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Harris Teeter app

If you’re a fan of couponing and grocery shopping, you probably spend a good amount of time in the car, travelling to the store and back. Nothing wrong with that – just as long as you don’t do your couponing and grocery shopping while you’re driving.

A popular grocery store chain has found itself in a bit of hot water, after suggesting that its customers multitask by doing their grocery shopping from behind the wheel. Never mind keeping your eyes on the road – there are deals to be had!

That advice came in the form of a Facebook post from Harris Teeter this week. “Stuck in traffic? Get your grocery shopping done,” the post read. “Become a master of multi-tasking. Download the Harris Teeter app today!”

Harris Teeter no doubt considered it innocuous – no one was suggesting that you fiddle with the store’s app and browse its grocery offerings and digital coupons while barreling down the highway at 60 miles an hour. And while Harris Teeter’s home state of North Carolina bans texting while driving, you’re free to use your phone if you’re stopped at a red light – or stuck in traffic.

But Harris Teeter’s Facebook fans were upset anyway.

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“Are you encouraging people to mess with their cell phones while driving? We were rear-ended two weeks ago by someone doing just that,” one commenter wrote in response. “Somebody’s going to wreck,” added another. “This is the worst marketing ad on Facebook that I think I’ve ever seen,” wrote a third. “Using a phone while driving, in or out of traffic, whether or not it’s texting, is just irresponsible.”

So was this a legitimate backlash, or much ado about nothing?

Either way, Harris Teeter did what it had to do to quiet the complaints, by issuing an apology – and deleting the post. “Harris Teeter in no way condones or endorses engaging in any distraction while driving,” the retailer said in a statement. “We apologize for the poor judgment this post displayed and we removed the post after realizing its negative perception.”

Whether or not you think shopping behind the wheel in a stopped car is a bad idea, it could be a lot worse.

A few years ago, Chinese media reported the story of a man who was ticketed and had his license revoked, for using a laptop to look for online coupons – while he was driving down the highway. And a Vancouver city bus driver who shares his observations on Twitter, tweeted last year that “cutting coupons in traffic while driving with your scissors is a new one under the distracted driving category.”

The phenomenon of couponing in the car might raise some questions about a new breed of coupons that are delivered to you while you drive. Several carmakers have launched, or are developing, programs that provide coupons to your in-car navigation system based on your location. And in order to take advantage of them, you have to be paying attention to what coupons are offered, or you might end up driving right past the place that’s offering you a coupon. Then again, if you’re paying too much attention to the coupons, you might end up driving right into the car in front of you.

So Harris Teeter’s controversial Facebook post may have been pretty mild in comparison. But it was probably for the best that the store cut its losses and walked back its recommendation, however innocent its intentions. Based on its fans’ reactions, they’ll be busy keeping their eyes on the road – and keeping their eyes on Harris Teeter, to ensure it doesn’t offer any more questionable shopping advice in the future.

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