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First they came for the double coupons. Next, the competitors’ coupons?

A Northeastern U.S. grocery chain has become the latest to announce it will no longer accept competitors’ coupons, using some of the same logic that other stores used when defending their decision to eliminate double coupons.

Effective April 22, New York-based Price Chopper says it will stop accepting store coupons from local competitors like ShopRite, Wegmans and Target.

Why? One reason is that shoppers are “increasingly interested in digital marketing,” according to a store spokesperson. So Price Chopper plans to make up for the loss of competitors’ coupons with more of its own store coupons, including digital coupons.

Other grocers that discontinued double coupons in recent years used similar reasoning – more shoppers are interested in digital coupons, and digital coupons don’t double, therefore we’re going to stop doubling altogether.

It sounds like a non sequitur, but there’s an odd kind of logic in it, which can be applied to competitors’ coupons as well – if shoppers are more interested in digital coupons, and more competitors are issuing store coupons in digital format instead of on paper, then why continue to accept paper competitors’ coupons at all anymore?

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But that’s not the only reason Price Chopper is changing its policy. The store says since it doesn’t get advance notice about specific competitors’ coupons that are out there, it can’t plan for them by ordering extra inventory to ensure the shelves aren’t cleared.

And that’s something that became more common in the era of extreme couponing. In the old days, competitors’ coupon policies were a courtesy, a convenience, letting shoppers know they didn’t have to go to a different store to save a little extra money on a particular purchase.

But some savvy shoppers began stockpiling store coupons, with the express purpose of using them at a store that accepted competitors’ coupons in order to maximize their savings, leading to the type of shelf-clearing issues that Price Chopper described.

So the era of anything-goes competitors’ coupon policies ended some time ago. A few years ago, Price Chopper had to tighten up its policy, which at that time allowed shoppers to use coupons from just about anywhere – drug stores, dollar stores, club stores and more. The new policy limited competitors to actual grocery stores.

Other grocery chains including Shaw’s, Lowes Foods and Publix similarly adjusted their own competitors’ coupon policies in the months that followed. And Giant Eagle, which once had such a loose coupon policy that it considered just about any retailer to be a “competitor”, ultimately decided it would no longer accept competitors’ coupons at all.

Just like Price Chopper just did.

So if Price Chopper started a trend among other grocers by restricting competitors to just grocery stores a few years back, could it start a new trend today after eliminating its competitors’ coupon policy altogether? It’s possible.

So if your store still accepts competitors’ coupons, you might want to go ahead and use them – before you no longer can.

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