Shoppers in the Southeastern United States will find using Internet-based coupons more difficult after several grocery chain and supermarkets responded to a recent fake coupon scam by refusing to accept any Internet coupons whatsoever.
Publix, Kroger, and Harris Teeter all announced last week that they will
no longer accept any coupons printed from the Internet after counterfeit
coupons for free grocery items surfaced in the Atlanta area and began to
spread throughout the region. The Southeast is the most active region in
using online services for coupons, according to a recent consumer
Publix has banned Internet coupons at all stores except for Florida outlets. Kroger's ban covers South Carolina, Georgia and Knoxville. North Carolina-based Harris Teeter stopped accepting Internet coupons at all of its 141 stores. Winn-Dixie, with over 1,000 stores throughout the Southeast, did not stop accepting Internet based coupons, but did send out a warning to its stores about the fake coupons.
Ironically, the fake coupons being distributed were not actual online coupons, but fake print coupons that were distributed via email, chat rooms and online auction sites, according to the Coupon Information Center in Alexandria, VA. The coupons were copies of free product offers for a number of products, including Salon Selectives shampoo, Haagen Dazs ice cream, and Dove soap. Another set of fake coupons involved Ball Park products.
The offers were scanned into a computer and then transmitted by the Internet, according to press reports.
Many of the fake coupons were sold on eBay. The Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers of America wrote eBay last week asking it to shut down coupon sales. The auction site has yet to do so.
"The grocery retailers overreacted," said Matthew Moog, CEO of CoolSavings, a Internet coupon company. "They made a quick and, it turns out, incorrect decision to stop accepting all Internet coupons."
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