Chris Perry Column: "We Seem To Be Having Technical Issues"

Chris Perry •

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Let’s get one thing out of the way which my family and friends already know: I am technologically challenged.

Frankly, that’s an understatement because it is well-documented.

So when my wife asked me for help recently with the digital coupon option while standing in the produce section of Stop & Shop, it was a celebratory moment.

Of course, I pretended to know what I was talking about even though I sensed Stacie could see right through my BS. That’s how desperate she was to even consider asking me for assistance instead of calling Stop & Shop’s helpline.

“Did you check your settings,” I asked incredulously even though I had no idea what that meant.

“Do you have service,” I asked with a straight face knowing that was a tad insulting.

Thankfully, just before it became painfully obvious to her that I had no clue what I was saying, several other familiar faces wandered by and expressed the same kind of frustrations that we were experiencing.

Once I started checking around, it seems everyone is having trouble accessing Stop & Shop’s online coupons via their Go Rewards Loyalty program. Despite rolling out these advertised discounts through the Stop & Shop app or via their weekly circular, the online coupon program appears to be more like a loss leader for shoppers because customers are routinely thwarted in their attempts to redeem these coupons especially if you are inside the Sparks Avenue location.

When attempting to navigate the app, shoppers are constantly asked to re-enter passwords, account information, and loyalty numbers. The site often responds with a message that reads: “We seem to be having technical issues. Please try again later…”

Eventually, customers are left confused under chaotic conditions while trying to check out.

“Last week, Stop & Shop got me again,” said a frustrated Nancy Moylan who is a Rewards Member.

“I don’t normally buy cherries but Stop & Shop was advertising cherries at $1.99/pound when they are normally around $5.99,” continued Moylan. “I couldn’t resist. So, I bought two pounds and then tried to access the online coupons. Unable to do so by the time I got to the self-checkout, the scanner priced it at $4.79 per pound which was roughly $3.00 higher than the advertised price simply because I was unable to access the digital coupons.”

“At best, it is a wink - wink sale,” added Moylan.

It’s not just the locals who are turned away. Lori Sherrill, who splits her time between Naples, Florida, and Nantucket simply said: “It doesn’t work.”

“I tried inside the store, then I went outside and tried again hoping for better cell service. I keep getting denied access. Even if I re-enter my password nothing happens so I ended up going to customer service. This isn’t a good look and I sense I am not alone,” Sherrill added.

Besides the growing confusion, the one common denominator shared by all the frustrated shoppers looking to take advantage of the digital coupon option is the fact that everyone is simply trying to save a few bucks.

Can you blame anyone for trying?

Eggs are up 98 percent over the last five years. Butter is pushing $9.00. Meat, cleaning products, bread, and snack food prices are all rising on a weekly basis. In this environment, every shopper is trying to toe the line knowing fuel costs, rents, uninsured medical bills, auto expenses, and basic necessities are following suit.

For me, this type of computer / phone app frustration is terminal. Moreover, gone are the days when I would bump into former store manager, Ted Miller, in aisle 10 where I could ask him for help while I tracked the price of Cape Cod potato chips which are presently selling at two bags for $7.00.

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Plus, local characters such as former managers Rich Stravato and Mark Girardi have moved on so customers are left to aimlessly roam the aisles muttering under their breath while reluctantly grabbing a box of Wheaties at $7.00 and throwing it into their carts.

After abandoning Stacie in aisle 5, I decided to move to the front of the store for help. Tracey Harvey, who was holding down the customer service desk, passed me over to the assistant store manager, Kimberly Papile. Both Harvey and Papile were polite; however, it was obvious that both Stop & Shop representatives were under a strict gag order and unable to respond to any specific questions.

Working my way up the food chain, I eventually landed with Stephenie Cunha who is Stop & Shop’s external communications manager for Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

Honestly, I was a little suspicious. How does one go from the produce department and checking out coupons for strawberries to Stop & Shop’s corporate offices in Quincy, MA.?

To her credit, the External Communications Manager followed up several times. While Cunha admitted that “she was not in a position to make a specific statement on Nantucket’s accessing issues related to the Go Rewards Loyalty Program without further investigation,” she did engage in several conversations and produced a written statement from Stop & Shop that leads me to think that some help may be on the way.

According to Cunha, Stop & Shop plans to “roll out in-store kiosks, otherwise known as ‘Savings Stations’ to provide an easy and convenient way for all customers to enjoy the benefits and savings the Go Rewards Loyalty program offers…”

Whether it was for convenience’s sake or because some technical issues flared up at other locations, Stop & Shop began testing these in-store kiosks around the state earlier this year.

Cunha added, “We have received very positive feedback on the Saving Stations from our pilot program. It is our goal to roll them out to all store locations, including Nantucket, starting late in 2024; but more likely, in early 2025”.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it appears Nantucket customers will continue to have some issues with the present online coupon program. Cunha did hint that steps would be taken to review accessing issues at the Nantucket location. However, until improvements are made, I anticipate customers will continue to experience difficulties securing the online discounts and will be forced to request coupons at the customer service desk or through the clerks manning the checkout registers.

Unfortunately, that poses its own set of problems.

For example, Stop & Shop emphasizes self-checkout so the number of staffed checkout aisles (with actual humans) are limited and usually backed up.

Secondly, the Stop & Shop customer service desk at the Sparks Avenue location is more chaotic than the front door at The Chicken Box when The Revivalists are in Town. Consequently, frustrated customers trying to use the Stop & Shop Rewards Program may end up unrewarded.

Cunha seemed convinced that these “Savings Stations” will address some of the technical issues and ultimately save shoppers money. As the External Communications Manager emphasized, “It’s our goal to have every customer share in a good shopping experience and I think you will see these kiosks helping to do just that in the near future…”

Nevertheless, I still feel something is out of whack. Solving access issues for online coupons should not take more than six months with the delivery of “Savings Stations” to the island for loyal shoppers. For today’s Stop & Shop customers on Nantucket, the online coupon program has a bait-and-switch smell to it - especially if you can’t access the online coupons in a timely fashion.

As our conversation was winding down, I suggested we circle back during the summer with the hopes Cunha would travel to the island to experience a “Nantucket Stop & Shop” firsthand and see some of the unique issues that we face every day.

Undoubtedly, an update on accessing the online coupons and the status of the Saving Stations would be in order. Additionally, issues such as their Instacart program, quality of the food; and finally, some background on store pricing which is always a source of consternation for local shoppers would go a long way in improving customer relations with the year-round population.

I hope she accepts the invitation because on behalf of my fellow technologically challenged Stop & Shop customers, I am ready to concede that the days of having hard copy, clipped coupons are probably over. If that means learning to navigate the new kiosks down the road, so be it.

But before I start wrestling with these new Savings Stations, I hope Cunha understands that for me to have a “positive shopping experience,” our conversation must start in aisle 10 and Cape Cod potato chips holding firm at two for $7.

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