Big Grocer is Watching

United States
August 22, 2008 3:37pm CST
For years, I avoided any grocery store where you had to have a card to get good prices. I drove a mile down the road to shop with the grocery that prided itself on "good prices all the time, without a card." Currently, there's a commercial about this, where the judge says something like, "And I thought I gave out punishment" when he discovered that you had to have a card to get a good price. But...when I lived with my elderly parents for a while - in Michigan, where the winters are long and the snow is deep, and I don't drive in snow - the grocery store in walking distance was one that issued loyalty cards. I've continued using that grocery here in Ohio. Oh, sometimes I use one that I like better. But the one with the card is the closest to the house, and ... 1) since it's been five years since I applied for disability and those doctor bills have been adding up 2) since gas prices are so high 3) since those 10 for $10 deals sometimes cannot be ignored... I've been shopping there more and more. My love for the store has not increased, since when they do issue coupons they're usually in my hubby's former wife's name. Grrr. We've been married for over three years, and they were divorced for probably five before we married. And I've been to the store and they've filled out papers. They issued a new card and number to me. And still the coupons come in HER name. Oh, I use them if there's something interesting. I particularly like it when they provide a $5 off with $50 purchase. What family can't spend $50 at the grocery? Sometimes they'll issue two or three coupons of interest, in the midst of the ten to fifteen. Then...a few days ago, I received a packet of between 30 and 40 coupons, maybe more. Wow! As I opened them and let them unfold, there were two strips that were almost as tall as me. And I was spooked. I don't know about you, but I'm a creature of habit when it comes to grocery shopping. I start at the left side of the store at the back, in the produce area, move to meats, then go up and down the aisles, until I'm at the right side of the store - the freezer and dairy section. The coupons were issued in that order. It's as if the store took my last receipt and issued coupons for half of what I purchased. I've always known that when the card is used it lets the company know my grocery habits and history. I've known that, and it's one reason I fought using that grocery chain and its card for so long. Still, when I have received coupons, I've always wondered why they weren't selected with my purchase history in mind. This time it was. And that's a bit creepy. Free things are great, though, and I already have taken advantage of them. While I didn't make a special trip to the store, I did stop in - since I was going past - after a trip to the bank. Who wouldn't like a free 14 oz. box of cereal or a free 3.5 pound of dog food? On pay day, I'll probably use the rest of the coupons. I won't even have to organize them, since they follow my trip down the aisles perfectly - proof that big grocer is, indeed, watching. Copyright © 2008 Marilyn Mackenzie. All rights reserved. *************** So, how about you? Do you frequent the grocery stores where a card is required to get a discount? Doesn't it bother you that some people get the "good" prices and some pay more? It does me! Does this spook you as much as it does me? Knowing that they can send me a bunch of coupons that follow my shopping habits?
2 people like this
10 responses
@suspenseful (40312)
• Canada
23 Aug 08
We have cards where you have to show them to get discounts up at Safeway here, but we now shop at Superstore and there you get discounts if you get their Mastercard, or you can pick up coupons that are by the item that they want you to buy. So in a way it is better as they do not give coupons on what your grocery bill for the last week was, or the last month. They do send a booklet or a magazine out, but that is mailed to everyone out in the mail. We even get a booklet where there is a branch opened up across the city and the coupons inside are only good for that one and that does us no good. However when we were shopping at Safeway, we did get coupons in the mail that were based on what we shopped for and also we would get surveys where they asked us about what products we used. We then got coupons from competitors for that product. I do prefer coupons based on our shopping habits, because that means I get it cheaper. And I love a bargain.
1 person likes this
• United States
23 Aug 08
Oh, I love a bargain too. I used to publish a monthly newsletter about being frugal and was always seeking new ways to save money. But, you know, if the information is available to the stores about what we buy, it makes me wonder... Do they sell that info? Under what circumstances would they provide the info to the government? Hmmm.
1 person likes this
@suspenseful (40312)
• Canada
23 Aug 08
I often wonder about that. Our government up here I get the opinion that they think we make way too much money - at least the former government did,--so I wonder whether when they see how much cheaper we are getting the groceries we prefer whether they will raise the prices up or put provincial and federal taxes on food now.
1 person likes this
@xtedaxcvg (3190)
• Philippines
22 Aug 08
You're lucky, we don't have deals, cards, or even coupons like that here in Manila. We just have grocery items and that's all. You go to a grocery store, buy your goods, then go home. Sometimes we have promos but that's it. I just got married recently so I'll experience my first grocery shopping experience this coming weekend with my wife. Wish me luck! :D
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Aug 08
What fun. Perhaps you'd be best to observe the first time. When my hubby and I did our first grocery shopping together, I immediately decided that we should never do it together again. Alone, I can get done in about 30-45 minutes, depending on how many people are in the check-out line. With him? It takes us an hour to 1 1/2 hours. And when he was diagnosed with diabetes II and had to change his diet? It took us THREE HOURS...because he had to look at every label ('cause he wouldn't believe me when I said it had too much sugar).
@xtedaxcvg (3190)
• Philippines
23 Aug 08
Thanks! Looking forward to those hours and hours of circling the grocery store... hehehe.. :D
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Aug 08
I refuse to buy at those stores. Now with that said, there are some that wholesale stores that let you buy a year membership to get those prices. Those I am not a member of either, but at least you know it is a club and there is a fee to join and get those prices. The ones that irk me the most are the ones that only offer sale prices, to those who hold a card. Normally I really could care less, because anyone can sign up for that dumb old card. Ah ha but they cant. It seems there is a very small print that they can refuse you to get a card, for whatever reason. That is my problem with it. Excuse me you can refuse to give someone a sale price, that you have listed in your sale flyer, because you refuse to issue them one of these sale cards. No way that is unfair, and I will not shop there. Now those rules may have changed, it has been probably 10 yrs since I learned of this policy.
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Aug 08
I'm not sure what the rules are. I hate shopping there, but it's the closest store and these days that is important too. They used to keep a card at each cashier's station for those who didn't have the card. The cashier COULD use the store card to give someone a discount. But they don't do that anymore. Defeats their purpose, I guess, of charging more to some.
• United States
22 Aug 08
A lot of times if you tell the store you're from out of town, they'll have a courtesy card you can use (cashier keeps it, and obviously they don't have to give you any coupons or other things that their regulars get, but you at least get the good price). Luckily the stores near me don't snub people out of getting a card...but I can't speak for all the stores everywhere.
1 person likes this
@wachit14 (3599)
• United States
23 Aug 08
I do frequent the grocery store with the card and I think it's the same one you go to, the tip of being the 10 for $10 items. I go there though for a few reasons: 1) It's about a quarter mile from my house so I use up practically no gas to get there and back. 2) I could walk through the store with a blindfold on since I've been shopping there for years and the cashiers know me already. 3) I think they have fairly good sales on items I purchase regularly, sometimes even cheaper than the big box stores. 4) I get coupons on the mail from them regularly for free things. This week I can get an eight ounce container of one of three side salads, and a free reusable shopping bag. There are a few drawbacks to this store. They used to honor another chain store coupons that were for $10 off every $50 you spend and they don't do that any more. They also don't always carry my favorite brands although I'm not sure why. All and all my shopping experience is not an unpleasant one except when I go to check out. I always have some idiot behind me who inches their shopping cart as far foward as possible before I've even paid for my groceries. Now I just tell people (in a nice way of course) to back up unless they plan on paying for my groceries
• United States
24 Aug 08
They've stopped carrying lots of my favorite brands as well. You used to be able to go to the customer service desk and request special items, but not anymore. What the store manager told me was that each store used to be able to order according to what the local cusomters wanted. A store in a hispanic neighborhood, for instance, could order more ethnic foods. Now every store is provided with the same items. The corporate office decides what they get and it cannot be change. I don't like that at all. The corporate office does listen a little, though. For instance, did you know that for a while they weren't selling any instant coffee at all - not even their store brand? Then they discovered (from some unhappy customers) that not everyone has a coffee maker.
@berrys (864)
• Singapore
23 Aug 08
whoa!! Thats is seriously so cool!! yet creepily strange. But i think that this is just one of the ways big groceries stores attract their customers. after they saw that you were a loyal customer they probably thought it was time to reward you and so they did it TWO rows of it that were as tall as you!! its amazing how stores use technology (at least I think it is) but anyways I'm sure you're trilled with your coupons and cant wait to use 'em ALL have fun at the grocers!
1 person likes this
• United States
24 Aug 08
You're right. It's both cool and creepy. I'm not sure I like having the store keep records that detailed about my purchases.
@mikinikih (201)
• United States
22 Aug 08
I compare the prices--sometimes the store with the card can get me what I want cheaper, so that's where I go (the fact that they also give fuel credits and free child care helps, too), but if the non-card store has the better price (fuel credits get taken into account when calculating card-stores cost), then I buy it there. Luckily both are close to home. I'm one of those neurotics who actually has a spreadsheet listing the sale price (not regular price, since I don't buy it if it's not on sale) of my frequently purchased items at all stores, then it calculates the discount per item in fuel credits (5%/item based off of $0.10/gallon per $50 spent, and I have a 25 gallon tank on my car). I try to be good about updating it, but I have 3 kids, so that doesn't happen as often as it should. And in the end, if all 3 kids are with me, I buy what I need at the card store, because they do have the free child care (for the older 2, 2 year old not eligible yet), and I don't want to get them out of their car seats more than once...but on those occassions I try to only buy the necessities--even if it means shopping twice in one day or every day.
• United States
22 Aug 08
Wow, I'm impressed. A spreadsheet. That's organized. Yes, I do have to factor in the benefit of getting cheaper gas too, but since I don't do much driving (other than to the bank, doctor's and grocery), I don't use much gas. Hubby does, though. He commutes about 40 miles each way, so the gas discount helps him.
@sedel1027 (17850)
• United States
22 Aug 08
I have a grocery card that is probably 10+ years old on my jkey chain from whn they first started using them (I know it is older than my son and he will be 10 in January). I can't say that I shop at that store very often at all. Even if I do, that card is attached to my parents account (not that it really matters). Thereis a better grocery store here that doesn't use cards that a) has better prcies and b) has better weekly sales! I do use my Petsmart card A LOT. I sdon't care if they track my bird, cat and fish purchases as long as they keep giving me those $3 coupons!
1 person likes this
• United States
22 Aug 08
There is another store near us that's starting to get smart. Instead of the 10 for $10 like this one, they're sometimes doing 11 for $10. That makes the extra time and gas to get there worthwhile.
@snowy22315 (100056)
• United States
23 Aug 08
I'm not thrilled with loyalty cards myself since I always seem to have the other keys the one that doesnt have the tag on it or something. On the other hand they do seem to be able to save you alot of money particularly when you combine them with coupons. I guess that the store does want to know your shopping habits so they can market to you directly and know what you buy, but that's big business. It doesnt bother me too much.
1 person likes this
@hellcowboy (7378)
• United States
23 Aug 08
My friend the only grocery store that me and my mom,and my fiance shop at is Food Lion where they issue the MVP card and I like it because it helps my mom save money especially when she uses coupons and it is kind of crazy that some people pay less than others,and it is not fair,I think everyone should pay the same price,so that way no one has to pay a fortune for food and stuff like that.
1 person likes this
@peavey (16991)
• United States
22 Aug 08
It irritated me when they first started doing the thing with cards, but I guess I'm used to it now. Most major grocery stores have them, and really... what can they do to you? You're just a name/number in a very long list of others (in the millions). "They" don't know you. The computer spits out coupons in response to preprogrammed rules and no human being ever looks at them. I guess if they're going to give me coupons for things I already buy instead of things I don't buy, I don't have any argument against it.
1 person likes this