Monday, December 10, 2007

The rest of the story ...

A headline like "Kroger bans Columbus customer for using too many coupons" or "Kroger bans 'Rx Ping-Pong' playing customer," raises a lot of questions ... many of which were not answered in the stories that appeared in The Cincinnati Post, Dayton Daily News, News-Journal, Supermarket News and elsewhere.

If you have questions about "The rest of the story," post a comment here and I'll be glad to answer just about any releveant question.

I've already provided some of the additional details below.


What would make things RIGHT?


First, and foremost, I want Kroger to:

(1) Stop their misleading advertising.

They should do so by either:

(a) Modify their policies and procedures around their "We Gladly Accept All Competitors Coupons" advertising claim to get rid of the hassles, hoops, and hidden gotchyas (like not quite equally "matching" the competitor's gift incentive's terms) that people encounter when they ask their pharmacies to make good on this promise.

... or else ...

(b) Stop advertising such a "Bait and Switch" claim -- using a big net to bring in customers (or retain them) but then switching a lot of things around.

(2) Apologize: I'd like an apology from Kroger for the reprehensible way in which they've treated me -- first, with bad customer service; then, banning me from all their stores for the "crime" of using too many coupons at their pharmacies (I'll soon post a copy of the letter from them here); and, most recently, with false, baseless accusations in the press (as they try to spin the story to make them sound less foolish). They've said some things to reporters that might lead people to think I've done something wrong. I'd like them to admit that I did nothing illegal or otherwise terribly wrong. Their P.R. spin people went way to far when they tried to deny, distract, and divert attention and went on to try to discredit me (apparently to try to convince reporters to not do a story -- they realized how bad it sounded to ban a customer for using too many coupons, and had to try to make it sound like something else was involved but act like they couldn't get into details). But an apology from a corporation comes about as easily as one from a doctor. A letter I've drafted to David Dillon, CEO of Kroger, is at the bottom of this page.

(3) Cancel the ban. I'd like to hear Kroger say I am WELCOME to visit any of their stores and that they won't arrest me for doing business there some day. However, I won't hold my breath waiting for that. It would be nice, though, to know that each time I drive past Kroger (my closest full-service grocery) and drive another 5 miles to Giant Eagle that I'm doing so only because I prefer to do so ... and not because Kroger took away my choice of 2,600 locations in 31 states. More importantly, I'd like to know how many other people have been banned for similar "offenses" (of using too many coupons) and have those reviewed by an independent agency (if not all those bans lifted).

(3) Improve customer service at pharmacies. Although I have had some very good experiences with Kroger pharmacists and staff, it seems to be a part of the store that often is short staffed or the pharmacists working (especially the "floaters" who fill in on "sub" basis in many stores) are among those least acquainted with how they should treat customers. That's not just at Kroger. That seems to happen at many retail pharmacies. But I would hope that Kroger, which claims their biggest difference is customer service, would do better (or try harder) and not just ban customers who complain.

As I've written elsewhere, though, for the most part I've had very good customer service experiences at Kroger pharmacies ... and especially other parts of most Kroger stores. There are many friendly, hard-working people at most Kroger stores and I enjoyed shopping there (Kroger, Giant Eagle, and Target were my favorite places to shop before I had one less choice). It is just the bad choices by a few people who don't work inside a store with whom I am most disappointed. I hope they'll realize what they did WRONG and make it RIGHT.


Friday, December 7, 2007

For starters ...

(1) Kroger advertises in Columbus, Ohio, "We Gladly Accept All Competitors Coupons!" in newspaper ads and on signs in their pharmacies.

(2) However, when asked to make good on this promise, they are likely to give you grief, act like you're giving them a hard time, give you some sort of voucher or credit that's not quite equivalent to the "gift card" that would have been issued by the competitor (or it's going to expire sooner than what you would have been given there).

(3) If you ask them to make good on this promise too many times in a day, they'll come up with a ONE PER CUSTOMER PER DAY LIMIT -- first, one pharmacist making up this rule on her own, then turned into a division-wide rule by a territory pharmacy merchandiser (over Kroger Rx in Michigan and Ohio -- except for Cincinnati and Dayton) when I complained to him about this store closest to me having a unique rule.

(4) You may find a year later when a Kroger location is fighting off new competition across the street from Giant Eagle (and lots of $30-value coupons to encourage defections from the Kroger and other area pharmacies), that the Kroger pharmacy manager is willing to accept ANY number of prescriptions or transfers (and honor a competitor coupon with EACH one ... NO LIMIT PER DAY).

(5) Then after her boss finds out, she gets in trouble. She has to tell everyone waiting to pick up multiple prescriptions with multiple coupons that they'll have to make a separate visit for each if they want to use a coupon on each (despite what she said earlier that week). So, basically, to pick up a dozen prescriptions that were transferred, you need to make 12 trips over 12 DAYS ... perhaps running out of some of what you need -- in hopes you'll either just pick it up without a coupon redemption or take your business elsewhere.

(6) And a few days later, you might get a certified letter in the mail saying you are "no longer welcome at any Kroger." It says you'll be arrested for Criminal Trespass if they find you in any Kroger owned or leased store or their adjacent parking lot.

Well, that's what will happen if you're ME. ;-)

I'll tell you more about it later ... and be glad to answer almost any question that seems relevant.

Thomas Stone