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Poppy drive hit by sales rules



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Tom Phipps of the American Legion could sell poppies on Main Street, but not Kroger. File photo (click for larger version)
June 06, 2012 - American Legion Post 63 estimates half of their usual donations may have been lost because Kroger told them they could not sell poppies on May 17-19.

"Our hope is that they'll rethink their position," Commander Keith Marbutt said.

Although the veterans signed up to collect donations for poppies in February, when they arrived at the Kroger on Dixie Highway and Maybee Road on May 17, Manager Barry Weiner turned them away.

According to Dale Hollandsworth from Kroger's Consumer Communications department, the veterans were told they couldn't sell poppies because of a policy, which has been in place for two years.

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"Our customers have told us overwhelmingly that they feel inundated due to all the organizations seeking donations outside the store," Hollandsworth said. "They feel like they're running a gauntlet."

To give customers a "better shopping experience," Kroger adopted a policy requiring organizations to submit a form that can be picked up in the store, Hollandsworth explained.

Marbutt said the American Legion has been selling poppies at Kroger for at least five years, and this was the first time he'd been told about the new procedure.

To comply with Kroger's policy, Marbutt filled out the new form and was told it would be faxed to the Kroger corporate office, but the veterans were still unable to sell there that weekend.

As a result, Marbutt had to quickly inform volunteers and move them to new locations.

American Legion volunteers usually collect about $5,000 a year, but this year Marbutt thinks they'll reach only $2,500 because of the loss of time and volunteers at Kroger just before Memorial Day.

Donations from the poppy sales go to veterans' food and winter heat bills. They've been used to pay for gas to get a veteran's wife, who was diagnosed with cancer, to her medical appointments, Marbutt explained.

Of the situation with Post 63, Dale Hollandsworth of Kroger said, "I feel bad and am terribly sorry about that."

There are "thousands of organizations that want to solicit" at Kroger, and due to recent economic hardships, the store has seen an influx of groups hoping to collect donations, he said. Kroger's policy is intended to schedule the many organizations requesting donations.

Despite hitting an impasse on May 17, Marbutt hopes the American Legion will be welcome to sell poppies at the store again.

"We'd love to work with Kroger," he said.

For more information, see www.legion63mi.com

Clarkston News reporter
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