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If you’ve had trouble getting your StarKist tuna lawsuit settlement coupon accepted in stores, don’t worry – because StarKist says there are no problems with the coupons and it sees no evidence that there are any widespread issues redeeming them. So try again to use your coupon, because it must be your imagination!

In response to the judge’s order that they issue a joint statement “regarding the steps they plan to take to address any systemic problems,” StarKist and the class counsel have issued a statement denying the existence of any systemic problems.

The coupons were sent out last month to settle a six-year-old class action lawsuit, in which a California consumer alleged StarKist was underfilling cans of tuna. More than 2.5 million people signed up for a share of the settlement. The majority of class members chose a cash payment, which ended up being worth $2.38. 790,712 others chose to receive a coupon, which offered $5.03 off “at least 3 StarKist products”.

Almost immediately, however, coupon recipients began complaining online, on social media and on Coupons in the News that stores were refusing their coupon. “Have you tried using it yet? Walmart declined mine,” one commenter wrote. “Walmart declined mine day before yesterday,” another responded. “Kroger declined mine too – what up?” a third commenter offered. “I tried to use my coupon at Walmart; it was declined. The next day I tried to use the coupon at Food Lion for 4 cans & the amount deducted was $3.00, not $5.03… This sounds like a scam between the settlement company & StarKist!” another commenter explained.

StarKist, the class counsel, the settlement administrator and several retailers that consumers reported had declined their coupons, did not respond to numerous inquiries from Coupons in the News. The judge overseeing the case, however, raised these concerns with StarKist and the class counsel and instructed them to get to the bottom of it.

In their response filed with the court this week, StarKist said it “has seen no evidence of systemic issues with the vouchers,” and the class counsel said it “has not received comments and questions from the Class that would indicate the presence of any systemic issues.”

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So, there you have it.

Walmart and Kroger have most often been mentioned as stores in which coupon users are reporting having problems redeeming their coupon. “Kroger in Carbondale, IL will not take the coupon. I was told that they received an email saying the coupons were fake,” one Coupons in the News commenter wrote. “Walmart is declining to accept the coupon because it won’t scan due to the many options, so the coupon is completely worthless and that’s exactly what Walmart told me,” another commented.

But StarKist says “early returns suggest that retailers are in fact accepting the vouchers.” As of Monday, it pointed out that Walmart and Kroger “account for the highest number of redemptions” so far, with 6,999 coupons successfully redeemed at Walmart and 6,101 at Kroger, together with “thousands more at major retailers including Publix, Hy-Vee, and Target.” In total, StarKist says nearly 21,000 coupons have been successfully redeemed.

That’s about 2.6% of all coupons distributed. Not the biggest sample size, but StarKist confidently states that it “expects that future redemption data will further confirm that there are no systemic problems with the vouchers.”

So, in short, there are no problems with your coupon and no reason stores should refuse it, because StarKist says there are no problems with your coupon and no reason stores should refuse it.

The fact remains that few individual coupons have ever elicited such passion and complaints from commenters – and consistent complaints, at that, with multiple different commenters singling out Walmart and Kroger as refusing their coupon, and at least two commenters saying they were told their store “received an email saying the coupons were fake.” It is true that evidence of widespread issues with having the coupon accepted in stores is anecdotal and not as quantifiable as coupon redemption figures – after all, it’s a lot easier to count how many coupons were successfully redeemed than it is to prove a negative and count how many coupons have not been successfully redeemed, based only on the number of consumers who decided to reach out to StarKist or the class counsel to complain. But the fact that 2.6% of the coupons issued have been successfully redeemed, doesn’t prove that 100% of the coupons issued are without flaws that would prevent them from being accepted in stores.

StarKist admits that “the voucher redemption process is never perfect. Given the large number of retailers at which the vouchers can be redeemed, the even larger number of individual stores and retail clerks who process the transactions, different policies and practices of individual retailers, and the possibility of isolated technical issues with printing or at the point of sale, StarKist cannot ensure that every voucher will be successfully redeemed in any given retail transaction.”

The class counsel further acknowledges that “there have been a small number of class members who have complained of problems using their vouchers,” but says “these incidents appear to be rare and isolated.” StarKist also acknowledges that it “has received customer complaints that vouchers will not scan, have been refused at certain retail locations, or have been applied incorrectly at the point of sale.” But it concludes that “these complaints do not indicate a systemic problem based on characteristics inherent to the vouchers.”

However, one “characteristic inherent to the vouchers” is that they have no expiration date. And a number of stores’ coupon policies – including Walmart’s – state that they do not accept coupons without an expiration date, period. Other stores will automatically flag a coupon valued at over $5 for additional scrutiny. And in the interest of speed and protecting themselves from potential fraud, if a coupon doesn’t scan correctly, many stores flatly state that they will not accept it. So a number of stores that StarKist says have already accepted the coupons, are by definition violating their own coupon policies by doing so.

While both deny the existence of any widespread problems with redeeming the coupons, both StarKist and the class counsel say they are taking steps to “address any issues.” StarKist says it “will contact each of the retailers at which customers have reported issues to date” and “describe the features of the vouchers (including the lack of expiration date), confirm that the vouchers are valid, and reiterate the procedures for redemption through StarKist’s nationally recognized clearinghouse.” In addition, the company says it “will perform additional testing on the vouchers, including field tests of the vouchers at various retailers to gather information, test existing customer complaints, and determine what issues may exist and how best to tackle them.”

And the class counsel has posted a new statement on the settlement website: “If a retailer refuses to accept your voucher, or if the voucher scans at less than the face value of $5.03, please immediately contact Class Counsel at 925-300-4455 or at [email protected] to report any issues. Please include your name, the store name and address, date, any products you were attempting to apply towards the voucher, and an electronic image of the receipt (if you completed the purchase transaction).”

Before now, emails to StarKist customer service have been answered with a form letter directing all inquiries to the class counsel. And emails to class counsel have gone unanswered. So, presumably, since the class counsel is now inviting consumers to call and email with concerns, you might actually get a response this time if you do reach out.

So StarKist denies there are systemic issues with the coupons, but is taking steps to address any systemic issues with the coupons. The class counsel claims that customer complaints have been “rare and isolated,” but is only just now publicizing its contact information and inviting customers who have experienced problems to contact them. Walmart’s coupon policy, like other stores’, states that “all coupons require… a valid expiration date,” yet StarKist hopes that contacting retailers to “describe the features of the vouchers (including the lack of expiration date)” will do the trick and prompt cashiers to violate their employer’s coupon policy by accepting the coupon.

As StarKist pointed out to the judge, “it is still very early in the process.” With only 2.6% of all coupons successfully redeemed so far, time will tell whether StarKist and the class counsel’s efforts to resolve problems they insist do not exist, will help ensure that the remaining 97.4% of all coupons end up providing you with $5.03 worth of free tuna – and not more headaches at the checkout.

Image source: StarKist

5 Comments

  1. Debbie Weaver says:

    Coupon is worthless. Store refuses to honor it. So apparently the whole deal is a scam.

  2. Just tried using mine at Kroger’s on 6 cans of tuna. Store declined the coupon and said they couldn’t override it. Who do I complain to?

  3. Pingback: Charlie wins - StarKist says coupons fine! - deranged.mederanged.me

  4. Honest Couponer says:

    “Sorry, Charlie” but this story continues to sound very “fishy” to me! While I’m glad Star Kist is “casting a wide net” to try and figure it out, I sure hope this doesn’t end up being a “bait and switch” for all of the “mermaids” attempting to “hook” a few cans of free tuna!!!

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