Get Gephardt: Do digital discounts discriminate against elderly shoppers?

Nov 10, 2022, 10:18 PM | Updated: Nov 11, 2022, 10:31 am

SALT LAKE CITY — You have likely seen ads promising savings with digital-only coupons, but a consumer watchdog says that the digital-only part unfairly leaves many people out of the opportunity.

Coupon clipping has evolved. Fewer paper coupons, and more for your smartphone. Digital coupons have a clear upside for stores. They prompt consumers to download the store’s app, allowing retailers to learn shopping habits and to target consumers directly with ads tailored for them.

It has led to some retailers offering special, digital-only deals. Consumer advocate, Edgar Dworsky of the website Consumer World, said the strategy is not all upsides.

“The problem with that is many seniors, for example, don’t have a smartphone and don’t have internet access,” Dworsky pointed out. “How do they take advantage of those deals?”

Data from the AARP said that while more older adults are getting smartphones, about 1 in 4 still do not have one. No smartphone. No apps. No access to those savings for a group that Dworsky feels could benefit most.

“Senior citizens tend to be the people that are on fixed incomes or have less money, they need every advantage possible,” he said. “And for them, in large part not to be able to take advantage of these digital discounts is a shame.”

Dworsky said he is calling on supermarkets in particular to create some alternative method for customers who are digitally disconnected. And to be clear, some already are.

A spokesperson for Associated Foods said people who do not have smartphones “may visit our customer service team at the front of our stores or call customer service before arriving” and they will help.

A spokesperson for Harmon’s said their digital coupons are linked to the store’s “Foodie Club Cards and are automatically clipped with no computer necessary.”

Digital coupons do tend to get used way more than paper coupons. Of all the coupons printed in newspapers, only about 5% ever make their way to a store. With digital coupons, the usage rate is closer to one in three.

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Get Gephardt: Do digital discounts discriminate against elderly shoppers?