Bad apple? Stale bread? Stop & Shop will take it back and double your money

Photo of Luther Turmelle

Grocery giant Stop & Shop is making a bold move to grab market share from its rivals in five states including Connecticut: If a perishable product purchased in any of of its stores doesn’t meet a customer’s standards for freshness and quality, they can return it and get double their money back.

Stop & Shop’s Freshness Guarantee covers any perishable product purchased in the store’s meat, seafood, produce, dairy, bakery, floral or deli department.

Gordon Reid, president of Massachusuetts-based Stop & Shop, which has more 400 stores in five states including 90 in Connecticut, said in a statement that “we want our customers to shop us with confidence, and this program makes it clear just how important it is to us that we deliver the highest quality standards across all our stores.”

Company officials did not answer specific questions from Hearst Connecticut Media about why Stop & Shop was using the program.

The program works like this:

  A customer dissatisfied with a perishable item can return it to any Stop & Shop location, even if it is not the one at which the product originally was purchased.

  After presenting the product, package and/or receipt, Stop & Shop will offer refunds under a specific set of guidelines.

  For returns of in-store purchases, Stop & Shop will make refunds on items purchased within the last 30 days. If a receipt is available, the refund will be issued to the original form of payment; anyone who does not have a receipt will receive a store credit.

  For returns of products purchased via home delivery and online orders picked up at the store, Stop & Shop will refund perishable items in orders that were delivered or picked up within the past seven days. Those refunds are available via the chain’ s customer care center, which can be reached at 1-800-767-7772. Purchases will be verified before being refunded to the original form of payment.

Perishable items not covered in the Freshness Guarantee program include those that have been reduced for quick sale as well as those that have been marked down. Company officials said they are reserving the right to limit the refunds based on misuse of the program or where it is prohibited by law.

Burt Flickinger, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a New York City-based retail consultant, said the Freshness Guarantee is a sound marketing strategy that will help Stop & Shop recover market share the chain lost during a three-week strike by its workers in spring 2019.

“A modest amount of this is customers lost to the strike, but their customer focus groups told them about the freshness of their product,” Flickinger said.

For more than 20 years, he said, Stop & Shop had outsourced its product buying and distribution to an outside wholesaler.

“The result was even quality of their perishables,” Flickinger said. “But now the company has gone in a different direction and spent over $1 billion to retake control of all aspects of their supply chain, so they now control their own proverbial destiny. That gives them a strong foundation with which to work from.”

Conventional wisdom in the supermarket business, he said, is that “for every dollar of customer business that is lost, you have to spend up to $6 to get them back.”

“Stop & Shop lost about 10 percent of their business in 2019,” Flickinger said. “With this program, they should recover all the business they lost and be ahead of where they were (before the strike) at some point between Columbus Day this year and New Year’s Day 2022.”

Stop & Shop first used the Freshness Guarantee program in the late 1980s, he said, and “it completely turned the tables on almost everyone of their major competitors at the time.”

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, a grocery industry trade group, said consumer grocery shopping habits have changed dramatically because of the pandemic.

“Anything that happened in 2019 is ancient history,” Pesce said. “Consumer behavior is not what it was pre-pandemic, so this makes all the sense in the world. It’s marketing strategy on their part designed to target customers that like fresh produce.”

Stop & Shop has the largest presence in the state’s grocery business, he said.

luther.turmelle@hearstmediact.com