State attorney general: Price Chopper double coupon advertising was "deceptive" (updated)

price chopper eastern pkwy exteriorUpdated Wednesday morning

State attorney general Eric Schneiderman announced today that his office reached an agreement with Price Chopper over an investigation into what the AG's office says was "deceptive" advertising of the chain's double coupon policy. From the press release:

After implementing a corporate-wide policy that limited the doubling of coupons "up to 99 cents," Price Chopper failed to disclose this restriction in its advertisements leading consumers to believe that $1.00 coupons would be doubled. Prior to this corporate policy, Price Chopper's double coupon policies had previously varied from store to store. A number of stores doubled coupons up to $1.00 whereas others restricted the face value of coupons that could be doubled.
Coupons draw consumers into stores with valuable offers, leading to the purchase of other goods. Restrictions on double coupons, which can make a significant difference in savings, must be clear to consumers who shop on a budget. In just April and May of 2012, Price Chopper shoppers redeemed 34,616,602 coupons valued at $.99 or greater; approximately 8 million of these were valued at $1.00 or more.

The AG's office says that as part of the agreement, Price Chopper is "required to clearly and conspicuously disclose any face value limits on coupon redemption." It will also pay the state $100,000 in penalties and costs.

Price Chopper response

Price Chopper released a response to the AG's announcement Tuesday afternoon, disputing the way the agreement was described:

We were appalled and disappointed by the inflammatory press release distributed earlier today by the New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG), as its portrayal of Price Chopper's conduct is false, misleading and inaccurate in significant respects, and is not supported by the Assurance of Discontinuance (AOD) to which Price Chopper agreed. In fact, contrary to the Press Release, the AOD makes no assertion that Price Chopper acted intentionally to harm consumers or that its practices caused any losses, let alone millions of lost savings to its customers. We've been in direct contact with the OAG to express our concerns and are awaiting their response.
What the OAG actually asserts in the AOD is that Price Chopper inconsistently denoted in its advertising the dollar value limit of its double coupon policy during select weeks in June 2011, January 2012 and April 2012 in Syracuse and Cortland, NY. Our decision to sign this agreement was reached after considering the likely cost of alternative actions, and because settling the matter will allow us to focus on serving our customers, including offering double coupons up to $.99 in all 130 of our stores.

Update: Here's the "assurance of discontinuation" from the state AG's office, as posted by the Syracuse Post-Standard. It makes the AG's office's issues with Price Chopper a bit more clear. The bulk of its complaint is an allegation that Price Chopper didn't note double coupon restrictions in some of its print ads, and that the policies posted at some stores differed from what was posted on the company's website.

By the way: Here are Price Chopper's coupon policies, as listed on its website. After the jump, links to the coupon policies for other supermarkets in the Capital Region...

+ ShopRite ("Double coupon policies vary by store.")
+ Hannaford ("We do not double or triple coupons.")
+ Walmart
+ Target
+ Trader Joe's ("No coupons, no membership cards, no discounts. You won't find any glitzy promotions or couponing wars at our stores.")
+ Aldi ("Our select brand assortment eliminates the issue of manufacturers' coupons.")

Comments

Price Chopper puts on a show of responsibility to the community, but they're a penny pinching business at heart.

As we've seen in many different stories, Price Chopper is more expensive than other markets in the area, coupons get people in the door, personally i just shop at PC for individual items, not my whole list. BTW, I find Aldi is a great place and has really picked up steam recently on prices & quality items.

I think Eric S said it best above - they put on a show as if they are great stewards of the community but at the end of the day Price Chopper is no better than Walmart, or perhaps even worse. Sorry - I just can't support a store with such high prices, and such deceptive practices, who also has in imagination (ie - tearing down a historic church instead of repurposing it)

This is just that Johnny Cash song in action - sooner or later god's gonna cut you down.

"After implementing a corporate-wide policy that limited the doubling of coupons "up to 99 cents," Price Chopper failed to disclose this restriction in its advertisements leading consumers to believe that $1.00 coupons would be doubled."

Am I missing something or is this perfectly clear?

The NYS Attorney General on one side....
Price Chopper on the other....

Yes! Food fight!!

Huh. I thought their policy was pretty clear, and I'm not much of a Price Chopper fan.

If we all boycott them, maybe they'll go out of business and we'll never have to see or hear their damn "can can" commercials ever again!

Funny how the coupons deceived consumers, causing them to miss out on savings they thought they'd be getting at the end of their purchases. Yet the state manages to get $100,000 out of Price Chopper and customers get nada.

Yeah, let's root for a local business that employs thousands across the region to go out of business!? If you don't like 'em, vote with your wallet and don't shop there. Simple enough.

thanks DAVE....my thoughts EXACTLY....why should the STATE get the money....when the customers were the ones being cheated....

I am completely baffled as to why everyone on this site hates Price Chopper so much. Maybe it's because I'm from Syracuse, where out of multiple options, the Chopper has the best prices. You know, where the regular people who can't afford to shop at Wegmans every week go.

Maybe it's because in my Capital Region moves, I keep ending up near the nicer stores: from the Guilderland one near Crossgates, then Westgate, and now I live near Slingerlands, which was pretty terrible during renovations.

I mean, I do a little shopping everywhere. I get my quinoa at Trader Joe's unless it's on sale at Honest Weight, where I'm a member. I stock up on sodium-laden frozen dinners at Walmart and buy three pounds of butter at a time at BJ's. I go to Fresh Market...well, pretty much only for the peanut butter malt balls if I'm already going to Bella Napoli.

And yet I still--STILL!--will turn to the Chopper if I have a pantry to restock. The things that I buy are consistently cheaper there, especially if I play sale schedule games and pack some coupons. Is it because I don't buy meat? Am I just dazzled by discount games? What am I missing?

I'll be turning in my AOA bylines, commenter account, and spot at the next birthday party now.

I don't think this would be such a big deal if the employees were able to correctly explain the coupons. I was told that a $1.00 coupon would in fact be "doubled up to 99 cents" meaning that it would ring to a $1.99 discount. Not true.

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