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Frenzied shoppers have been known to push, shove, shout and trample to get their hands on the hottest holiday deals on Black Friday. But would mobs of people do the same for some bottled water, discounted turkey and free shampoo? The Price Chopper grocery chain didn’t think so. They thought wrong.

The Schenectady, New York-based chain had advertised a “Super Saturday Sale” this past weekend, in its 128 stores throughout New York, New England and Pennsylvania. The one-day sale featured deals advertised as the “lowest price of the year”, including 99-cents-a-pound turkey breast, a double 12-roll of Charmin for $5 and buy-one-get-one-free Pantene shampoo or conditioner. (Click on the image above for the full one-day sale ad). Good deals all, especially when combined with coupons that would make the Charmin just 17 cents per roll and both shampoos free (see a list of matchups on the site “Oo La La Savings”). But were the sales so good that they were worth fighting over? “The deals are great,” said Oo La La Saving’s Emily Turanzas, “but they aren’t ‘let’s run out and grab 100’.” Others apparently thought differently.

Saturday wasn’t even halfway over before frustrated customers began taking to Price Chopper’s Facebook page reporting mob scenes at their local store, and complaining that the sale items were sold out within hours. Frustration quickly turned to anger, and hundreds of comments. “Jeers to Price Chopper for pulling the bait and switch on the turkey breasts,” said one commenter. “What they do borders on the fraudulent,” fumed another. “Why does Price Chopper insist on continuing to advertise stuff they are not prepared to supply?” asked one customer, as another wondered, “On a day when the stores are already busy, why add to the chaos?”

Sheila Dolan, who has followed Price Chopper deals for nearly three years on her website A Super Savvy Saver, knew to show up at her store bright and early Saturday morning. “I… warned my readers to get there early if they wanted in on the turkey deal,” she said. “I could tell by the number of customers in the store a little after 7am, it was going to be crazy.”

And she was right. One Facebook commenter said she “was yelled at and threatened by another customer… because I had my 2 turkeys and would not give one up!” Others commented: “I saw pushing and shoving,” “People were savages,” and “In the parking lot, it became an obstacle course of angry/sad people randomly hurling carts into strangers’ vehicles, out of frustration for not getting a case of water.”

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“Price Chopper runs special events and limited time only product promotions that create excitement and heighten demand in our stores on a fairly regular basis,” Price Chopper spokesperson Mona Golub told us. But clearly the “excitement” and “heightened demand” was far beyond what the chain expected. “For this particular Super Saturday sale, we ordered and sold through more than three times the amount of product (i.e. turkey breasts) that we’ve sold in the past,” Golub said.

Facebook commenters who identified themselves as Price Chopper employees echoed Golub’s statement. “We prepared for this sale all week, and we didn’t expect this many customers,” said one. “Orders are based on projections, and projections are nothing but educated guesses.” “People were taking more than the limit,” said another. “But with 12 registers open and 12 different cashiers and total chaos, these people slipped through more than they should have.” “Nothing is tied to your card,” explained Dolan, “so you can leave the store, come back and rebuy at a different register. I’m sure that’s what some did.” Some apparently didn’t even go to those lengths. “Even though items were ‘one per customer’, people had like ten turkeys in their carts,” reported a Facebook commenter, while another alleged that “workers were taking turkeys and setting them aside for their families, leaving the other customers without the opportunity to purchase.”

“The ‘while supplies last/no rainchecks’ messaging was clearly communicated in our circular,” Golub said. Overwhelmed stores eventually began issuing rain checks anyway, placating some customers but only frustrating others who were earlier denied rain checks. So Price Chopper is now inviting disappointed customers to contact them at [email protected]. “We remain committed to personally addressing the disappointment of those (few) whose shopping experience didn’t meet their expectation,” Golub said. “We are issuing rainchecks and speaking with customers personally, to better understand their individual experiences in our stores.”

Given all the reports of chaos, it’s perhaps refreshing to learn that some actually had a pleasant shopping experience. “I was very pleased,” said Turanzas of Oo La La Savings. “Yes it was busy, but people were kind and the staff was kind. I didn’t experience any of the problems that anyone else had.”

And that’s led Price Chopper to consider its one-day sale a success, despite all the difficulties. “Record traffic and sales across the chain, accompanied by much positive feedback from customers, help us to measure the overall success of such well-appreciated events,” Golub said. And fans like A Super Savvy Saver‘s Dolan say the chain is likely to win over the customers who swear they’ll never return. “They listen to their customers,” Dolan says of Price Chopper. “They take customer complaints very seriously. I and many of my readers believe they will make up for this fiasco. In fact, I am certain of it.”

Whether they will hold another Super Saturday Sale any time soon, is less than certain. So if you missed out on all the excitement – well, there’s always Black Friday!

October 5 update: Sheila at A Super Savvy Saver reports that a reader shared how Price Chopper responded to a request for rain checks – not only did they mail rain checks, but a $10 gift certificate too.

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  1. Pingback: Pantene Deal - Page 3 - WeUseCoupons.com

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