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Hot on the heels of Kroger-owned Roundy’s stores discontinuing double coupons, yet another grocery chain is pulling the plug on the popular promotion.

This time, it’s Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle. The new weekly ad that starts today contains a notice informing shoppers that “following industry trends towards eCoupons and digital offers, we will no longer double manufacturer coupons as of March 1.”

“Customer usage of manufacturer coupons continues to decrease both in our stores and across the grocery industry,” Giant Eagle explained in a statement. “With only a fraction of manufacturer coupons qualifying for doubling, the majority of customers never realized savings through this program. However, recognizing that many customers rely on coupons as one of the ways they save in our stores, Giant Eagle customers will continue to be able to redeem coupons in-store at face value.”

So Giant Eagle will continue to accept coupons! How generous of them.

Although the policy change is being publicized in the new circular, word had already gotten out thanks to early ad previews and a quiet but blunt update that Giant Eagle made to its online coupon policy (“As of March 1, 2020, we no longer double manufacturer coupons,” it says. “We reserve the right to accept, decline or limit the use of any coupon(s) as well as the right to make temporary or permanent changes to this policy without notice.”)

And shoppers aren’t happy, as you might expect.

“Really no reason to continue to shop there unless you want to overpay for groceries,” one shopper commented on Giant Eagle’s Facebook page. “If I’m going to shop for groceries at a store that only accepts my coupons at face value, it’s going to be Walmart or Target,” another commented. “Giant Eagle has lost all of my business just like that,” a third added. “Time to take me and my old fashioned coupons to another store,” another commenter wrote.

Some, however, are hoping against hope that history might repeat itself – because this isn’t the first time that Giant Eagle announced the end of double coupons. The last time it tried to end coupon doubling, a consumer outcry forced the chain to reverse its decision.

This all happened back in 2007. It began as a “test” at a dozen stores in Canton, Ohio. “As we continue to adjust our promotional mix, this is something that we’re going to test not having,” a Giant Eagle spokesman said at the time. Later that year, Giant Eagle apparently decided that the “test” was a success, so it announced the end of double coupons at more than 100 other Ohio stores, while slashing the maximum value of doubling-eligible coupons from 99 cents to 50 cents in the Pittsburgh area.

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Giant Eagle said the move was due to waning customer interest in coupons, explaining that “consumers and manufacturers alike are moving toward the trend of lower coupon usage overall, opting for more-specialized loyalty programs and everyday savings.”

But Giant Eagle shoppers weren’t having it. Online groups organized boycotts, upset couponers bombarded stores with emails and phone calls, and competitors like Shop ‘n Save responded by expanding their own double coupon offers.

And within weeks, Giant Eagle backed down.

“We have always prided ourselves on being a company that listens to our customers,” Giant Eagle CEO David Shapira said in a statement. “I have personally talked to many customers. I realized we misjudged the impact of the changes we were considering.”

So fast forward to 2020 – could the same thing happen again? Possibly. But probably not.

Today, Giant Eagle cites “industry trends towards eCoupons and digital offers” as one reason for eliminating double coupons. Back in 2007, Giant Eagle didn’t offer digital coupons at all. The average coupon face value in 2007 was $1.26, as compared to $1.88 today, so it’s true that there are fewer coupons eligible for doubling (though it doesn’t explain why the doubling threshold hasn’t gone up, to keep pace with coupon values and grocery prices.) Competitors aren’t rushing to respond to Giant Eagle’s move with expanded double coupon programs as they did in 2007 – on the contrary, ever since Kroger started eliminating double coupons a decade ago, many competitors have responded by doing the very same thing.

And, most importantly, with overall coupon use declining sharply since 2007, coupon-friendly policies just don’t get them through the doors the way they used to. And eliminating double coupons is unlikely to generate quite the level of outrage it once did.

As a side note to the double coupon change, Giant Eagle is also tweaking its fuelperks+ program. Beginning March 1, if you earn less than 50 perk points in a calendar month, they will no longer carry over to the next month – you have to use them, or lose them.

All these years later, David Shapira’s daughter Laura Karet is now Giant Eagle’s CEO. Back in 2007, you’ll remember, after backing away from eliminating double coupons the first time, Shapira said the company “misjudged the impact of the changes” and “prided ourselves on being a company that listens to our customers.”

Time will tell if Giant Eagle’s new leadership listens to its customers again – or if double coupon fans these days are simply shouting into the wind.

Image source: Giant Eagle

2 Comments

  1. in frederick md there is Giant–Wegmans–Weiss-and 10 minutes to Safeway and they all double—so we will see what happens—

    • Safeway will follow their lead. They did the same with Vons (Safeway) in Southern California after Ralphs (Kroger) dropped double coupons.

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