Price Chopper


The Price Chopper grocery chain and the New York Attorney General’s office are trading fire over double coupons, just days after they reached an apparently amicable settlement. The Attorney General is calling Price Chopper’s ads “deceptive” and “misleading”, and Price Chopper is calling the Attorney General’s accusations “inaccurate” and “inflammatory”.

And customers who thought Price Chopper would double their coupons up to $1 aren’t too happy either.

Even if you’re not a Price Chopper shopper, this is a case well worth watching. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced in a news release today that Price Chopper has agreed to more prominently disclose restrictions on its double coupon policy, and also pay a $100,000 penalty.

A copy of the agreement provided to Coupons in the News shows that, prior to June 2011, Price Chopper had at least four different coupon policies in place, in different regions of the state of New York (Price Chopper also has stores in five other Northeastern states). Among the policies were one that allowed coupons up to $.99 to be doubled, another that allowed coupons up to and including $1 to be doubled, and still another that doubled coupons up to $.50, and increased the value of others to a maximum of $1.

In addition to the different policies, the Attorney General’s office noted that “Price Chopper had numerous restrictions on its Double Coupon offers that varied region by region and were not disclosed in its print advertisements.” Those included a limit on the number of coupons that could be doubled, a rule that a doubled coupon could not exceed the price of an item, and a restriction stating that the total of all coupons doubled cannot exceed one-half of the price of the total order.

Price Chopper streamlined its various coupon rules into one consistent policy in June 2011, doubling coupons up to $.99. That was great news for customers who weren’t able to do that before, not so great news for those who had previously been able to double $1 coupons. Either way, the Attorney General says the grocery chain didn’t adequately inform customers of the change. “Price Chopper’s advertisements for ‘Double Coupon’ savings fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose that there are material restrictions on its Double Coupon Offers,” the agreement reads. “Other Double Coupon advertisements simply state ‘See Store For Details’ and/or instruct the consumer to check Price Chopper’s website.” In addition, even after the coupon policy was revised, “the posted policies at a number of Price Chopper locations differed in whole or in part from the policy that was posted on its website.”


In the news release issued today, Schneiderman came down hard on Price Chopper, saying the chain’s “failure to disclose coupon restrictions amounted to millions in lost savings” for its customers. “Price Chopper used deceptive business practices to mislead price-conscious consumers and extract hard-earned money from them,” he said. “Today’s agreement ensures that consumers will be protected from misleading advertising at these stores in the future.”

Price Chopper fired back in its own statement. “We were appalled and disappointed by the inflammatory press release,” spokesperson Mona Golub said. “Its portrayal of Price Chopper’s conduct is false, misleading and inaccurate in significant respects.” The agreement “makes no assertion that Price Chopper acted intentionally to harm consumers or that its practices caused any losses, let alone millions of lost savings to its customers.”

Golub said the agreement merely states that Price Chopper “inconsistently denoted in its advertising the dollar value limit of its double coupon policy during select weeks in June 2011, January 2012 and April 2012 in Syracuse and Cortland, NY.” While this is technically true, the agreement appears to use these dates and locations as examples, and not as a comprehensive list of violations.

Under the terms of the agreement, Price Chopper will now “clearly and conspicuously disclose” limits to its double coupon policy in any advertisements, and “prominently and conspicuously post its coupon policy at all store locations.” And of course, there’s the matter of the $100,000 penalty.

To anyone who’s ever been frustrated by a store’s inconsistent enforcement of a company-wide coupon policy, this case could be seen as a shot across the bow. Surely Price Chopper isn’t the only grocery store in the country that’s ever made a change to its coupon policy without “clearly and conspicuously” communicating the new terms and restrictions in every advertisement and at every store. One might argue it’s a bit much to post an entire coupon policy on every weekly circular – or that any customer who sees an ad offering “double coupons” cannot reasonably expect there will be some limits. On the other hand, expecting that a chain will clearly communicate its coupon policy could set a precedent, in holding corporate offices more accountable for individual stores that sometimes appear to make up their own coupon rules.

The agreement notes that Price Chopper “neither admits nor denies” the Attorney General’s findings. “Our decision to sign this agreement was reached after considering the likely cost of alternative actions,” Golub said, “and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers.”

Customers who now, given all the publicity, know full well that their coupons at Price Chopper will only double up to $.99.

Image source: superba_ / Foter.com / CC BY


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