Raleigh, N.C. — When Kroger announced last month that it planned to close two of its Raleigh grocery stores, the Women's Center of Wake County was left scrambling after purchasing $3,500 in Kroger gift cards to distribute to needy clients.
When the two stores shut down in mid-January, the nearest Kroger will be more than an hour away by bus, plus nearly a mile and a half walk, one way, according to Jean Williams with the Women's Center.
The center, which helps women and families with basic needs such as food and support, contacted the grocery store chain, explained the situation and asked for a refund. Williams received a simple email reply: Refunds are not allowed.
"It's clear that nobody gave it any thought," Williams said. "That's a lot of money that we really need to be able to utilize with these families."
Williams contacted WRAL News, which then contacted Kroger's public relations department. Within moments of WRAL's call, division management reversed the earlier decision.
"Per our refund policy, we do not traditionally refund gift cards purchases, as all Kroger gift cards can be used at stores throughout the Triangle," Carl York, advertising and public affairs for Kroger, said in a statement. "Given our commitment to the Southeast Raleigh community for the past 10 years, we recognize that the situation is unique and should be addressed outside of our standard policy."
"Once division management was informed that the Women’s Center of Wake County wished to refund their gift card purchases, we immediately took steps to rectify the situation," York added. "We want to continue to support the community of Southeast Raleigh that has been affected by the store closings, and we very much value the work that the Women’s Center does in Wake County."
The Women's Center says it is happy with the decision.
Meanwhile, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and members of the City Council are working on a letter to send to the Ohio-based company asking it to reconsider closing its stores on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and New Bern Avenue.
City leaders and residents say they are concerned about the local economy and about the ease of access to food for the community.
Southeast Raleigh is recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a "food desert," an urban low-income area where the poverty rate is at least 20 percent and at least 33 percent of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store.