But according to Johnson & Johnson spokesman Brent Islesbeau, the company had planned several years ago to end all coupons by 2012 but continued the program until all suppliers had been notified of the change.
“We had no idea other companies were going to do this,” he said. “We made our own decision based on metrics that indicated we could no longer support the programs. The fact that others are doing it… well, hey, I guess we made the right decision.”
Despite redemptions that are only increasing amid a tight economy, Kraft spokesman Nadal Martinez said couponing was becoming obsolete, as many of those who do so are only doing it for the game versus the actual cost savings that come with it.
“We’ve been looking at this for a while, and we determined that the average coupon user is of a higher socio-economic group that can afford what we charge for our products,” Martinez said. “We felt they could afford to pay more but were just playing the coupon game, so we’re going to stand by our prices. For those who can’t, we had to make the decision on whether we want those customers anyway.”
Such remarks outraged congressional members and consumer advocacy groups, some of which promised to look into the announcements and possibly take legal action.
“If there are anti-trust issues at stake here, it’s certainly worth going to court,” said Selma Weatherbee, an activist for the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Rights advocacy group. “They just can’t wipe out billions of dollars from the economy, most of which affects lower income individuals, and expect to come out of this neat and clean. In my mind, this means war.”
Such anger doesn’t faze Kraft’s Martinez, who confirmed the company didn’t discuss the tactic with others before making their announcement mere minutes after both General Mills and Proctor and Gamble.
“Hey, we didn’t start this whole couponing craze of years ago, we were just sucked in by it,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t end it and make you pay more.”