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The Associated Press reports that "a coalition of consumer groups is asking grocery chains to rethink their digital-only coupons, saying the deals discriminate against people who don’t have smartphones or reliable internet access."

According to the story, "Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and former assistant attorney general in Massachusetts who runs the website Consumer World," as well as  Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, the Public Interest Research Group and the National Consumers League, "sent letters this week to Kroger, Albertsons, Stop & Shop and Smart & Final urging them to make sure deals are available in both digital and nondigital formats."

The story goes on:

"Dworsky said some stores offer refunds to customers who ask for the digital price, but that requires the customer to make an extra effort. He wants stores to ensure cashiers will honor digital deals upon request, or even go to the lengths of Texas-based H-E-B, which puts physical coupons in its stores next to advertised deals.

"Dworsky said older adults are the most likely to lack smartphone or internet access or the technical savvy to figure out how digital-only coupons work.

"Smartphone access varies widely by age group in the U.S., according to a 2021 study by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. The study found that 96% of people ages 18 to 29 own a smartphone, compared with 61% of those 65 and older. The same study found that 25% of people 65 or older don’t use the internet."

The AP notes that "Albertsons said it offers digital deals as a way to reward customers in its loyalty program, who can download the deals into their apps. But the company said many of its stores also let customers present the weekly circular to cashiers so the discounts can be applied at the register.

"Dworsky said that can be problematic, since customers and cashiers don’t always know that’s an option."

KC's View:

I must admit to being conflicted about this.  On the one hand, I get the consumer complaint … but I am a big fan of retailers offering their best deals to the most loyal customers.  I actually think that retailers ought to go granular on their digital data so they can offer the best deals to their best customers.  Reward the cherry buyers, not the cherry pickers.

I understand that there is a gap between people who interact digitally with retailers and those who do not, but that gap is going to get smaller with every passing day.