MARTIN SLOANE | SUPERMARKET SHOPPER Company is searching for smart shopping cities

When I hear about a competition that involves grocery shopping, it immediately attracts my interest. The headline on the news release I received from Unilever stated: "The search is on for America's smart shopping cities."
A hunt for the 10 smart shopping cities is being sponsored by All, the Unilever detergent. Unilever wants consumers to consider All a good value and a good choice for smart shoppers.
Thirty cities will be considered in the competition. Only one will be rewarded, and the judging will be based on consumers filling out what is called, a "smart shopping quiz." Here is how this works:
The search is being conducted by All's public relations firm, Weber Shandwick, which is using KRC Research, described as an independent research firm, to select the cities and participants, conduct the survey and judge the competition. Weber Shandwick and KRC selected 30 cities to participate. They include New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit. After looking at the list of cities I wondered why smart shopping cities like Houston, Long Beach, Calif., or Youngstown were not included. They did make good choices in selecting Albany (including Schenectady and Troy) and Syracuse, N.Y., where smart shopping and double couponing have become a way of life.
Approximately 3,000 consumers were selected by KRC Research to represent their cities in the competition. They had to be a female head of household and have a child up to 18-years old, living at home. A representative of the Weber Shandwick told me that once selected, the person was sent an e-mail message inviting her to the firm's Web site to take the smart shopping quiz. Approximately 100 completed surveys were received from each city.
I have several problems about how KRC is conducting this competition: Why should shoppers who do not have Internet access and an e-mail address be excluded? The research firm apparently forgot that males can be smart shoppers, too. And I also fault the research because deciding which are the smartest shopping cities based on only 100 interviews in each is ludicrous.
"We are very confident we will be able to identify the top 10 smart shopping cities," said a Weber Shandwick spokesperson. Bologna! I subsequently learned that KRC Research is owned by Weber Shandwick.
Dubious distinction
I wouldn't shed any tears if your city is not included in the competition. Wait until you hear about All's reward for this competition of dubious distinction. According to the public relations firm, "one of these smart shopping cities will have the good fortune of being feted by All with a grand event next month. To reward those shoppers, All will ... invite consumers to bring their gently used clothing to All executives, who will wash them and donate them to a local charity." I am under-whelmed. In fact, if I were an All executive, I would be embarrassed to attend.
Finally, I could not help myself, and I asked the Weber Shandwick spokesperson whether the 100 survey respondents from that city would be invited to this grand event. He stammered a bit, and then admitted they hadn't thought of it. Soon afterward, I received the message that the lucky 100 would, indeed, be invited and would receive a free All coupon. I bit my tongue! What have I done?
XSend questions and comments to Martin Sloane in care of The Vindicator. The volume of mail precludes individual replies to every letter, but Martin Sloane will respond to letters of general interest in the column. Check out Martin Sloane's Web site at
United Feature Syndicate

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