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    Nash Finch Sued Over Avanza Checkout Add-On Charges

    Shoppers filed suit alleging the grocer's Avanza units engaged in "unfair and deceptive" advertising via its Shelf-Plus pricing policy.

    Three shoppers have filed lawsuits in two district courts against Nash Finch Co., alleging that the advertising practices of its three Avanza Supermarkets in Colorado were "inconspicuous, misleading, confusing and deceptive," and tricked them into thinking they were paying less for their groceries than they actually were.

    "In these tough economic times, shoppers look at advertisements in order to determine how and where they can best spend their grocery money," said the plaintiffs' law firm of Silverman & Olivas in a statement. "Avanza deliberately advertised prices that were less than the amounts which were actually charged."

    The "Shelf-Plus" pricing policy adds 10 percent to the advertised product price at the register. The grocery stores posted signs throughout its stores and in its weekly flyers about the policy, which has since been modified.

    Brian Numainville, spokesman for the Minneapolis-based distributor, told Progressive Grocer the company does not comment on pending litigation. Numainville did say, however, "Our advertising and signage make our [pricing] policies clear to our customers, as do our customer receipts. Shelf-Plus pricing is used in some of Nash Finch's store formats to provide its customers a competitive price on products they demand."

    Numainville went on to defend the Avanza stores, and praised the "positive shopping experience they afford our Hispanic customers."

    Avanza has two stores in Denver and one in Greeley. "Nash Finch developed the Avanza store concept to serve the unique grocery shopping needs of first- and second-generation Hispanic shoppers who otherwise did not have ready access to foods and ingredients that are part of their culinary heritage."

    "The pricing strategy used at Avanza is not novel," Numainville added, noting that Shelf-Plus pricing "is and has been used in other Nash Finch stores, just as it is used by other retail stores, over the years and in diverse geographic markets. Any suggestion that Nash Finch sought to confuse customers at its Avanza stores is false, and demeans those customers to the extent it implies they would be unable to understand our pricing policies."

    The complaints seek $500 on behalf of each shopper who allegedly was deceived by the practice.

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