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'Caveat emptor' when using discount grocery app: Local shopper

Midland resident Robin Koykka says prices on the Flashfood app seem to show an inflated regular number 'far beyond' the actual in-store price

A local resident is voicing concerns over pricing promotions used by some Midland grocery stores.

Robin Koykka says prices on the Flashfood app seem to show an inflated regular price “far beyond” the actual in-store price, thereby making the discount seem higher than it is in reality.

Koykka noticed a couple of recent discrepancies involving discount prices listed on Flashfood that didn’t jibe with prices at the Midland No Frills store.

He sent BradfordToday and InnisfilToday affiliate MidlandToday screenshots that seem to show the discrepancy he found related to bagged salad kits.

“I went to Paul's No Frills to see the actual price of those items, which can be seen in the two pictures I took,” he says. “I double-checked with the on-floor manager that the pictures of the items I took in his store were not 'on-sale' items.

“My two pictures show items at the regular price. There was a disparity.”

According to Koykka, the manager told him he had made a ‘good catch'.

“This practice is not just done at Paul's No Frills, but Flashfood does it also at Midland’s (Real Canadian) Superstore,” Koykka continues.

As an example, he notes that Flashfood states that the regular price for a 340-gram PC Garden Salad is $4.99 when its regular price is actually $2.99. He says that this creates a $2 markup on a $2.99 item.

“(The system) then marks the inflated price down by 50 (per cent) to $2.49. People not realizing this has happened, think they are saving $2.49 when they are really only saving 50 cents,” he says.

“What makes this so horrible is that the items people are buying are at, or close to, the (food's) due dates. That item, if not bought, would be thrown out in the garbage.”

Kokkya says Flashfood items must be used right away given their limited shelf life or will likely go bad.

“Many items I've gotten, especially from Paul's, have already started going bad and need to be pared back,” he says. “In the instance of the garden salad just mentioned, that 50 cent savings is gone and you are left with a substandard item but have actually paid regular price in the long run.

“Caveat emptor was not something I thought that I would have to beware of from a grocery entity claiming it was there to help. Well we do have to beware.”

Koykka says that Flashfood is a great way to save money when the items are properly priced, and or you know exactly what you’re buying.

“And that can be hidden through poor photography or having the picture cut off so you can see its weight/quantity," he adds.

Paul’s No Frills franchise owner Paul Gibbons referred inquiries to the public relations department for parent company Loblaws.

Loblaw Companies media relations director Dave Bauer said products listed for sale on Flashfood have retail prices and photos associated with their UPC code, and that retail price auto populates when the product is scanned onto Flashfood.

“The discount price is automatically set to 50 (per cent) of that retail price,” Bauer said. “In this very rare case, it looks like the pricing data for some of these products was out of date. Thanks for flagging it, we've now updated it in the system.”

But Flashfood spokeswoman Esther Cohn says that's not exactly how item pricing is established.

Cohn explained: "The prices on Flashfood are either set automatically based on data the retailer provides us, or they are entered manually by store employees."

Andrew Philips

About the Author: Andrew Philips

Editor Andrew Philips is a multiple award-winning journalist whose writing has appeared in some of the country‚Äôs most respected news outlets. Originally from Midland, Philips returned to the area from Québec City a decade ago.
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