Remember back in the day, when you used to be able to combine a paper manufacturer’s coupon and a digital coupon on the same item? Harris Teeter shoppers remember it well – like it was only yesterday.

That’s because it practically was. The Kroger-owned, North Carolina-based chain was one of the last to allow stacking paper and digital manufacturer’s coupons. But the grocer updated its policy this week to ban the practice, coinciding with the impending launch of a revamped digital coupon program. The move is disappointing couponers, but is finally bringing Harris Teeter in line with industry standards.

That’s not the way it used to be. Back when digital coupons were first introduced, they were considered something of a category all their own. There were manufacturer’s coupons, store coupons and now digital coupons. If you could stack the first two, why not allow you to stack them all?

Many stores did, at first. But that started to change several years ago. Kroger, which was one of the very first stores to offer digital coupons, revamped its policies and updated its cash register software in 2011 to prevent shoppers from using a digital coupon and a paper manufacturer’s coupon on the same item. So no longer were digital coupons a “third category” – they were just manufacturer’s coupons in a different form. So in much the same way that you couldn’t use two paper manufacturer’s coupons on a single item, you couldn’t use a paper and digital manufacturer’s coupon on a single item either.

After Kroger’s move, and a subsequent recommendation by the Joint Industry Coupon Committee that “only one manufacturer coupon in any form, should apply per common item purchased”, most other retailers followed suit.

So it’s a wonder that the ability to stack manufacturer’s coupons at Harris Teeter lasted as long as it did.

Of course, Kroger now owns Harris Teeter, and has for some time now. Virtually all other Kroger-owned grocery chains have switched over to Kroger’s cash register software and digital coupon program, including the Roundy’s stores it acquired in 2015, two years after it acquired Harris Teeter.

A Harris Teeter spokesperson would not confirm whether the chain is also adopting Kroger’s digital coupon program, but it’s probably a safe bet. The timing of the coupon policy change “is directly related to the recent conversion of our point-of-sale/register technology,” spokesperson Danna Robinson told Coupons in the News. A new digital coupon program is set to launch next Wednesday, October 18th. “The program will roll out slowly as we start to add manufacturer coupons, and will continue to grow into a more extensive program,” Robinson said.

Even so, the changes aren’t sitting well with some Harris Teeter shoppers. This will be the third distinct digital coupon program Harris Teeter has offered in as many years. After its Google-owned Zavers program was discontinued in late 2014, Harris Teeter’s digital coupons went away altogether for six weeks while it prepared a replacement program. The eventual replacement took nearly a year to get up to full speed, with limited functionality and a smaller selection of coupon offers in the interim. So Harris Teeter couponers aren’t necessarily thrilled to be told that the new digital coupon program will also “roll out slowly”.

The new point-of-sale register software also doesn’t accept contactless payment like Apple Pay and Android Pay, while Harris Teeter’s old system did. “I don’t understand why HT would choose to ‘upgrade’ a system and TAKE AWAY features like Apple Pay,” one shopper griped on Harris Teeter’s Facebook page.

Add to all of this Harris Teeter’s recent controversial decision to deny the use of coupons with a rain check, and some shoppers are grumbling that today’s Harris Teeter just isn’t the same customer-friendly, high-end store that they once knew. “HT used to have stellar customer service… before Kroger bought them out,” one Facebook commenter complained.

Still, about four years after Kroger bought it, the changes at Harris Teeter haven’t been as drastic as some shoppers had feared. “Very sad about the Kroger takeover. It is like a pig farmer purchasing a Kentucky Derby Racehorse… How long will it be before the racehorse starts to oink?” one Harris Teeter fan fretted at the time of the acquisition.

No one is accusing Harris Teeter of oinking just yet. Sure, you can’t stack manufacturer’s coupons anymore, or use coupons with a rain check. But Harris Teeter remains one of the only Kroger-owned chains that still doubles coupons.

For now. If you think couponers are upset about the digital coupon and rain check changes, just wait. If Harris Teeter messes with their double coupons – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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