ppod_citn-728x90
ppod_citn-320x100

Albertsons meat

It can be hard to get good deals on fresh food. So when Safeway and Albertsons run buy-one-get-one-free deals on meat, many shoppers eagerly stock up. Except two Oregon shoppers say it’s all a scam – and they, their fellow shoppers, and all of their wallets are the victims.

“Albertsons and Safeway have found a way to make consumers pay for the seemingly ‘free’ product,” reads a lawsuit that shoppers Schearon Stewart and Jason Stewart have filed in Oregon’s Multnomah County Circuit Court. The two allege that the stores hike the regular price of meat before putting it on sale, giving the false impression that you’re getting something “free” in a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

“When Albertsons and Safeway stores offer meat products under these promotions, they raise the unit prices of the original meat product above the regular retail price… such that consumers are paying substantially more for the original product to cover the cost of the ‘free’ product,” the lawsuit states. As a result, the plaintiffs allege, shoppers pay more per pound for BOGO meat than they do when it’s not on sale, and the promotion forces them to buy more meat than they otherwise might, “in order to obtain the illusory ‘free’ product.”

This, they claim, constitutes unfair and deceptive practices under state law.

And if you’re not watching closely, the lawsuit says you may fall for it due to the stores’ sleight of hand. That’s because Albertsons and Safeway “sometimes sell the same product under different names,” the suit alleges. For example, the plaintiffs claim that the stores sell the same cut of beef under the names “round tip steak,” “sirloin petite roast” or “beef sirloin petite steak boneless,” for a regular price of $3.97 per pound. But when it goes BOGO, it’s called “petite sirloin” and the unit price soars to as high as $16.99 per pound.

In other cases, some meat products may be “minimally prepared” prior to going on sale. Eye of round steak is regularly priced at $6.99 per pound, the lawsuit says. But when it goes on sale, it’s sold “thin sliced” for nearly twice the price, at $12.99 per pound. Boneless, skinless chicken breast regularly goes for as low as $1.88 per pound, the plaintiffs say. But with some seasoning sprinkled on it, the BOGO price is $9.99 per pound. Seasoning also allegedly raises the regular price of boneless pork chops from $4.49 per pound, to $12.99 per pound when it’s on sale.

Even worse, the lawsuit claims, “the minimal processing – seasoning and thin-slicing – add no value” because the stores’ butchers will cut your meat or add seasoning for free upon request.

mfield-1_citn-728x90

Finally, the lawsuit disputes the “language of the free product offer.” Occasionally, the stores may offer buy-one-get-two-free sales, which on its face is a much better deal than just buy-one-get-one. But if you’re not paying close attention and accidentally grab two instead of three, “the consumer is charged full price for the second item. It is not free,” the lawsuit states. “The consumer should receive the second and third units free if she or he first buys one.”

Albertsons and its Safeway subsidiary have not commented on the specifics of the case, except to offer a statement that “we stand behind our product offerings and our efforts to provide quality, service and value to our customers.”

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for their lawsuit, on behalf of others in the state of Oregon who they say may have paid inflated prices for “free” meat. The lawsuit seeks a court injunction for an immediate stop to what it calls “the unlawful trade practices,” and says the plaintiffs “may later seek” financial damages in an amended complaint.

This isn’t the first time a retailer has been accused of raising regular prices in order to put products “on sale”. It’s become something of a grudgingly accepted practice in department stores, for example. Are you really getting such great deals at places like Kohl’s and JCPenney, where things are always sold on huge “markdowns”?

In the grocery store, however, many shoppers are much more sensitive and knowledgeable about prices. Most savvy shoppers will recognize that chicken breasts for $1.88 a pound is a good deal. But $9.99 a pound – when it’s on “sale”? Not so much. The plaintiffs in this case believe that less-savvy shoppers who see the BOGO signs, but not the individual price tags, end up paying much more than they otherwise would.

This also isn’t the first time Safeway has faced a BOGO-related lawsuit. Back in 2003, it paid $2 million to settle a case brought by three Northern California counties, which claimed that customers were routinely overcharged when BOGO products rang up incorrectly at checkout.

So the next time you want to get in on a good BOGO deal, keep an eye on the price tags, and your receipt. If these plaintiffs’ allegations are correct – you may not be getting a deal at all.

Image source: Albertsons

One Comment

  1. Betty Ashby says:

    I was also duped and ripped off by this scam.
    I’ll never shop at Albertsons again…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Privacy Policy
Disclosure Policy