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One Supermarket Makes Digital Coupons Easy to Access in Just-Launched Test

Digital coupons are advertised discounts that require shoppers to individually “e-clip” each coupon they want on the store’s website or app usually before they go to the store. Last year, we highlighted the problem with digital coupons [see original story] at supermarkets because they require having the internet or a smartphone to use. That process effectively shuts out millions of non-tech-savvy shoppers including seniors and low-income folks without such access. And thus they are forced to pay higher grocery prices.

SS digital coupon items

Last November, a coalition of national consumer organizations including Consumer World called on the CEOs of a dozen of the largest supermarket chains to offer an in-store, offline alternative so everyone without electronic access could avail themselves of all the weekly sale items offered at their stores. None of the CEOs responded to us.

Now we learned that Stop & Shop, a leading chain in the Northeast with nearly 400 stores, has just begun a test of a way for all shoppers to easily get all the extra weekly digital discounts without having to use the internet or a smartphone. They are installing a kiosk in select stores right near the main entrance where shoppers simply scan their loyalty card or enter their phone number, and all that week’s advertised digital coupon offers from the Stop & Shop circular will be automatically loaded onto the shopper’s account. No more having to go online to find and individually e-clip the digital coupons you want.

Stop & Shop digital coupon kiosk
See video demonstration


Simplifying all of the above:

Kiosk instructions

That’s all you have to do. The kiosk also provides a printout with special offers for you and a list of some of the digital coupons added to your account. (Suggestion: they need to add all of them to the printout.)

And for those with smartphones, you can check your loyalty card account online to make sure all digital offers have indeed been automatically clipped for you. For example, below you can see that the two digital-only offers shown at the top of this story for chicken parts and ground turkey have been added to MrConsumer’s account just by scanning his loyalty card at the kiosk.

Clipped coupons

We suggest that Stop & Shop and EntryPoint Communications (the developer of the kiosks and its software) simplify the look of the kiosk. There’s too much going on here with multiple signs, irrelevant offers on the computer screen, a product display, and more. The kiosk should, at least initially, simply emphasize to enter your phone number or scan your loyalty card (with a big arrow pointing to the scanner) to get all the advertised digital coupons added to your account. Period.

To their credit, the companies are going to have people posted at the kiosks to guide shoppers though the process of using the system for several weeks after their introduction.

We salute these companies (and those chains that have already adopted kiosks) for stepping up and offering a simple solution to make digital coupons accessible to everyone.

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Kroger Makes a Half-Hearted Attempt to Provide Digital Coupon Discounts to Unplugged Shoppers

As regular readers know, Consumer World and a coalition of other consumer organizations including Consumer Reports have been trying to get supermarkets that offer digital coupons to also offer a simple in-store alternative for those shoppers who don’t have internet access or a smartphone.

Digital coupons generally require a shopper to use the store’s app or website to find and load digital-only discounts onto one’s loyalty account/card. Then, when they check out in the store and scan their card, they get the digital discount. But for non-tech-savvy consumers of any age, many low income shoppers, the 25-percent of seniors who don’t use the internet, and the 39-percent who don’t own a smartphone, these money-saving offers are illusory.

Digital deal -watermelon

See some of our prior coverage of the digital coupon issue here.

Last week, Kroger issued a statement [see end of article] seemingly recognizing the financial hardship that many experience because they are not tech-savvy and thus far have been generally shut-out of digital discounts. Here’s their solution:


We understand that not all customers choose to engage digitally when shopping with retailers. Customers who would like to take advantage of digital coupons and do not have a digital account, can receive the discounted pricing at any customer service desk.

Because Kroger’s PR folks would not tell us how exactly the new system works, we called two stores, one in Ohio and one in Kentucky. The customer service person in Ohio said that a non-digital shopper can bring the sale items that require a digital coupon to the courtesy desk, where they can buy them at the discounted price. The rest of their groceries have to be purchased in the regular checkout line.

The Kentucky store customer service person asked if I had a computer or a smartphone. I said no. He then suggested that I go to the public library where I could access the digital coupons on their computer.

Thanks for the helpful suggestion. Even the first response is a bit impractical and time-consuming for both shoppers and store personnel. On top of that, how do shoppers even know that Kroger and its various nameplate divisions have changed their policy about giving digital discounts to non-digital customers? You have to read it on the internet, which many cannot do. And those who can go online, would never realize there is a new policy by reading their coupon FAQ which has not been updated:


Kroger coupon faq

There is no mention whatsoever about how an unplugged shopper can get the same savings. Only tucked away on a separate coupon policy page of their website does it say those folks can go to the courtesy desk to get the discounts. [Thanks to Coupons in the News for that discovery.]

We asked the PR folks at Kroger some additional very pointed questions and about issues raised by their policy change, but we have only received their canned statement noted above so far.

While Kroger should be commended for taking at least an initial step to help stop digital discrimination in retail stores, there are better solutions available. Simply requesting the digital discount at the checkout is the easiest way. Alternatively, some stores are experimenting with an electronic kiosk near store entrances where all a shopper has to do is scan their loyalty card or enter their phone number, and all that week’s digital coupons are then automatically loaded onto their loyal card account.

We hope stores realize that digital discrimination hits many of the most vulnerable consumers in the pocketbook at the worst possible time — when inflation continues to batter shoppers’ wallets.

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Ho Ho NO: Unplugged Shoppers Face Higher Grocery Prices

UPDATE: On January 12, a New Jersey assemblyman filled the first bill in the country requiring retailers who offer “digital coupons” to also provide paper ones of equal value to those customers who do not have internet access.

The millions of seniors who don’t use the internet (25% according to Pew Research Center) or who don’t have a smartphone (39%) are being charged substantially higher grocery prices than their more tech-savvy counterparts because they cannot clip the e-coupons necessary to be charged the advertised sale prices in the store. Unplugged lower income shoppers face the same roadblock. (See our recent story.)

Look at just the front page of this ad from a Washington, DC Safeway store right before Christmas advertising in-store prices. Note how much more an unplugged (“non-digital” in red) shopper pays versus a digital shopper:


Safeway non-digital prices

Just on those five items being purchased in-store, a non-digital shopper even if a member of the store’s loyalty program would have paid $67.03 compared to just $42.73 for a shopper who was able to clip the digital offers before going to the store. That is almost $25 more for the very same items.

Similarly, at this Star Market in Boston, an unplugged shopper would pay over $29 more for just these seven items.


Star Market non-digital prices

In November, five national consumer organizations including Consumer World called on a dozen leaders of the supermarket industry to make an offline alternative available in their stores to disconnected shoppers so everyone could have an equal opportunity to pay the same discounted prices. The response has been silence from them or a bit of misleading PR-spin.

Now it is your turn to speak up and speak out telling supermarket executives how “digital-only” sale prices unfairly discriminate against the millions of shoppers without internet access or smartphones. Urge those companies to make a new year’s resolution to find a way to offer their unplugged customers the same lower sale prices that more digitally-capable shoppers pay.

So… please consider sending an email to the CEOs of Albertsons Companies (which owns Acme, Albertsons, Carrs, Jewel Osco, Randalls, Safeway, Shaw’s, Star Market, Tom Thumb, and Vons), The Kroger Company (which owns Baker’s, City Market, Dillons, Foods Co., Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Frys, Gerbes, King Soopers, Kroger, Marianos, Metro Market, Payless, Pick ‘n Save, QFC, Ralphs, and Smiths), and Stop & Shop.

The Albertsons Companies: Vivek.Sankaran@Albertsons.com

The Kroger Co.: Rodney.McMullen@kroger.com

Stop & Shop: Gordon.Reid@stopandshop.com

Perhaps together we can help convince stores to treat all their shoppers equally and fight inflation a little more easily.