Centsible Saver

Coupon changes at Harris Teeter set to begin

Harris Teeter on Thursday announced major changes to its digital coupon program, a move that may ultimately alter the chain’s star status among coupon shoppers.

In an email sent to customers early Thursday morning, the Kroger subsidiary said that Nov. 30 will be the last day shoppers can redeem electronic E-VIC coupons loaded to their loyalty cards.

A new, significantly scaled back version of the e-coupon program won’t be available until mid-January.

What the Harris Teeter statement does not say -- and what avid coupon shoppers most want to know -- is whether the new digital coupon program will continue to allow the unusual practice of redeeming a paper coupon and an electronic coupon together on a single item.

This type of double-dip savings is rare in the grocery industry and coupon savvy Harris Teeter shoppers employ it on a regular basis to score free groceries.

Harris Teeter spokeswoman Danna Jones said the company is “still finalizing exact details...so I cannot provide a definitive answer at this point.”

But it seems unlikely, given the company behind the new e-coupons.

Jones identified the new digital coupon vendor as YOU Technology, a Silicon Valley-based firm acquired by Kroger just weeks after the supermarket giant closed the deal on its purchase of Harris Teeter. YOU Technology will replace Google-owned Zavers, which is shutting down. Interestingly, Harris Teeter is already listed as a partner on the YOU Technology website.

Cincinnati-based Kroger was among the first grocery chains to use digital coupons and also among the first to prohibit their use with paper coupons. Kroger has since become a leader in promoting digital coupons over paper.

In the months since Kroger’s takeover of Harris Teeter, diehard Harris Teeter shoppers have fretted over possible changes, particularly to coupon policies. The decision to change the digital coupon program, however, was not Kroger-initiated but prompted by Google’s move to shutter Zavers.

In Thursday’s announcement, Harris Teeter said the current E-VIC coupon program will continue unchanged through Nov. 20, which will be the last day customers will be able to load e-coupons to their loyalty cards. Nov. 30 is the last day customers may redeem those coupons.

On Jan. 14, the new electronic coupons will launch but on a much smaller scale for the first year. According to the email, “customers will only be able to view and clip up to 20 coupons at a time.”

“This is a temporary limit until January 2016 when the program will be running at full capacity,” the email said.