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    Calif. Customers Sue Ralphs Over Hotel Promotion

    LOS ANGELES - Disgruntled customers here have filed at least four proposed class actions against Ralphs Grocery Co. and its parent, the Kroger Co., over a hotel stay promotion the grocery chain offered but apparently did not deliver to some qualified customers.

    LOS ANGELES - Disgruntled customers here have filed at least four proposed class actions against Ralphs Grocery Co. and its parent, the Kroger Co., over a hotel stay promotion the grocery chain offered but apparently did not deliver to some qualified customers.

    The lawsuits, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, follow complaints to the California attorney general and a newspaper account of how the chain failed to deliver two-night hotel stays offered in "The Great Escape" giveaway.

    According to one lawsuit, more than 300,000 customers who spent $400 or more at Ralphs stores were awarded "Reservation Redemption Certificates" and told to select three possible travel dates. More than 50,000 shoppers tried to redeem the award, only to be told in letters that Ralphs had been "unable to fulfill any of your hotel stay choices," the suit said.

    The lawsuits accuse Ralphs and Kroger of fraud and violating state laws against unfair competition, and ask for compensatory and punitive damages.

    Travel Services, a travel agency that handled hotel reservations for the Ralphs promotion, was also named as a defendant in some lawsuits. The plaintiffs believe "that Ralphs has enjoyed enormous financial gains by enticing customers to make purchases with the promise of exciting promotions, and then failing to honor its obligations to thousands of people," according to a suit filed by Rialto, Calif. resident Joann LaChance.

    Although it's not yet clear how many customers actually received the hotel stay offered in "The Great Escape," lawyers for the plaintiff estimate that those who didn't may number in the tens of thousands. According to an Oct. 18 Los Angeles Times story, the company offered coupons for $50 and $100 discounts on the cost of a two-night stay at Marriott and Renaissance hotels, but customers who accepted the coupons had to agree not to sue Ralphs over the promotion.

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