Friday, March 11, 2011

Kroger's Manager could spoil the whole party

UPDATE: See my latest article on Kroger discontinuing it's double and triple coupons and discontinuing stacking!

Recently I had an interesting experience at our local Kroger store. While I am a careful shopper and use my coupons when I can, I can't claim to be any sort of "coupon queen". I have always appreciated Kroger's coupon policy of doubling and tripling coupons and allowing stacking of coupons (using a manufacturers coupon at the same time as a store coupon for an item). Because of their good policy, I have always checked their flyers carefully for items that I can get a good deal on with a coupon I currently have. A competitor opened up a big grocery store near my home and Kroger sent some very generous coupons to my home to entice me to keep my business at Kroger. Watch how that backfired on them. I waited until those items were on sale and paired them with my manufacturers coupons. I skipped off to Kroger excited to see my savings.

Cue the "buzz kill" manager. You see, when I got to the register with my seven or so items, the young man checking me out wouldn't let me use the coupons Kroger had sent me in the mail with the manufactures coupons. I don't give checkers a hard time about this. They are just doing their job and sometimes don't know the store policy well. I figure he was new so I politely asked him to call over the manager so that he could clarify the policy. Well the manager told me that they didn't allowing stacking. What???? I told him I had always stacked coupons at this store and inquired if the policy had recently changed. His reply was a cool "no, this has always been our policy" and then he walked away. Did he just call me a liar? Uh... yes.

What happened to "the customer is always right?"

I was bewildered. I had on a previous occasion taken the time to speak with the customer service desk about the coupon policy so that I knew what was allowed. Policies change but according to this manager, I was living in a fantasy world. I thought that maybe I could get a clearer answer from the Kroger corporation, so I wrote their customer service. Here is their confusing response with my little comments in blue for your amusement:

Thank you for contacting The Kroger Co. We apologize for your recent experience and we appreciate your inquiry regarding our coupon policy. For your reference, I am including a copy of the coupon policy for your region. Please note that this policy is our most current; however it is subject to change without notice. For further clarification of this policy, please speak directly to store management. (I did that and that is why I am writing you. Duh...) Please do not hesitate to contact us at 800.576.4377 if we can be of further assistance. Thank you again and have a nice day.

(Brace yourself...) The store manager has the right to accept, decline or limit the quantity of coupons or items used or purchased in a single transaction, by a single customer, or in a single day. (seriously? So if he doesn't like the way I look that day, I'm outta luck? This is insane!)

OK - the rest of the letter is their "policy". I use that term loosely because they obviously don't have any policy if a manager can override it at any time for any reason.

Double Coupons:
o Manufacturer coupons of $0.50 or less will be "doubled".
o Manufacturer coupons of $.39 or less will be "tripled".
o Manufacturer coupons over $.51 will be redeemed at face value.
o Limit one (1) coupon per household for each "like" item will be "doubled/tripled".
Pharmacy Coupons:
o Competitor pharmacy coupons are accepted.
o LCM or Competitor Coupons may not be used in conjunction with our $4 Generic Program.
General Coupon Policy:
o Limit one (1) manufacturer coupon per item purchased.
o Limit one (1) store coupon per item purchased.
o One (1) manufacturer and One (1) store coupon can be used on the same item.
(ah ha, here is my situation. Oh, but never mind, the manager hadn't had his latte that morning, so it all goes out the window)
o Coupons cannot be used on "free" items.
o Expired coupons are not accepted.
o Amount refunded cannot exceed the cost of the item.
We only accept printable coupons if they scan properly at checkout.
We do not accept "free product" printable coupons that have no purchase requirement.
Buy-one-get-one-free coupons and other values that have a purchase requirement are acceptable but will be MUCH less common than traditional value-off coupons.
We do not accept coupons for more than about 75% of a product's value without advance notice.
Legitimate PAH coupons will not be for a high value relative to the cost of the item. For example, a $2.00 off coupon will be acceptable for a product that normally sells for $5.00 or more, but a $2.00 off printable coupon for a product that sells for $2.25 is unlikely to be legitimate.
Coupons will be rejected if they appear out of proportion or blurry, or are obvious duplicates.
(blah, blah, blah)
Legitimate PAH coupons are never copied, sold, or traded. Nearly all coupons are "non-transferable," meaning they should not be photocopied or scanned and distributed to others.
Coupons will be rejected if they appear to have been altered in any way.
PAH coupons can be checked for validity at:
Lori Rump
Consumer Affairs

Dearest Lori - you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by sending me the following letter which is more like the truth.

Dear Customer: I would love to give your our coupon policy, but the manager can override it at any time for any reason he wants. Sorry about that. Good luck using your coupons in our stores. Maybe ask your friends which of our stores are more coupon friendly or check with the staff to see if the manager is in a good mood that day.

Ugh... I'm seriously disgusted. More people than ever are using coupons and shopping carefully. This sort of sloppy policy turns customers away and word spreads fast in this electronic age. Kroger would do well to have a firm coupon policy and stick to it. That's something we can all appreciate and make use of. If a customer can't plan ahead and know how much they will pay for an item, then why bother to go into the store at all? That's one for you to ponder Kroger. Thanks for the coupons... I guess.

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