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Supermarket Chain Rejects Promotion, Fearing Vandalized Packages

February 6, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ A New England supermarket chain, hoping to prevent the reapparance of overeager shoppers who tore apart boxes in the aisles, says it won’t participate in a national promotion in which gems are placed in packages of floor cleaner and soap.

″We had problems with customers ripping up boxes of Spic and Span looking for jewels″ during a similar promotion last year, despite the fact that the chain did not stock boxes containing the gems, Stop & Shop spokeswoman Doris Keating said Wednesday.

Laura Sturtz, spokeswoman for the public relations firm handling the promotion by consumer products giant Procter & Gamble of Cincinnati, said she never heard of the problem in any supermarkets.

″I only wish somebody had told me. We would have sent a photographer out,″ she said.

Procter & Gamble is packaging 13 million plastic-wrapped gems in boxes of Spic and Span, Safeguard and Camay soaps and Bounce fabric softener sheets. The promotion began this week and will continue until the gems run out, she said.

The vast majority of the gems are garnets with a retail value of about $5, but one in 10,000 shoppers will find one of 1,368 diamonds worth $600. In addition, over 2,700 packages will contain emeralds worth $250 and more than 50,500 will hold sapphires worth $50, Ms. Sturtz said.

Ms. Sturtz said the company was spending ″millions″ on the promotion, which she said probably was one of the largest in history.

That’s what worries Stop & Shop, which says it is a little miffed that it was not warned of the latest promotion and only learned of it when the gem- filled boxes began showing up at the company’s warehouses.

Mrs. Keating said the supermarket chain, which also has stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, boycotted the Spic and Span promotion last year because it already had learned the ardor of shoppers for such giveaways.

″A few years before that we had a similar experience with another promotion that we were not aware of. Customers did quite a bit of damage,″ she said. She refused to disclose the product involved or type of promotion.

Last year, when Procter & Gamble advertised it was placing diamonds and fake gems in boxes of Spic and Span, shoppers ripped up boxes in Stop & Shop aisles despite the fact that none of the boxes were part of the promotion.

″It was in isolated stores,″ Mrs. Keating said. ″I can’t give you numbers.″

Ms. Sturtz said she found it hard to believe shoppers would exhibit such behavior.

″Frankly, you’d have to sit there and dump the stuff out. You’re not going to just grab a package and get a diamond out of it. I would like to think Americans are not that venal,″ she said.

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