I made a trip to Kroger today with the main purpose being to buy some of the Carolina Pride Bologna for free after coupon. (Priced at $1 this week, and I had some 50ct/1 coupons). I was picking them up for the church and rather than making my way to Ingles or any other grocery, I opted for Kroger. I learned that the warehouse had “scratched” them. Isn’t it interesting that Kroger’s warehouse chooses to “scratch” deals that are free after coupon???
I talked to Dan Rees, one of the mangers of the Fountain City store about this. I expressed my frustration, noting that while I like that store, they are about to lose my business. I told him about another shopping trip I had made when something similar had happened and how I had found the same products at the Kroger store near downtown on Broadway. He shared a few insights. The Fountain City store has a higher turnover than the other store a few miles down the road, which is why I might be able to find it there. He said that if we have a larger order, they are happy to order them in bulk for customers if the warehouse has made them available. He also said that anytime shoppers wanted to phone ahead that they were happy to check on an item’s availability for them. He added that we can get rain checks for out of stock products, which of course I forgot to do before I left! He said that they have told corporate about the frustration that this causes customers and that they are working on a remedy for the problem. He also added that one problem is that many times one or two customers will come into the stores and clear the shelves, leaving nothing for other customers.
While I’m glad I talked to Dan about this problem, I don’t feel much better about it. I had 4 or 5 coupons for the bologna—not enough to worry about placing a special order. If I had, it doesn’t sound like it would do that much good anyway. I’ve come to a few conclusions as a result of this shopping trip:
- Before I waste my time making a trip, I’ll start phoning the stores ahead of time. Yes, this will take me a few extra minutes, but it will avoid later frustration. Since I did have a few other things I needed to pick up, it wasn’t a complete waste of time.
- It was a tough shopping trip day. Our daughter was wild (please tell me you all have had those trips, too!), and it was not a fun time. Had I taken a moment to regroup, I would have remembered the darn rain check and avoided even more frustration. The other suspicion that I have is wondering if the rain checks will really help. I had a rain check for Reach dental floss that expired 1 week ago. I’ve looked every single week at that section of the store to see if they were restocked and only today did I find them—after my rain check was invalid. In hindsight, I could have had them make up a separate rain check to extend my expiration date, but I didn’t think of that option until this very moment.
- Don’t clear the shelves. Clearing the shelves is a gray area of couponing ethics. There isn’t anything illegal about it (unless a coupon or store specifically states that there is a limit of quantity to the purchase), but it is quite frustrating for your fellow shopper. If there is only one or two products left on the shelves, of course you can purchase them. There is a big difference in that and going into a store and wiping out a shelf load of products. It leaves other shoppers frustrated and gives others a negative view of couponers. The more people do this, the more it hurts all of us. Stores and coupons are changing their policies!
- I’m wondering how much will change when more stores are in the Knoxville area. Three Rivers Market is opening a new larger storefront, Whole Foods will be out west, there are rumors of Trader Joes, The Market is now open downtown, and probably the biggest potential game changer will be when Publix opens in Knoxville. One of the people at my most recent coupon workshops said that he looked at the market data in cities where there were Publix and Kroger stores. Before Publix opened, Kroger had the highest market share. Then after Publix opened, they were on top. From everything I’ve heard and experienced, Publix is a couponers dream. Will this mean that couponers will flock to Publix? Will having more stores open offering healthy foods and organic products bring more competition and thus better prices? Who knows. I do know this—I’ll look forward to seeing what happens.
What are your thoughts and experiences? Have you had similar experiences with making trips to stores only to find that all of the best deals are sold out? What do you do? Any tips you’d like to share?