Digital coupons are leaving seniors behind

DEDHAM, Mass. — Bob O’Connor, 77, has a smartphone but doesn’t like to use it when he shops. He avoids putting personal information on his phone, so the idea of using the internet for a digital coupon is a non-starter.

“If it’s a digital coupon, I don’t buy the product,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s discriminatory to elderly people because elderly people for the most part don’t use smartphones.”

The digital divide is leaving older shoppers behind. A 2021 Pew Research study found 39 percent of people age 65 and older don’t own a smartphone. 25 percent don’t use the internet, the study revealed.

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky worries older shoppers are being unfairly cut out of digital savings when grocery chains offer sales exclusively online.

“They’re being cut out of this because supermarkets, for the most part, are not offering a non-digital alternative,” Dworsky said.

Dworsky wrote about this problem last month on his website, Consumer World. For years, shoppers just needed to flash their loyalty card to get the deals. Now, Dworsky says millions of seniors are forced to pay more simply because they can’t--or don’t know how to--access digital coupons through a store’s website or app.

“If you’re denying these special sales prices to people who are not digitally connected, that’s a problem, particularly the way inflation is now for supermarket prices,” Dworsky said.

Dworsky said more stores need to offer an offline alternative for seniors. He recommends asking the cashier or customer service if they’ll still honor the digital sale even if you don’t go through the online steps.

Stop & Shop said it does not offer an alternative to digital coupons.

“We do offer great values in our circular each week that do not require these additional coupons. The best way for Stop & Shop customers to save is to enroll in our GO Rewards loyalty program to earn points that can be used for future savings off gas or groceries - and to utilize the mobile app to access even more savings through digital coupons,” a spokesperson said in an email to Boston 25.

Big Y, Market Basket, Star Market, Wegmans and Whole Foods did not respond to a request for comment. Roche Bros. and Trader Joe’s do not offer online discounts, according to company representatives.

68-year-old Susan Basu said she uses Instacart to shop for her groceries. She’s been taking advantage of digital coupons for years, but said stores should provide another option for older, less tech-savvy shoppers.

“I think there should be a printed alternative for people who don’t have internet access or that kind of technological skill,” Basu said.

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