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Coles is facing widespread backlash following its bold decision to cease the distribution of its printed catalogue in favour of an online service.
The retailer made the announcement on Tuesday, telling customers catalogues would stop being delivered entirely by September 9 and be replaced by an online platform called coles&co.
While the news was welcomed by people who celebrated the supermarket’s dramatic reduction of paper use, others criticised the move because it disadvantages those without access to the internet.
Many were quick to complain in posts to Facebook, arguing the decision significantly disadvantaged “vulnerable and elderly people” who under current restrictions were relying on others to shop for them.
“Not everyone has access to the internet and just because more people shop online doesn't mean they are not browsing the catalogue. I am not happy and neither are my elderly parents. Bad move,” one wrote in a post to the supermarket.
Several agreed, with one person saying “so many people rely on them” and sharing a link to a Change.org petition calling on the supermarket to revoke its decision.
“Terrible for older generations, especially for my 81- year-old mum who doesn’t do tech. Going to miss it myself, I love to flip through the catalogue,” another person wrote of the change.
Seniors angry over Coles catalogue cancellation
Catalogues will remain available to customers in stores on a weekly basis, this however was simply not good enough according to National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke.
“There will be people that will be very disadvantaged by this because that’s the way they’ve always done things. When you take away something people are used to, they’re going to be upset,” Mr Henschke told Yahoo News Australia.
“This is about respect. What we should recognise is that not everyone is the same and you should respect people who choose to do things differently.
“And you should have a lot of sympathy for them because the only reason that they’re not online is because they don’t have enough money to do it.”
Mr Henschke argued it was wildly unfair for people without digital access to be so abruptly disconnected and called on the supermarket to find some middle ground with its elderly shoppers.
He suggested some kind of specials board be displayed at the front of supermarkets, stating what items would be on special the following week.
“Older Australians would then be able to write down the things they’ll shop for next time they are there,” he said.
Up to 10 per cent of shoppers were used to relying on catalogues to complete their shopping, Mr Henschke said, arguing they were far from “an insubstantial group of people in Australia”.
“We’re probably talking more than two million people who are not online savvy,” he said.
An ever-growing reliance on online services had left many feeling frustrated and disrespected, according to Mr Henschke.
“When you go to senior’s groups you’ll often find that up to half the people in the room will say that they either don’t use online technology or they’re not interested in using it,’ he said.
“They sometimes get angry because they feel as though they’re being disrespected. They didn’t grow up in an office with computers, they don’t own a computer, they don’t want to or can’t spend the money on one, and therefore they still like to feel that they’re valued.
“They feel as if they’re being pushed aside a bit an ignored. I think it’s really important that we recognise and value people’s choices.”
A Coles spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia the supermarket would be monitoring customer demand for its printed catalogues.
“We are continuing to produce a printed catalogue for customers who prefer to use them. We will continue to assess customer demand for a printed catalogue to ensure we are using the most effective channels to communicate with our customers,” they said.
“The printed catalogue will be available in your local Coles supermarket.”
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