It only took him an hour to get them organized into piles for his relatives and then happily drop them off, or let us know by phone to stop by on a weekend.

      Those coupons helped. Even 50 cents on an items we usually bought made a difference. I know younger people scoff at saving 50 cents here or there, but with the high prices, product shrinkage, and quality diminishing, every penny helps. Oh, yeah, back then we looked out for each other as we made ends meet.

  10. I have no evidence for this, but if I had to guess, the rise of digital coupons is probably related to the store’s ability to obtain and sell personal data, thus providing them with a greater source of income than they could obtain from loyalty cards alone. Requiring people to use a device to obtain a coupon potentially allows companies to gather more relevant data about a consumer’s shopping habits, Internet browsing history, contact info, and location. It might even allow stores to better monitor precise shopper behavior in-store, if they can link a smartphone’s owner with a particular shopper.

    In general, as a senior (with computer design and IT experience), I’ve been more and more dismayed and alarmed by how often I encounter businesses that just assume I have a smartphone, or require Internet/device access to do basic things. From signing up for a Covid-19 vaccine to contacting my elected representatives in Washington, DC, everything is being optimized for online users, leaving users who either don’t have access to devices, don’t know how to use them, or don’t want to use them because of privacy concerns out in the cold.

    • Alan,
      It is called data mining and it is big business.
      All the parameters you mentioned in your post are exactly what is collected.

      Stores make a lot of money on selling that data. It is highly targeted marketing and the more they can parse it, the more valuable it is. There is gold in them thar digital coupon hills!

      I agree with you about the prevalent use of smartphones. In the past, businesses could ask you for your SSN number but they no longer can. However, the new way of tracking you is via your smartphone. Try and make an account without a smartphone. You can’t. Why?

      They are using it as your digital footprint — your unique identifier. Where an SSN was limited, you now have a more broader way of being tracked. The geolocation feature on your phone pinpoints you down to the block you are on. This is gold — far more info can be gathered about you and your daily activities. Have you noticed that we get more junk calls on our cell phones even though they are on the DoNotCall list?

  11. It’s not one of the biggest chains in the US, but Food City I think does this best. They have a ton of digital coupons like anyone else, but for any sale that is advertised as a digital coupon in their store, they have a little barcode at the kiosks that they can scan which will automatically attempt to apply the whole array of coupons.

    This may be something that should be addressed similar to the way that sweepstakes work, where you are required to have some print/paper way to get a copy of the coupons or get them applied to your account, but that may cause a lot of extra work for everyone.

    • Joel… I just looked at the Food City circular. Wow. It has the most digital only offers I have seen at any chain in that circular. What are the “kiosks” you refer to? Do you mean the self-checkout stations?

      • Edgar, this might be a bad week for that as they are specifically pushing a big digital coupon thing. You may see different results if you check on Wednesday when they’re sales change.

        Kiosk was a bad word, I mean like their checkouts. There’s a little printed barcode they have taped on the wall next to their screen and the other day I forgot my card and they were able to scan that to apply the deal.

  12. Oh boy do I hate these digital coupons and I’ve been waiting to see the issue addressed here. So, thank you for that.

    I resisted for a long time because I didn’t want the store apps on my phone. If you shop at enough stores that could be a cumbersome number of apps added to your phone and you don’t know what kind of spyware comes with them.
    However, I am a senior citizen with an ebt card and food’s expensive. So I went to the Stop&Shop site and tried to register. Good luck with that. I am proficient with the computer and the internet, but I was totally unable to register for the digital sales.

    One more thing.
    I do most of my shopping at the Stop&Shop on Newport Ave, Quincy, MA. They have recently stopped allowing customers to use coupons at the self check registers. If you use the self checkers and have a coupon you then have to go stand in line at the service desk to get the credit for the coupon. When I made my objections known I was told they were soon going to be doing that in all their stores. Not only is it a pain in the …. to have to go stand in a 2nd line to redeem your coupons, but it also means longer lines at the service desk for people with other business.

  13. if digital coupons are only advertised online, I don’t see the problem. (the offline would never see it)

    I *do* see a problem if the savings are promoted in the newspaper, store displays, or other fliers. At that point, it falls into another “fine print” category, where they say you have to “click to add it to your account” first. Even online folks may not notice the fine print before they put the item in their cart.

  14. How about a class action suit ? Against “ageism”, privacy rights
    and ADA (American Disability Act).

  15. Soon, there will only be internet based flyers and coupons. In fact, local supermarket chain Trucchi’s stopped inserting their flyer into newspapers and sending by US Postal Service more than a year ago.
    I have several friends who don’t own a computer or a smart phone. Very sad !

    • And they routinely have online prices that are below in-store prices. So if you don’t go online, you pay more, unless you’re willing to take the extra effort to get them to price-match their own online prices.

  16. I guess I look at this from a different angle. I an 72yo and love the digital deals. I use the internet daily and have a smartphone. I have the apps from 6 stores on my phone. I enjoy perusing the adds from the major stores…Kroger, Meijer and Costco. I also go thru the digital coupons.

    I look at digital only deals as an extra way to save. The best thing is that I can be doing the shopping and come upon a digital deal I didn’t know about. I can load the coupon to my phone right there and then and get the price at the checkout. I worked part-time in stores until recently. And while working have tried to help people see the benefit of online deals. I usually got rebuffed.

    I see other comments about wasting time going through the coupons. I remember when we got all of our coupons in the Sunday paper. Talk about the time it takes to sort them and then cut out the ones you want.

    As far as people not using the internet or smartphones, I don’t think it is the stores responsibility to make allowances. I have been in the grocery business in different forms my entire life. I have seen the changes over the years. This is just another change. If stores make allowances for all of the non-users then it defeats the purpose of the program. And probably will end the deals for digital users like me.

    • I don’t see how making allowances for non-users would defeat the purpose of the program, but even if that did end deals for digital users, then wouldn’t it be “just another change,” as you put it?

      It’s fine that you like the digital coupons. But keep in mind that it’s not “free money” from the store; you’re getting a discount, and they’re getting things in return that ultimately translate into a positive return for them. They secure your patronage, and they get to have your data. For some people (perhaps the shoppers who rebuffed you), the discount is not worth the loss of privacy.

      I found this article from a few years ago about the possible privacy compromises with one shopping loyalty card from a large California chain. It’s pretty scary. And this was even before digital coupons (with their potential for even more widespread data collection) took off.


      • There is no sense to run 2 different programs that do the same thing. Either you have digital deals or you haven’t. Stores are simple changing with the times. When you said wouldn’t ending digital deals be just another change? No. That’s called going backward.

        Believe me there are many more significant changes on the horizon addressing the way people shop. As I understand it, Kroger is building “stores” in the NE and in Florida that are billed as no customer stores. All orders are sent in online and paid for with cards. Then delivered to the customer. Of course, you can still shop in person at your favorite store. For a while longer, at least.

      • Newer is not necessarily better. Not all change (or “progress”) is good, and sometimes changing by going backward is exactly the right thing to do. Remember New Coke? 🙂

        In this case, the move to digital coupons is going to inconvenience a lot of people, and cost other people money (and their privacy). Evidently it’s going to be saving you cash, which is great, so it seems like progress to you. But I think it’s important not to assume that because digital coupons are better for you that it means that they’re better for everyone else. For some people, digital coupons are themselves a step backward.

        And remember, the companies aren’t migrating to digital to save you money. They’re doing it to make more money for themselves. And of course companies can run two different programs that do the same thing at the same time. It might or might not make business sense for them to do so, but neither you nor I are equipped to render that judgement.

        Not sure if Edgar is going to edit this part out, but an aside: advances in technology have brought the world some wondrous new capabilities and conveniences, but at the same time they have resulted in myriad, grave problems. It’s easy to overlook the latter when getting blown away by the coolness of new tech features, but it’s wise to approach new features with caution and thoughtfulness, rather than unqualified enthusiasm.

  17. Just inferring, but to me, the use of the digital coupon goes to the corporation harvesting data and now having a 100% identifiable customer. I can now track every aspect of the consumer’s purchase, what kind purchase they make. How their neighborhood / zip code purchases things, etc. What your GPS location was when you logged into the app to make the selection, etc.

    It’s truly scary how much these companies are inhaling data on their customers and inventing ways for the customer to give up more data.

    • I have a feeling that geolocation collection Etc is just the tip of the iceberg. And while we may shrug our shoulders and say so they know what I’m buying and maybe even know where I live and what store I shop at, just so we can get 10 cents off chicken breast. I fear that the real danger to us through all this data collection is yet to be seen and by the time we do see it it may be too late.

  18. This is a related age- or disability-discriminatory policy that both Kroger management and corporate have instituted: I’ve been shopping online for groceries since the beginning of Covid and getting my orders delivered into my car trunk. In recent months, Kroger has moved many products out of the pickup tab into either delivery or in-store only. I cannot go into the store, since I am medically fragile and have been mostly a hermit since March of 2020. I choose not to get it delivered because there is a delivery fee. I have been in touch several times with both Kroger store management, accusing them of discriminatory policies against the aged and infirm, and they deny that they discriminate. However, the policy is de facto discrimination, and they obviously have no intention of changing it.

    • I agree. I have been using Meijer store pickup for quite some time, simply because it saves me time and I don’t have to go into the store. I get targeted coupons in the mail based on my previous purchases; however, it states right on the bottom of the coupon, “excludes home delivery and store pick up purchases”. I also get periodic $10 reward certificates based on the dollar amount of my previous purchases through a program they they call mPerks.
      It also states on the back of that coupon a long list of exclusions including “store pickup purchases and home delivery purchases”. I have had two of these $10 certificates expire simply because I have not been inside the store. I too have called Meijer corporate offices and complained about this to no avail. In this day of COVID and people being less willing to go into a store, I think it is ridiculous, especially to send coupons that you have earned through previous purchases through a program that they encourage you to sign up for, or targeted coupons based on your previous purchases and not allow you to use them for your preferred method of purchase.

  19. Stores should be mandated to offer digital deals via clipped coupons in stores. The digital deals are often hard to find within the website which should have clearly marked buttons saying “weekly digital deals” or “weekly savings” as well as item search links. Often the deals don’t come up if you search by brand (CoffeeMate) or item (chicken thighs). Higher price alternatives DO show. Easy to program but stores haven’t done it since digital deals came out years ago.

  20. Thank you for this very interesting article. I have a computer that is used only for emails. I do not have a printer or phone or things like that to take advantage of digitally originated coupons. I really appreciate this article and hope it helps us old seniors.

  21. I have stopped shopping at Stop & Shop and Shaw’s market. Too many hoops to jump thru to get advertised specials… They can keep them! If they really wanted to sell items at advertisd prices, the sale price would be ticket price regardless of who you are or what coupons you have. Plenty of other markets that actually sell items at advertised prices.

  22. As many people have noted this is mostly about data collection, gathering shopping habits based on your demographic, etc.

    Shop-Rite occasionally duplicates some of their coupons in the print flyer and on-line, when you clip online a message pops up “this is a digital version of the paper coupon in the weekly circular, only one can be used” or something like that – great – I love that especially if I run into the store in a hurry on the way home and don’t have time to sort through 11 pages of irrelevant deals on a screen.

    But when I do have time, I just give them what they want – I clip every single digital coupon every single time, which hopefully makes their data collection about me a little less useful (other than deducing I’m a cheapskate who will take any deal offered, haha).

    • Good for you. I have done that in the past. I just click it and they make me sign in but so what. Later I can just remove them or leave it to them to do it and/or it just expires. You’re my kind of guy.

  23. A friend was in line behind a very elderly lady who thought she was getting the sales prices and didn’t understand about the digital coupons. The checker wouldn’t adjust the prices for her. My friend was so disgusted she complained to the manager and no longer shops there. I don’t have a smart phone. I load digital coupons at home via computer, but have had instances where they didn’t get applied. At that point, most checkers just say, “Sorry” (at which point I might have them remove the item), but I have had two checkers that scanned a barcode to give me the sale price. It should be store policy that all checkers should do that. If there is a Rewards program tied to the coupons, that can make the hassle of searching/loading them worth it. But when I want to buy an item, and see by the shelf label that there is a lower price via a digital coupon for that item but I don’t have that coupon loaded, I won’t buy the item!–I feel I’m being overcharged. I don’t want to have to run home to load it on the computer, then drive back to the store. What usually happens is that I go across the street to the Winco, where all the sales prices on items are available to everyone: no coupons to load or clip. The price you see is the price you pay, period.

  24. Wow, you hit my major gripe today! I held off for a long time in getting the digital app, but one day Albertson’s advertised half-gallons of milk for 47¢, limit two. Gallons of milk are hard for me to use in the kitchen so I’ve been buying the smaller containers and paying quite a bit more. I’m fairly computer savvy and I have a cellphone, but it took me 25 minutes with two clerks at the store to set up and operate this app. I used it once, and though there are a lot of enticing prices on this app every week, I’m done with it.

  25. I have complained about this practice for quite some time. I feel it is discriminatory in nature. Also, fewer people take the time to deal with digital coupons so the store actually sells more at the higher price & increases profits. Just another way to scam customers.

  26. I think that any company that discriminates against the unconnected ought to be hit with a class-action suit that would force them not only to offer non-digital alternatives, but also to compensate people who have been losing out.

  27. As an 80+ tech-savvy senior, I never use digital coupons. Most offer pennies off junk food and I’d rather pay those pennies as the price of my privacy. They are nothing more than tracking mechanisms.

  28. We have a local grocery store that doesn’t even have a membership card. They announce the sale items in the store where the item is displayed, with a card that says “sale”. I shop at this store much more often.

    • I live in eastern Washington state; there are two grocery-store chains in my area that don’t have club cards.

      Not coincidentally, these are the two places where I grocery-shop the most.

      I rarely frequent Albertsons/Safeway and Fred Meyer (Kroger).

  29. Yes, digital coupons should be offered to seniors, regardless of their internet capabilities.

    As a longtime professional shopper, I’ve known for years that grocery stores don’t really want you to save money. They want you to pay full price, so they make it exceedingly difficult to use coupons and their polices have only become more restrictive since the inception of the pandemic.

    All of us should notice if the price stays the same on an item and the contents become less. This is another thing that’s happening across the board with products. Manufacturer’s think we won’t notice, but we do. Also, quality is slipping as they seek to bolster their profit margins by using cheaper ingredients.

    Please start to speak up. If we don’t stop them from cheating us, we’ll end up paying exorbitant prices for less product with lower quality ingredients. Greed is greed, is greed.

    • Pamela,
      You are spot on. We no longer have consumer watchdog groups to oversee and to bring issues like to to light. The quality has suffered. We pay more for less and for lower quality. Take TP for instance. Toilet paper has gone down in quality — thinner and not wide. I can see the spindle of my toilet paper holder so I measured it to an older roll. Yes indeedy, It is not as wide — at least by half an inch. Yes they say that you get so many sheets per roll, However those sheets are shorter. Go by square feet not sheets. The prices have gone up, quality has gone down and the quantity has diminished even more.

      Absolutely right that the stores do not want you to save money that is why they create all these barriers to lower prices. But the digital coupons are the worst and most egregious. They serve to disenfranchise and to discriminate against a segment of a population INTENTIONALLY.

      The cashiers and managers tend to shame those of us who do not have digital access to coupons. Young people shame us — “get with it.’ This is ableism — some of my friends have poor eyesight and have a hard time handling those smart phones and they cannot afford them. Those smart phone plans are expensive. Please do not say, “ask your family members.” You are making assumptions that people have family members that can help. How many of you out there who say, “ask your family members” actually help your family member daily? Uh huh, I don’t see many raised hands.

      Quit shaming people because they don’t subscribe to current fashion trends. Quit creating these barriers to access basic needs — such as food, medical care and affordable supplies.

      Quit making assumptions that only the elderly are being priced out of affordable access to food. Some of us are not elderly but we are being priced out. I wonder how people who are homeless and don’t own smart phones can access digital coupons.

      Back in the day, if I did not need a paper coupon, but someone else could use it, I could pass it along to them. Not so anymore.

      Technology is great but it is exclusionary and promotes that great digital divide not just in terms of economics, but in social empathy.

  30. Plenty of people don’t use printed coupons and don’t join loyalty programs. I’m a Senior and commonly find my peers have “chosen” to ignore advances in technology. Unfortunately there is a price to pay.

  31. Digital coupons are NOT providing equitable access to lower pricing. They are causing a digital divide between the haves and the have nots. This is not a case of just the elderly but also a pure simple case of discrimination against those of us who cannot AFFORD smart phones or a computer or Internet service. Not all parts of the USA have access to high speed Internet. Those store sites load slowly and do time out.

    This is a simple case of discriminatory practice against a segment of a population — those with poor eyesight, those who are not able to navigate through screen after screen of time-wasting coupon deals (been there and wasted enough time doing that), and those of us who cannot afford smart phones (and their costly smart phone plans) or Internet service. Those who say that clipping digital coupons is easy and fast are fooling themselves. I tried doing it several years ago and timed it. It took over two hours just to clip what I needed when it would have only taken me a few minutes to clip paper coupons and make out my shopping lit. A few minutes — 15 minutes vs. two hours.

    Those who say it is easy and everyone needs to get with it, are insensitive and are ableists. Yes, ableists. It is a discriminatory practice and marginalizes people. I was shamed by cashiers for not having a smart phone. Wow, in order to be “accepted” we now must provide our smartphone passport.

    That smartphone provides data to the stores — far more than your social security number. Those apps have security holes. So yeah, these large stores want you to go digital. They can actively discriminate and provide great deals to people with certain types of phones and know where you shop, what you buy, when you buy it and who your friends are.

    This is data mining at its best and worst as companies sell all that data to other companies. There is gold in them thar digital coupon hills

    Paper coupons do not provide all that private information.
    In the meantime, they are disenfranchising people and creating barriers to accessing affordable prices to people that need it the most.

    Where is Ralph Nader when we need him the most?

  32. Many Senior citizens are on a fixed income and need help with digital coupons. I hate it when Kroger employees want help you with digital coupons and get ugly about it say you should have learned it. They didn’t have computers when I went to school and I always worked outdoor jobs that didn’t require computer work.

  33. Your article hit the nail on the head. At 70 years old, and my Mother at 94, we can’t stand this ploy to confuse and frustrate seniors, and it’s an embarrassment to be at the checkout stand arguing with a cashier just following the corporate policy that customers MUST have clipped these digital only coupons onto smart phones we don’t own, nor access to computers. How dare they take advantage of ANY customer, all who have busy enough lives without this nonsense. IF it’s on sale, quit making people jump through hoops. IF a cashier won’t accommodate me at the register, I just leave everything on the belt…

  34. The Shaws food store company requires you to log onto its WIFI service to access its SHAWS App with the Digital Coupons — in order to activate the coupon discounts. You cant use your own cellular data. This way, Shaws knows where you are, and that you’re not home — great strategy for a home robbery, etc.

  35. This is a good article that brings discrimination to seniors who are not digitally savvy to check for digital store coupons to light. Others do not want apps on their phones as they track user’s activities and sell their data. In addition to the stores listed, Publix and Sprouts Farmers Markets also have savings only through digital access. Good job, Mr. Dworsky!

  36. Although I do occasionally use the digital only apps, I find them an annoyance. H>E>B> is coming to the DFW area and I will be one of their first customers.

  37. I have been complaining about this for quite some time. In my opinion, these stores are blatantly discriminating against anyone who is not able to access these coupons. Either make the coupon available offline as well, or don’t advertise the item as being discounted. It’s another way for them to collect data on customers.

  38. I don’t have internet on my phone, and for that reason I’m not entitled to the
    discount prices. I’m 75 years old and only have a phone to answer and make calls. Therefore I’m discriminated against for not using my phone for discounts. That to me sounds unlawful in this country.

  39. I am one of those seniors and I just left a Ralphs store feeling totally discriminated against …. I want to sue the hell out of them for this.

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