Feb 3, 2014 8:48 PM by Rebecca Taylor

Grocery ad prices dependant on zip code

TUCSON - In a tough economy many Tucsonans are pinching pennies. One way to cut your grocery bill is to search weekly circulars for the best sales.

But what if your zip code determined what deals a store offers?

Food City prints two completely different ads depending on what side of town you live. Prices for meat, produce, and international foods like tortillas vary.

That's not sitting well with some Tucsonans who call it discriminating and deceptive.

We've all heard the term availability may vary by store, but what about prices? While Food City ads appear identical, a closer look reveals even deeper discounts are valid at one store only.

Which one? The Food City located at South 6th Avenue and I-10.

Shopper Geraldo Medina says, "I never noticed the prices were different."

"I don't think that it's right," says another shopper.

It's in the heart of South Tucson, customers there are privy to a special mailer and in store circular.

Shopper Heather Tay says, "And that's the one that's cheaper? I wonder if they're allowed to do that?"

It's one of nine Food City locations scattered across Tucson. News 4 Tucson picked up multiple ads from the same week, January 22-28 to compare them.

Avocados are four for $1; boneless chicken $1.39 a pound; pork chops $1.29 a pound; tortillas $2.49.

Sounds good right? Well yes and no.

The Food City on South 6th offers even better prices for the exact same items.

Avocados there are five for $1 versus four; boneless chicken .11¢ less at $1.28 a pound; pork chops .98¢, under a dollar a pound, .30¢ cheaper; tortillas just $1.99 a .50¢ savings.

"The immediate thing that I thought of is discrimination, " says Tay. "Probably due to the fact that, that part of town has a lower income type status, so I thought discrimination."

Another concern comes from cashiers at competing grocery stores, who price match. Clerks at Walmart Neighborhood Market say, they keep both Food City ads handy. Some memorize them weekly, to accommodate customers.

News 4 Tucson reached out to Food City which is owned by Bashas and headquartered in Chandler, Arizona. Despite multiple attempts over a two week period, they never returned emails or phone calls.

We also contacted the Better Business Bureau to find out if they consider differing ads, by the same chain deceptive.

Nick LaFleur with the BBB says, "We would not consider it deceptive as long as it's spelled out on the coupons for people to see."

A closer look at the ads we picked up reveals only one has a disclaimer. It reads "valid at these locations only" then lists three stores in Phoenix and one in Tucson, 6th Avenue and 1-10.

"If you're unhappy with the terms and conditions, talk with a store manager or customer service manager," LaFleur says.

According to the BBB, it is legal to have separate ad,s as long as the terms and conditions are spelled out. Is it fair? You be the judge.

"No it's not, Food City is Food City," says Medina.

"I've never had any problems here, but that's really unusual," Tay says.

Food City also posts their weekly ads online. To view it, they ask for your zip code. Enter 85713 and you'll get the South 6th Avenue circular with lower prices.

News 4 Tucson attempted to ask Food City if they'd price match their own ad, but got no response.


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