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The Grocery Game shut down

Long before extreme couponing became a thing, and couponers freely shared their savings strategies online, information about how to save money with coupons could be a little hard to come by. You could buy a book, attend a class, or subscribe to a paid service that promised to reveal all of the deals, and unlock the secrets of saving money.

That’s how “The Grocery Game” got its start back in 2000. Founder Teri Gault turned her couponing hobby into a business, launching an “ultimate grocery savings website” that charged members $10 for eight weeks of access to a curated collection of the best coupons and deals at their favorite store. Additional stores cost $5 more.

But that was then, before coupon matchups and deals were all over the internet. And this is now – after unsuccessfully seeking to sell the site, The Grocery Game abruptly went offline for good this week, leaving thousands of bewildered customers and unanswered questions in its wake.

“16 years ago today, on our founder’s 40th birthday, she rolled coins to pay for a business license, and today on her 56th birthday, The Grocery Game was put to rest,” reads a brief, stark notice posted on the now-shuttered Grocery Game website. “We had a mechanical failure, and have not been able to resurrect it. Rest assured, The Grocery Game has always been diligent with security for credit cards and no security has been compromised. We apologize for this unexpected abrupt ending to a wonderful service that meant a lot to us, our employees and countless families. We appreciate the many encouraging messages we’ve received through this difficult time.”

That “difficult time” consisted of about two weeks of inactivity prior to the permanent shutdown, after unspecified problems caused the website to suddenly go down. But the real difficulties appear to have begun long before that.

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The owners of the site have been looking to sell it for some time now. Thegrocerygame.com domain name has been listed for sale since December 3, 2015 – two months before the “mechanical failure” that was blamed for the site’s demise. The asking price? A million bucks.

Even without that knowledge, many users were suspicious that a “mechanical failure” was to blame for the end of The Grocery Game at all. During the two weeks the website was down, company representatives posted occasional updates on their Facebook page, garnering sympathy by stating that they “have never encountered these problems before”, and appearing to be genuinely and earnestly trying to solve whatever problems had occurred.

Then the website closed down altogether. Customers went to the company’s Facebook page to ask what happened – and the Facebook page was deleted. Emails to customer service seeking answers, generated an autoresponse echoing the statement posted online. And those who had prepaid memberships were left to wonder whether they’d get a refund, or never see their money again. In the meantime, Gault and her associates have not responded to numerous calls and emails from Coupons in the News seeking comment.

That’s when customers who were blindsided by the shutdown, began to suspect there was more to the story.

“In the year 2016, I find it hard to believe you operated with no back up system whatsoever and then want us all to believe that you had a meticulous system to protect our credit information,” wrote a visitor to the Grocery Game’s Facebook page, before it was deleted. “There has been little to no communication from you over the past two weeks regarding what the issues were and what we should anticipate. This is, to say the least, the worst customer service experience I have ever encountered.”

Dozens of other commenters chimed in, expressing skepticism that technical problems could have caused the permanent closure of a 16-year-old business with tens of thousands of paying customers. “A lot of people aren’t buying that. Count me among them,” longtime Grocery Game customer Chip Letzgus told Coupons in the News.

Adding to the ambiguity, there are no filings with the company’s home state of California indicating that The Grocery Game has moved to dissolve itself, or file for bankruptcy. And the company’s apparent efforts to quash the growing criticism by deleting its Facebook page – together with its refusal to answer questions from customers or Coupons in the News – hasn’t helped matters, serving only to erase much of the goodwill and sympathy that some customers were inclined to offer.

The prevailing theory among insiders is that the “mechanical failure” may have been real, but it wasn’t the sole cause of the site’s closure. Instead, it may have represented the final nail in the coffin. When listing the website for sale, one might presume that the owners would have preferred to sell it as a going concern – a fully-operational website with active customers, which would make it more marketable, and more valuable to anyone willing to pay a million dollars for it. But if cash-flow problems were behind the decision to sell, then major technical problems could have proven to be too severe and expensive to fix. At that point, the company may have had little choice but to pull the plug.

The site’s sudden end, and the company’s silence on the matter, sullies the legacy of what was once a well-regarded service. “The Grocery Game is absolutely a pioneer in this space. If you look at the collective money they’ve saved members, it’s astounding,” said Josh Elledge, the founder of SavingsAngel, another subscription-based savings site. Even though The Grocery Game was a competitor, Elledge did not welcome its demise. “We’re saddened by it. You don’t like to see a competitor fail. They made the space better by giving consumers a choice.”

Over the years, though, not all reviews of The Grocery Game were positive. “It’s chaotic to use, asks too much money for the service, and is way too complicated,” one reviewer wrote online. “The Grocery Game has a LOT of list mistakes… Frustrating and disappointing is a bit of an understatement,” another commented. “Just TRY cancelling your Grocery Game membership,” a third reviewer offered. “Customer service tries to stall, especially when you ask them to close your account.”

Others wondered whether The Grocery Game simply found that it could no longer effectively compete with the plethora of coupon blogs that do much the same thing – and don’t charge for it. “There are so many free resources for this information these days that I’m left wondering if there is a real value proposition in paying $10 or more every two months for access to coupon matchups,” one former member wrote online. That said, the continued success of SavingsAngel shows there’s still a market for a paid grocery savings site. For $3.99 a week, SavingsAngel users who don’t have the time or inclination to dig around for their own deals “expect a different level of service” than they get from blogs and do-it-yourself databases and message boards, Elledge said.

The Grocery Game also had its own standout features that appealed to longtime users. “Its unique selling proposition, if you will, was that it uncovered more unadvertised deals than any other site,” Letzgus said. “That’s what kept me as a paying subscriber from January 2006 right up until the end. That must not have been enough.”

Billing itself as “the best grocery savings website and free coupon source in America,” The Grocery Game arguably may have been that, back in the day. But no longer. Its failure may illustrate that it’s much more difficult nowadays to get people to pay good money, for what they can get for free. And as any good couponer knows, keeping more of your own money is precisely the point.

53 Comments

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  3. I did a quick search online. Looks like she had people with addiction in her life and she started up a facility called Oaks of Hop

    • Thanks for the info. That is a beautiful home. Glad she is doing well and using her resources to help people. I still really miss The Grocery Game. There is nothing else like it.

  4. I tried Grocery Game once because Mary Hunt regarded it highly. I felt the charge for it was more than I saved and that I could look through sites on the web for free and do much better. I now use Dollar General digital coupons and also other sites where I usually shop rather than drive all over to get the best deals.

  5. I left the grocery game years ago when I got tired of paying a monthly service fee. One of the best replacements I’ve found was hip2save.com. This site has saved me a ton of money with online and local shopping. If you need a current grocery coupon list for area try doing a online search for your store and state.
    Another site that has multiple listings for several states would be
    http://www.mylitter.com.

    It’s a shame the grocery game was so greedy with their asking price for a failing business. Perhaps she would have been able to sell the domain if she asked for a more reasonable price..

    Good luck all and happy savings.

    Cristine

    • I don’t think they were being greedy. They charged for a service and made improvements to their company through the years. They always seemed to make their service better for their customers. Greedy is wanting everything for free and then name-calling and trying to attack a person’s character without evidence when you don’t get your way. If Grocery Game went back up today, I would sign up in a heart beat. I have not used coupons since they shut down.

      • Not name calling. It’s unethical to sell a company for a million when it’s a sinking ship . It is obvious this business model was failing or she wouldn’t have abandoned it and left paying customers in limbo with some lame story. It’s hard to compete when all the info is provided for free from generous bloggers who make money by monetizing their blogs.
        It’s a no brainier and a unfortunate situation of the internet age. Many businesses have gone under from technology. It’s just a fact of life these days.
        But asking a cool million for defunct business is like asking a million for a pay phone business or travel agency. It’s not going to happen.

        I just wanted to help out those who are still interested in saving. That’s all. Sorry your so offended.

  6. You might want to check out Deals to Meals. I switched to this service 8 years ago and LOVE it! I found GG didn’t work for me since I don’t always use coupons but still wanted to save money. I have found the Deals to Meals site to work much better for me! http://www.dealstomeals.com is super easy to use and much more thorough too. You also get weekly menu plans that are based around the weekly deals. I couldn’t live without it!!

  7. Has anyone tried The Krazy Coupon Lady? It’s similar to The Grocery Game, but free

  8. GG
    GG
    GG
    GG
    GG
    GG
    GG
    BYE

  9. Dana Warner says:

    I miss GG so much. I have not couponed since the site went down. I have used coupon mom site. The listed are not correct (item not on sale). I signed up for savings angel. I can not figure it out to confusing. I can figure out where the lists are. It shows items on sale. I have tried coupon divas also. Again no list to print.
    Come on wish these websites would make a website that is more user friendly.
    #thegrocerygame #couponmom #savingsangel #coupondivas

    • Same here. Gave up couponing. GG was the best. Nothing else even compares!!! Still disappointed about it. If they started the site again I would sign up in a heartbeat.

    • Rachel Underhill says:

      Hi, Dana – If you would like help with SavingsAngel, please let me know at the HelpDesk. Rachel

      • I called the customer service number and it said for faster service send an email which I did. It’s been two days and I got an email pointing me to the help desk but all it does it talk about saving money. The site is too confusing and I can’t figure it out. I can click links to ads, I can watch podcasts and I can listen to Josh talk about saving money but I don’t actually see where to find grocery deals matched up to coupons like Grocery Game did. I’m really bummed about Savings Angel’s website and customer service. Why can’t someone just answer the phone anymore. Also why isn’t there a cheat sheet so to speak to the grocery deals. Grocery Game rocked.

        • Rachel Underhill says:

          Hi, Debby –

          I am very sorry for the frustration. I will address all your questions here.

          First, SavingsAngel no longer lists grocery and coupon deals. That is why you cannot find them. We’ve changed to helping people with overall savings, rather than specifically grocery savings.

          You can read our announcement about that here: https://savingsangel.com/savingsangel-changing-focus/

          Also, in regards to your comment about it being two days, that isn’t accurate. It’s been about 11.5 hours. I’m sorry, but even though we’d love to respond to people immediately, we do not answer inquiries that come in at almost 11:00 at night. Your question shows as having been submitted last night (July 21) at 22:52. What you received pointing you to the HelpDesk was an automatic response that confirms the receipt of your inquiry.

          And finally, in regards to a phone call – I did receive an anonymous phone call a couple days ago – but no information and no message was left. There is no way for me to know who called with no message. That may have been you. It may have been someone else. If it was you, I am sorry that you expected someone to call you.

          I hope this addresses all your questions. I will also post this on the Coupons In News thread.

          Here for you – Rachel

          • Rachel- Wow! I was literally about to go check out your site, but the response to Debbie, whom I have never communicated in any way (first visit to this site), is enough to make me never even visit. You were rude and condescending. I think you should have sent all that in a private email. No need to be nasty in a public forum.

    • Has anyone found a substitute for GG yet? I am still so confused!

    • Just checking in. I too have done nothing but flail around since the demise of GG. Savings Angel is horrible. They recently did an overhaul on the website and believe it or not, it’s worse. Last time I tried, went through and selected all I wanted for a list, wouldn’t print. Never would print the coupons either. Stinks. My family really relied on the savings and the list from GG. Budget through the roof now. Have you been able to find anything else that you are happy with?

  10. Even though this is all done in silence and anonymity and no one cares what’s said, I’ll tell you why I left The Grocery Game years ago . I once had a nice discussion with someone from the company years ago, so it showed they had concern us. Then suddenly when I said things they didn’t want to hear, they turned “corporate” and all communications was done by silent and impersonal e-mail. Corporations see $$ not people. They began sending only e-mails and said they no longer made calls. I met a lady in a store near me who had the lists on her, and acknowledged Teri got too big for herself and didn’t care about us as people.
    She was more concerned with her ego than the people who got her to where she was. My father was the same way when he died a multi-million-aire. Ego got too big so he felt he was too self-important. The beauty of the internet. Too easy to hide behind a computer and as long as the money rolls in and you become as anonymous as the money. Distance yourself from the customers. She got what she deserved and I got tired of it. Typical corporate mentality. When you don’t feel your customers deserve answers. Make every-thing impersonal as long as you never have to look in their faces and see who they are.

  11. I have to add that I echo everyone’s grief with the loss of TGG. As a full time working Mom, part time PhD student TGG saved me money and time. I started using it 10 years ago when I went back to work full time. I too cannot find anything comparable. I knew I could trust the site. I knew when a sale was real or fake. It was the best use of my time. I have tried Living Rick with Coupons. It is the closest I can find but not sure it offers the unadvertised deals.

  12. mycouponstacker.com is free and gives you customized deals based on your stores and brand preferences

  13. I loved the Grocery Game and am very saddened that the site is done!!! The other sites are no where near as helpful as the Grocery Game!! I’m hoping that someone will one day come up with a similar site!

  14. I feel like an idiot that I actually don’t know how to shop without this site I’ve relied on for nearly 10 years. I cannot find anything close, paid or free. TGG tracked historical prices behind the scenes so that it knew when an item that was 20% off without a coupon was the lowest price it would be and was at least a black item. I can’t find another site that reliably does this, at least not without a ton of clutter. Does anyone know of one?? I’m in the upper midwest.

    • I’m having this same issue. And I’m angry that two days prior to the shutdown, they charged my card for my next eight-week subscription. Of course, no refund and not enough respect to offer a valid explanation. All the years we supported Terry and her business and not a shred of decency to send a mass email to her supporters? Or refund our money?

      I also feel frustrated that I didn’t take the time to learn more while I had the opportunity and relied solely on the service. Of course, as you mentioned there was a lot of back-office tracking that would be nearly impossible for the average person to do. If you find something, please come back and share!

  15. I loved GG. The site saved me so much money and it was very easy to use. I have looked into the other sites such as coupon mom and savings angel but they do not compare to GG. Savings angel is hard to navigate through and after paying the money, I never found on the site where to get the grocery list. I only found more videos asking me for more money. I cancelled it the same day. Will probably start using coupon mom but again, the site is not as easy to navigate through and they do not have Stater Bros grocery store.

    • i have used grocerysmarts.com but does not compare to GG. Anyone else had their cc charged and then site closed down. errrrrr.

    • Hi, Kimberly –

      I am so sorry for your frustration. On SavingsAngel.com, we have two sides – and it sounds as though you were logging into the side with the eCourse videos, rather than the side with the store lists and deals. Did we get your money refunded, since we were unable to serve you for your store?

      In not, please contact me at the SavingsAngel HelpDesk and mention this conversation.

      Rachel

  16. Been using GG for many years. Will miss the easy Friday night lists I would create. The lists were accurate for where I shopped. I’m sorry to see the lack of response. No company should ever ignore the situation, no matter how much they would love to bury their head in the sand and pretend it was happening. I worry about the auto-debit I have set up with them. Will set stop payment in my account.

  17. SavingsAngel does not cover Ralphs Grocery stores. I just checked. So far, best site is GrocerySmarts.com for Ralphs. Would like to see others though if anyone knows one.

    • i have used grocerysmarts.com seems much more complicated and does not have a list of the coupons from the newspapers. confusing. (crying with loss of GG )

  18. I’d love to know something comparable to the GC that matches up coupons with sales and tells you exactly where to find the coupon! I’ll miss their service!!

  19. Hi Candy & everyone. CouponMom is a great site. Stephanie is a veteran in this space – as is Teri – and I’m equally sad to see GroceryGame go. 🙁

    SavingsAngel.com adds some features that (I know of) aren’t available elsewhere that might be valuable? Alerts, searching non-sale matchups, customer support, list building. Anyway – feel free to check out all our free stuff including my free couponing podcast. If you should happen to be interested in more, you can use the coupon code GAME for a free week when starting.

    Please let us know when enrolling which stores are your favorites and we’ll work hard to add them asap. We’ve not covered CA heavily – but will do so if it helps with other former Gamers looking for list building & deal finding help.

    • savingsangel.com doesn’t have ShopRite on their list. So I will pass.

    • So sad to see the GG go!!! I just logged on to SavingsAngel for the first time, and frankly, it is very confusing to navigate and is hard to determine if your site can fill my need. I appreciate you wanting to create a brand however your site is so busy. I started by clicking the try it free and have yet been able to access (or even find) where that is. I keep getting directed to all these buy this now ads as well as enroll in your service. I think your site could really be a contender filling the loss of the GG you just need to hire a professional to come in and clean up the site and make it much simpler and clearer to navigate

      • Thank you so much for the feedback Eileen! Hm. We’ll absolutely review everything for the things you mentioned. So sorry – and please reach out to our helpdesk if we can be of any help – whether or not you decide an SA membership is for you. 🙂 http://helpdesk.savingsangel.com

      • I totally agree with you Eileen. I signed up for it too, and paid, and I cannot get through making one simple list with it. No offense to Josh, but the site is a mess of ads and poorly formatted spreadsheets and very little advice about which deals are actually worth it. I can’t figure out how to sort by type of item either so my list is a disorganized mess. Guess I’ll keep looking for help on the site which sends me in circles. But seriously, consider hiring some professional designers to clean it up, especially considering what it costs to be a member.

    • Pamela Haas says:

      Thanks for input Josh. I too was in a mass panic without Tgg services. Signed up with your site, you added King Soopers for us, thank you. Need Albertson’s. Biggest problem is your list are accurately represented fir different regions. I’ve tried Safeway two different weeks and sales are not the same, haven’t been able to get many of the coupons you refer to, very frustrating and a waste of time.

      • Hi, Pamela –

        I’m sorry for the frustration. The only Safeway we currently list on SavingsAngel.com currently is out of Arizona, from my understanding. That is likely why.

        We are taking a serious look at site design and what we can do to make it better.

        Rachel

  20. I loved GG and have been a customer for a very long time. I have never liked the free sites that I have found. Sure, they all tell you the deals, but grocery game made the PROCESS so much easier. Selecting your deals, clipping the coupons, and printing your lists were a breeze when they updated their program several years ago.

  21. Coupon mom.

  22. I was with Teri’s list from day one and was was her third client. Always honest and NEVER had a problem!
    What ever her reason for shutting down, all I can say is that she was great and saved me Thousands$$$

    • I too een a customer for a LONG time. I really deeded on the site weekly..ad planed my meals around the deals I found on the site. Where is everyone going now? Any suggestions? I’ve been researching other sites..many don’t seem to be west coast friendly..I’m in Cali

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