“I do the grocery shopping for my partner who is totally disabled. He is paralyzed on the right side and suffers from quite a few other health related issues. When we moved to Savannah, Georgia two years ago, I noticed that when I used his EBT (food stamp) card at a Kroger store that I was being charged tax on food coupons. While Georgia is a state that does charge tax on grocery store food, and some grocery coupons state that it is the customer’s responsibility to pay any tax, it is illegal to charge food stamp recipients tax no matter what.”
Kroger was also charging tax on its own coupons, for example tax on a seven dollar off coupon with a fifty dollar purchase. When I shop at the other large grocery store in Savannah – Publix, this never occurred and in fact, Publix receipts have a line item stating the amount of tax forgiven. A year a half ago, I brought this to the attention of my Kroger store manager who got back with me and said I was being charged a fee by the coupon vendors and it wasn’t a tax, even though it showed up on my receipt as tax. Not satisfied with this, I took my concern to the Kroger district manager who told me that I was only being charged tax on a coupon if the coupon was used for a similar item. I wasn’t even aware that grocery stores would allow a customer to do this and I pointed out to the district manager that even if this were true, that couldn’t account for all the tax I had been charged over the past two years.
Eventually, I found the number for Kroger’s corporate office in Atlanta and finally talked to Hunter McWilliams, a vice president, who quickly apologized to me and agreed it was illegal for Kroger to charge EBT users tax on any coupon, an internal Kroger coupon or otherwise. Six weeks has gone by and this afternoon, Hunter’s assistant informed me that two days ago Kroger had resolved the issue in their stores with their registers so this would not happen again. At this point, I asked that all purchases using my Kroger loyalty card be researched for the past two years and that a refund be issued for any tax that was charged illegally. Hunter’s assistant Sonja Hurdle agreed to turn this over to their customer loyalty department and see that this is done. I then told Sonja that I felt Kroger had an obligation to research every EBT transaction for at least the past two years and refund all taxes collected illegally to all EBT card users in the state of Georgia. Sonja did not agree with me, but stated that they would do this for any customer who contacted her.
Granted that the tax never amounted to more than a quarter or so for each store visit, but this would be a considerable amount of money for every EBT card user in a Kroger store in the state of Georgia over x number of years. And the question still remains whether or not Kroger actually paid that tax to the state of Georgia. By the way, I did contacted the Georgia State revenue department and they simply told me that, yes, the practice was illegal, but they did not have the manpower in their office to enforce the law.
In the past month, I have also refused to pay this illegally charged tax while grocery shopping at Kroger and while each time it may have held up the line and took the store staff twenty minutes or so to eventually come to their senses and give up trying to collect it, it would appear that my persistence has paid off, not just for me, for but thousands of other people in this state. Or at least I’m told the system has been fixed. I have not done any grocery shopping at Kroger this week to know for sure.
Thanks for listening,
Takeway: If you used food stamps and coupons at Kroger supermarkets in Georgia, get in touch with Sonja Hurdle to see about getting illegally collected taxes refunded.