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Grocery store loyalty cards


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Shoppers learned to play the loyalty-card game.

It seemed like a big deal at the time, with outraged consumers writing letters of outrage and threatening outrage-motivated boycotts.

Two years later, does anyone even remember the controversy, let alone what it was about?

Probably not. Two years ago, merely the mention of grocery store loyalty cards (or frequent-shopper cards, as they're also known) was sufficient to spark enough outrage and uproar to keep columnists happily occupied for weeks.

...That anecdotal evidence is backed up by data from the Food Marketing Institute. In its latest report on industry trends, the trade group says 75 percent of customers use a frequent-shopper program at least once a week if their primary store offers one; that's up from 65 percent in 2003.

...I can't be the only one who rolls his eyes whenever the cashier looks at the receipt and -- no doubt compelled by corporate edict -- announces "you saved $23.67 by using the card."

Well, no, I didn't. I used the card to get a price that's within the range of what I would normally pay for that item; the posted price for non-card holders is often an amount no sane person would pay. By the same logic I "saved" $125 million today by not ordering a Boeing 7E7.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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For me the information collecting was always more troubling than the price scams.

Call me a paranoid Luddite, but some of the things that I see in working with IT companies and reading the trade mags makes me nervous about information trading (not to mention the renamed and reborn Total Information Awareness program).

I use fake names and adresses and pay cash.

Then again I also do it just because I don't like marketers.

Or perhaps their databases will get so dirty that they'll have to pay me to come clean them up.

yours,

Franklin Pierce

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Washington DC

:biggrin:

edited for fat finrges

Edited by JPW (log)

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Call me a paranoid Luddite, but...

You're a paranoid Luddite! :laugh:

I moved for the first time in 11 years this past spring. I cancelled all services except for credit cards. The phone and cable companies did not know the new address.

For a while there was no junk mail.

Last month, I bought a new TV at Best Buy, and as an incentive to get a 10 percent discount, I applied for their credit card. I now have more junk mail than ever before. Credit card applications, blank checks, AT&T sending me $100 check to transfer my long distance carrier...

Arg.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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:cool:

I've never quite stopped being tense about loyalty cards in terms of the issuers tracking my purchases/preferences and marketing to me. I don't like databases selling my profile to each other for fun and profit. Not all that long ago, though, I started thinking about it in other terms as well, and God knows that eGullet has had a hand in that inward shift:

Maybe one of the best things I can do for the American marketplace *IS* to make certain that my demand for fresh, organic, un-screwed-up foods, in wide seasonal variety and at (at least!) semi-decent prices is, in fact, registered. Often. Emphatically. Along with my tastes in wines. Cheeses, too -- including the ones the Department of Ag/FDA's scared to let us import.

We can ignore marketing initiatives (snail mail, email, phone, flyers slipped under the door, posters in the laundry room, coupons handed out at the front of stores, you name it) with a happy impartiality...but if those businesses want to remain in business, they don't dare ignore us.

Demand it loudly enough, often enough, and spend your food dollar on it, and maybe we can make the market cater more to us!

:wink:

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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I don't shop at the chain that has loyalty cards because:

  • their regular prices are higher than the regular prices at the chain that doesn't have the cards
  • their sale prices are higher than sale prices at the store that doesn't have loyalty cards
  • their selection sucks, compared with other stores
  • crummy customer service made it really hard to apply for the cards, anyway.

That, and the privacy issue.

Most people receive a loyalty card and never read the circulars again, so they believe the drivel that they're saving lots of bucks. So it's a really effective marketing tool in that way.

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I stopped using stores that have those darn cards, and now shop at a small local chain and Trader Joes, as well as farmers markets, which I always did anyway. My grocery bill dropped, and I don't have to be paranoid about being tracked, or be annoyed by cashiers misprouncing my name when they tell me how much I 'saved'. :wink:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I try to shop as much as possible at stores that don't use the cards, but gradually almost all the local chains have taken up the practice.

Not only is it creepy and annoying to have this information tracked, but they try to pretend they are somehow improving service for you. Once or twice a year I get "personalized" coupons for products ridiculously unsuited to my family, like pet food, geriatric vitamins, instant potatoes(!). I have no pets--I have little kids. Maybe a nice old lady with a cat is out there sharing my card number and getting baby food coupons in the mail. :wacko:

"Hey, don't borgnine the sandwich." -- H. Simpson

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What about other food related stores? Sur La Table? Even when I pay cash they are asking for my name, address and phone number. That sort of irks me.

I haven't minded supermarkets with loyalty cards too much because between all of the other markets that I shop for food (West Side Market/farmers/specialty stores like Galucci's Italian Market) I tend to only use them for cleaners, dish soaps and paper products such as tissue, etc.

The loyalty card I *truly* enjoyed was that of Seamart in Sitka, Alaska. For every dollar spent, up to $500 per card, Alaska Air gave 500 miles to your frequent flier program. :smile:

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i guess i'm in the minority here. the way i see it, if they know what i buy, maybe they'll be more likely to have it in stock when i come in to buy it. if they give me a loyalty discount, so much the better. i just have either little paranoia or high naivety (pick one) where the loyalty cards go...

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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I don't like databases selling my profile to each other for fun and profit.

I'm guessing that I get about 4 or 5 junk e-mails a day that include my city, and sometimes my street address, on the subject line. When this first started happening it scared me a bit seeing how I am a victim of credit card fraud. I wondered what else they were trading. And I wanted to know who it was that sold my soul... da bastard! :angry: All it takes is one to sell your information because the buyer is surely going to turn around and become a seller.

Anyway, this is why I don't turn on junk e-mail filters. I want to see each and every e-mail to see what they know about me.

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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i guess i'm in the minority here. the way i see it, if they know what i buy, maybe they'll be more likely to have it in stock when i come in to buy it. if they give me a loyalty discount, so much the better. i just have either little paranoia or high naivety (pick one) where the loyalty cards go...

That is the thing though. You are not getting a loyalty discount. You are getting the normal advertised discount that you would have always have gotten before the card.

I do my best to never shop at stores with cards. It is tough, but I dont want to give them any more business than I have to.

I am just waiting for a supoena to be issued to safeway for that info...good god.

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Every grocery store around here has cards, and the farmers market is only open on weekends and doesn't carry everything, so you pretty much have to have one of the cards to get decent prices normally.

Usually they don't bug me too much, a couple of the chains have tried 'no cards neccessary' sales, and the one I usually go to (Acme) has sales that need the card, and others that don't, I just automatically scan it anymore.

I disagree about it not being a good value though, occasionally you will get very very good prices with the card, $1 packages of bacon, $1 lbs of butter, $1 packages of strawberries, bell peppers, asparagus, and mushrooms all come to mind. While normally the card just gives you an acceptable price, sometimes it does give you something pretty good.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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Luckily in Washington state, it's about 50-50 with stores requiring cards and those that don't. And those that do have one aren't the quality stores I like.

I do have a couple cards, though, if I'm stuck and have to go to one of those, but I either lie (in the case of filling out info for one card) about my private information or don't fill it all out besides my name (according to another store I didn't have to). I refuse to give out any private information to any type of store - I'll make something up or say I don't give it out, depending on my mood. However, I do get on email lists of specialty shops to get news about special events (wine tastings, etc.)

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While I was against the idea at the beginning...I've gotten used to CVS giving me bonus bucks occassionally. They just gave me $8 in bonus bucks.

supermarket wise...i dont like the idea of having to use a card to get sales. but...it is nice that you can tie upromise to your member cards.

-Jason

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I won't shop at the stores in my area that use the cards. At the risk of sounding like a commercial for the store I DO shop at, their prices without cards are consistently similar or better than the card prices. I had my credit cards stolen (with "SEE ID" written on the back) in Las Vegas, and the theif used my card at a store with a membership card. . .and USED THE MEMBERSHIP card in his/her name.

I got a call from the store asking if I knew that I had used someone else's membership card. :hmmm: I not-so-politely retorted that they were confused, their member had used my credit card.

I looked for it, but couldn't find it; however, the news here did a story recently about how certain folks are beginning to get MORE discounts with the cards while the number of actual discounts are disappearing. In short, they're putting fewer deals on the shelves and giving more markdowns at the register, benefitting the people who spend more and hopefully "punishing" those who just buy a few things with the cards in order to get better deals.

So, if you have one, keep an eye out for that sort of thing. . .

Diana

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What about other food related stores? Sur La Table? Even when I pay cash they are asking for my name, address and phone number. That sort of irks me.

That irks me too! I often say "I don't give out my telephone number" or I make up a number.

On the loyalty card question, I don't mind if my local supermarket keeps a file on me :wink: because I feel they will have better information on what products to stock that I will like.

What I *don't* like is every darn shop asking me to carry their card. Hallmark, Crabtree & Evelyn - forget that!!!

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I have never signed up for supermarket loyalty cards, out of privacy concerns. I always use the same Safeway number, though; it belongs to a friend of mine who lives in Winnipeg. Lots of people I know use her card.

And if I'm asked personal or demographic information at check-out, I lie.

Bruce

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I don't shop at the chain that has loyalty cards because:

I really don't have that option unless I shop at Sam's and BJ's in which case they scan my membership card anyway so it's the same situation. There is a loophole - all the chains in my area now have "dummy" cards available to the cashiers for shoppers who forget their card. You don't really have to use a card of your own.

My grocery purchases are mundane enough that no one will ever be scouring my data to figure out what the hell I'm up to but I can understand why people are irritated buy it. What I haven't seen mentioned is the fact that these cards replaced the tear-out/clip-out "store coupons" that appeared for years in the weekly grocery store circulars that appear in most newspapers (traditionally on Thursdays and Sundays). Redemption of those coupoons was used to track the efficacy of advertising dollars spent. They just bumped it up a notch by selling the tracking data from loyalty cards to marketers.

In an intersting marketing shift, the new Bloom Grocery store in Charlotte NC does not offer or utilize a loyalty card system. They do offer hand held scanners for people who want to scan their own purchases in the aisles as they shop and that device requires one to be registered with the store. If one does not use the scanner there is no card required for the discounts. What interests me is that this store, a pilot project by Food Lion (who plans to open many more of them), was supposedly designed in response to two years of focus group studies and consumer surveys about what people want most in a grocery store experience. No need to use a loyalty card was very high on the list!

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Here is my grocery store loyalty card name and address info:

Ed Poe

1313 Raven Rd

Grave 666

Baltimore MD

Yeah, really. It's not like there's a law saying you have to give your real name and address. They get their marketing data, I get 2/$4 Simply Orange or whatever. Just takes a while to get used to somebody thanking you by some made up, and ideally humorous, name.

-- T. Ferguson

Edited by Chef Shogun (log)

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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I've never quite understood the arguement that the cards will help them stock their shelves more efficiently.

I mean. If say, Charmin, is really popular, and they sell 30 packs a day, are they trying to tell me that they wouldn't notice that they sold them unless the purchases were somehow tracked through this card system? How the hell did they stock their shelves before the cards? Did they wait until there was no product left, then stand around the emtpy aisles scratching their heads and wondering what master thief managed to sneak off with all the toilet paper?

feh.

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Did they wait until there was no product left, then stand around the emtpy aisles scratching their heads and wondering what master thief managed to sneak off with all the toilet paper?

Well, that's pretty much how we did it in the '70s before scanners and UPC arrived.

:laugh:

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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I use fake names and adresses and pay cash.

Then again I also do it just because I don't like marketers.

Or perhaps their databases will get so dirty that they'll have to pay me to come clean them up.

yours,

Franklin Pierce

1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Washington DC

:biggrin:

edited for fat finrges

:cool: Ah! job security! :biggrin::cool:

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