Saturday, December 20, 2008

Restraining Reward Cards

I hate reward cards. I tell you this because I moved last summer and the closest pharmacy to my house is a CVS Pharmacy. The closest grocery store to my new house is a Krogers. The 2nd closest grocery store is a Tom Thumb. All of these places have something in common. They all offer you "special" savings and "rewards" if you have their "Reward Card"!

This is basically a card you display each time you buy something so that you can pay $2 for that gallon of milk instead of $5. Of course, you could go to Wal-Mart or Target and get it for $1.50 without a freaking card, but who wants to drive that far. And by using your card and spending over $100, you get a "reward". Normally, something mundane like 10 cents off per gallon on one tank of gas.

In my area we have a history of reward cards. It started with Tom Thumb I think. It was such a smashing success at Tom Thumb, that eventually Krogers followed suit. Krogers used to be my favorite grocery store. I quit going there when they introduced their card. I called their headquarters to voice my complaint. "We'll still have low prices, " they promised, "Even without the card." So, I went in one last time. When I saw the milk I used to buy for $2 a gallon was now $5 a gallon, I walked out and have never returned. I switched to Albertsons.

Albertsons and I had a good relationship for a long time. Then, one day, they introduced the card. The guy at their headquarters was a little more honest. "We did a survey," he explained, "And our customers said that they wanted a rewards card." The survey probably said, would you like to be rewarded with frequent flyer miles and gas discounts for shopping at our grocery store? Who, in their right mind, would say, no? Of course, they left out the part of the shopping card that goes along with it.

Albertsons was the first store to face a "Rewards Card" backlash. They've since abandoned the card.

CVS Pharmacy has a Rewards Card. I've only made the mistake of going in there once.

I honestly don't want some marketing guy at corporate headquarters for Tom Thumb monitoring my shopping habits and noting that I bought 2 six packs of beer and a Barbie Doll on Saturday night.

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