Thursday, October 16, 2003

Kroger on lookout for fake coupons

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Workers at Kroger stores in Greater Cincinnati have been told to be on the lookout for bogus computer-generated coupons after widespread counterfeiting led the company to stop accepting such coupons for free products in Georgia.

Kroger said Wednesday that it has agreed to purchase four Cub Food stores and a warehouse distribution center in Denver from Minneapolis-based Supervalu Inc. for an undisclosed amount.

The stores will be integrated into Kroger's King Soopers division, which operates 129 grocery stores in Colorado under the King Soopers and City Market banners, Cincinnati-based Kroger said.

The transaction is expected to close in late November. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Counterfeit coupons "are not a significant issue in Cincinnati,'' said Gary Rhodes, a spokesman for Kroger.

But the company has warned store officials in its Cincinnati/Dayton division and others to be especially vigilant when accepting coupons downloaded from manufacturers' Web sites.

"What we have told divisions is to take a closer look at this problem,'' Rhodes said. "If they're seeing a significant impact, they may want to adopt a similar position as we did in Georgia and stop taking Internet coupons.''

The counterfeiting scam could cost grocers more than $1 million, according to industry estimates.

Many times, the fake coupons are unwittingly exchanged for products by customers who bought them from counterfeiters selling them directly online or from Internet auction houses like eBay.

And it's almost impossible to stem the supply because it's relatively easy for counterfeiters with personal computers to download corporate logos and duplicate the print-at-home variety of coupons or make them from scratch.


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