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Farmer Jack Axes Fresh-Or-Free Guarantee Cut

DETROIT -- Farmer Jack here said it is pulling the plug on a "fresh or free" guarantee it launched in 2003, in view of the program's high costs and an inconsistency within its parent company A&P's other operating divisions.

The campaign, which guaranteed customers who found outdated products would receive a fresh, similar item for free, ended last Friday. It was part of the a larger initiative at Farmer Jack called We're Thinking Fresh.

Officials at the struggling 71-store chain, a division of the Montvale, N.J.-based Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., based their decision in part on feedback from employees who claimed the program had become too costly. In some cases, employees said, customers would hide products until they expired and then demand free items from the chain, according to published reports.

Richard DeSanta, v.p. of corporate affairs for A&P, was quoted as saying that the chain was committed to revitalizing its freshness proposition as a "main thrust" of its strategy at all operating divisions.

"Although we have different banner names, it is one company," DeSanta said, noting that A&P offers no such fresh-or-free program in its other operating areas. It does not, however, mean a lessening of A&P's fresh approach at any of its locations, he noted.

In other news, earlier this week the chain obtained wage concessions from workers in conjunction with a major cost-cutting initiative put into place amid a campaign to profitability.
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