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January 7, 2013

Rite Aid Stops Printing Dollars Off Coupons on Your Receipt

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:28 am

Rite Aid +UPAll three major drugstore chains (CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens) now advertise sale items only for loyalty cardholders. No card, no savings. Unlike the old days, when you saw Bufferin on sale for $1.99 and actually paid $1.99 for it, now you pay maybe $2.99 (at CVS and Rite Aid) but a get a $1 coupon on your register receipt good only toward a future purchase. It is like getting an IOU for the savings they promised, rather than them giving it to you on the spot. Some would say it is almost like a pyramid scheme.

There are several problems from a consumer standpoint with this scheme. You don’t get instant savings, you are forced to come back again to use up the coupons, you might lose the coupons and thus lose the savings, the coupons expire in 14 days (Rite Aid) and 30 days (CVS), failing to use the coupons means in essence you will have often paid regular price for the advertised items, you may be forced to buy something you don’t want to use up the value of the coupons, and if you buy another sale item with the coupons you will be issued more coupons that will trigger the whole process again.

MrConsumer hates shopping at CVS and Rite Aid for those very reasons. When he does, he places back to back orders at the checkout, with items that will spit out coupons first. He then uses those very coupons immediately on his second order of non-coupon generating items. It a complete pain not just for the customer, but for the checkout clerk as well.

Not able to resist a Black Friday sale even at the drugstore, MrConsumer went to Rite Aid to buy some Russell Stover chocolates and some butter cookies. The chocolates came with a $3 coupon back from Rite Aid and the cookies were a straight $1.69 a tin. The plan was to first buy the candy in one transaction, and then use the $3 coupon toward the $3.39 for two cans of cookies in a second transaction.

As MrConsumer got closer to the checkout he overhead the cashier telling a customer some disturbing news. She said that their coupons are no longer printed out on the bottom of the sales receipt, but rather loaded automatically onto the customer’s loyalty card. Smart idea, I thought. Then she said that the value of the coupons loaded onto the card would not be available until the next day.

What? You are going to make me make a second trip back to the store just to use that damn $3 coupon on the butter cookies?

Upon protesting this change of policy, the manager on duty who happened to be nearby said that anyone can opt-out of the “load2card” program and they can do it right at the register.

Sure enough, they could, they did, and it worked.

Checking to see if people who sign up online for “load2card” are told about the opt-out provision, there it was in the fine print:

*MOUSE PRINT:

load2card

By opting out, coupons will continue to print at the register and back-to-back transactions will still be possible.

The worst part about “load2card” for shoppers is this: with no coupons to shove into your wallet or pin onto your refrigerator, you are more likely to forget to use up those dollars before they expire in 14 days. How clever of those execs at Rite Aid to make the coupons out of site, out of mind. To be fair, however, they do offer an app for your smartphone to remind you what coupons are still loaded on your card.

• • •

20 Comments

  1. When you return to Rite Aide to use your loaded coupon, does it automatically deduct the coupon value from your purchase or do you have to do something to use it?

    Edgar replies: I haven’t used it, but I assume it must apply the banked amount to your bill if you present your card.

    Comment by Charli — January 7, 2013 @ 7:27 am
  2. Loyalty cards are one way I will not be loyal. I attempt to avoid stores that link purchases to them and you have explained why. I love the “Do you have a card” at the register. I usually give my wife’s phone number since she is involved in their scams.

    Mr. Consumer lives in my general area of Massachusetts and where I live on the South Coast I have three super markets within easy distance – Hannaford’s, Truchhi’s and Market Basket. None have cards but do have low prices, great service and quality produce/meats. Stop & Shop and Shaw’s can keep their cards and high prices.

    Comment by Rick — January 7, 2013 @ 7:38 am
  3. I don’t care what the price is, I have 100% stopped shopping at CVS and Rite Aid.

    Sadly, Walgreens now has their own customer card as well and they seem to be going down the same road.

    And they wonder why people go to Walmart, where the price listed is the price you pay (and it is usually the lowest price), no hassles, no tricks, no gimmicks.

    I still can not believe that every single grocery store has some sort of card, and now every pharmacy does as well. And it is 100% used just to track what you purchase. I mean, they give it to you for free and like a zombie you just scan it, why on earth is this required? It’s a joke, “oh, to get the sale you need the card” yet the card is absolutely free and if you don’t have one they just give you one.

    Sorry, you have lost my business.

    Comment by Tina — January 7, 2013 @ 9:13 am
  4. These programs, even so involved as they are, do offer the savings opportunities. The trick is learning about them well enough to optimize savings. I’ve opted out too.

    Comment by theszak — January 7, 2013 @ 10:21 am
  5. Between these sale and loyalty card scams and some other service deficits, like responding to a tempting sale item only to find “not all stores stock all flyer items” (CVS) I avoid CVS and Walgreens altogether (no experience with Rite Aid.)

    I’m from out of the USA, so I seldom have a chance to use these stores. In two short summers, in not more than 15 total attempts to shop with them, I learned that chances were very good I would be disappointed or even enraged at the checkout.

    Basically, this pattern of offering sales and then jerking them away from me, has taught me both chains are booby-traps, so I don’t go there at all. I even sneer at them as I drive past.

    My intuition is that for these stores, their sales and card policies have the effect of screening out the clever shoppers. Perhaps losing those people as customers is considered a benefit, not a loss?

    Noni

    Comment by Noni Mausa — January 7, 2013 @ 10:27 am
  6. Even though you can print the coupons, RiteAid still won’t let you use the printed coupon until the next day. That’s why I stopped shopping there. I still think CVS is the most generous.
    The Registered Rewards coupons at Walgreens can be used the same day, but they count as a manufacturers coupon and you have to have at least one item you don’t already have a manufactuers coupon in order to use it.
    CVS – 30 days (and they accept expired ones)
    Walgreens & RiteAid – 14 days, no exceptions.

    Comment by Jason — January 7, 2013 @ 10:31 am
  7. Last summer I discovered yet another subtle “gotcha” on the CVS coupons printed on their sales receipts. At my local store the register receipts are printed using a thermal, not inkjet, printer. Tuck that receipt in a breast pocket on a hot day and–poof!–the type fades over time! When I later produced the receipt coupon to use on a subsequent purchase, the cashier refused to accept it because it was too faded to scan. Because it was a substantial cash off coupon, I wrote CVS–it took both an email and follow-up letter to get a response–about the problem. They eventually supplied me with a replacement coupon (and that’s all) but never did respond to me about the problem that required it.

    Comment by JonK — January 7, 2013 @ 11:00 am
  8. I am not actually against the loyalty cards because companies have a difficult time keeping customers coming back to their stores and loyalty cards are a good way to keep customers coming back and making it seem like they are being rewarded.

    I have long since stopped shopping at CVS and Rite-Aid because their loyalty cards added hassle after hassle until they were no longer worth it. Rite-Aid would raise prices on their products and then offer deals that basically brought the product back to the old price. I did not appreciate that at all.

    For the most part I shop at Kroger which allows customers to load coupons onto their card and also automatic deduction after the card is scanned. There are very few “buy now, save later” offers at Kroger and most offers are “buy now, save now.”

    For the easiest grocery experience I would suggest Meijer or Walmart because their deals are not tied to loyalty cards. I don’t like the environment at Walmart so I mostly go to Meijer.

    Comment by Wayne R — January 7, 2013 @ 11:53 am
  9. Well, even though a brand-new Rite Aid was built in my half-horse village a couple of years ago (and hired the independent pharmacist to head their pharmacy – “coincidentally” effecting the closure of said independent pharmacy), I wasn’t gonna comment. But with sympathies to poster Rick, I decided to check out the Hannaford website, since there is one 20 miles from me in Oneonta, NY. Bad news: they appear to have joined the Collective, offering “SavingStar” in conjunction with “My Hannaford”. A quote from their website: “Use you My Hannaford at checkout in the store. PLEASE NOTE, THE MONEY YOU EARN IS ADDED TO YOUR SavingStar account. YOUR GROCERY TOTAL ISN’T LOWERED AT THE REGISTER.

    Comment by Marty — January 7, 2013 @ 11:55 am
  10. I have been aware of the coupons from CVS for a long time. I only buy items that I think are the proper price. The coupons from the register are a way to get you to come back and shop again. I think it is a good idea. I keep the coupons & my card in my car & check it when I need something from CVS. The important thing is to be aware of the price of the item in the first place.

    Comment by Teri — January 7, 2013 @ 3:36 pm
  11. The more times you can come back to the store the more they expect to make. That is good for the company, but bad for you.

    Saying that the coupons will not be ready to use until the next day is very crappy…

    Comment by Richard Ginn — January 7, 2013 @ 3:45 pm
  12. Wow. Extra trips necessary to use coupons that can’t be used until a future day? What a transparent, manipulative crock. Gee, how Un-Green of them; all that extra gas going out the tailpipe, and all. Maybe the Regime’s new EPA’s mission statement has a law against that. Best way to fight this crap is to vote with one’s wallet, at a more customer-friendly establishment.

    Comment by Marty — January 7, 2013 @ 11:28 pm
  13. Someone mentioned Wal-mart where the price is cheaper. Most medical supplies come from India where the workers are paid pennies in dire places, some fire traps as the recent fire there, and thus can sell items at a cheaper price. Wal-mart is not so nice to American workers, here either.

    Comment by Kaye — January 8, 2013 @ 10:04 am
  14. I still use CVS. If you work it right you can save a lot of money. Once you get the first transaction of full price done you can start rolling in the register receipts. My best super coupon trip was $142 and paid $20. I know many people do not like playing their game but once you learn their sale cycles and times to go in you can save a bundle. Rite=aid and Walgreens are not so good so I do not use them anymore.

    Comment by Martin — January 8, 2013 @ 2:48 pm
  15. Happily, the loyalty card virus has not yet made its way to metro St. Louis. We’re a little unique here in that the 2 largest grocery chains, Schnuck’s and Dierberg’s, are still family-owned private companies. Neither one has introduced savings programs tied to loyalty card use. In fact, neither chain has a loyalty program at all (thank you!!!). The other major grocery players here are Shop ‘n Save (part of national company SuperValu), Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s , Aldi, Wal-Mart and Target. No loyalty cards at any of them so far as I know, except Target has their credit card that offers across-the-board 5% discounts at point of purchase.

    Comment by Richard — January 8, 2013 @ 2:51 pm
  16. Kaye, so do you believe that places like Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc… don’t buy their products from 3rd world countries where the workers are treated just above slaves? Do you think these other companies treat their US workers with more respect?

    For all the complaining I hear about WalMart, seems everyone still shops there and the people I talk to that work there LOVE their jobs and love the company.

    Comment by Tina — January 9, 2013 @ 2:58 pm
  17. And these are not “savings” cards. As others have said, they jack up the prices then “lower” them when you use your card (and they farm all your data). They use them to try to force you to come to the store again, they hope you forget to scan your card from time to time so you pay full price, and they make their policies and redemptions so complicated that even the store managers have a hard time figuring it out.

    Used to be they were true savings cards. Food Lion used to send you a check quarterly based on how much shopping you did, or send you great coupons like $5 off ANY purchase.

    At least some places, Bi-Lo and Kroger, give you gas points which are super easy to keep track of and use.

    Then again, every card I have, I make up a fake name for the card so no one can really track me personally.

    Comment by Tina — January 9, 2013 @ 3:01 pm
  18. I take advantage of Rite Aid’s UP rewards. After buying a few things there last month, I was awarded 4 dollars to use within the following two weeks. I checked the circular for next week and there it was, a sale of Herbal Essences products at 2 for 4 dollars. Now, I had four 1 dollar coupons for Herbal that I’ve been keeping in my purse for some time (took them form a coupon dispenser in a different store) and I knew now it was the time to use them. After combining my UP rewards and the manufacturer coupons, I ended up paying a total of $2.84 for 4 bottles of shampoo. That’s 71 cents each. Rite Aid normally sells Herbal for 4.49 each plus tax. Buying 4 bottles at regular price would have cost me over 20 bucks, I paid $2.84. If you are an informed consumer, you can find great buys in many stores, Rite Aid being one of them. I like that the awards are loaded directly into my card and I don’t have to keep an extra receipt coupon in my purse. I scan my card and the rewards are automatically applied on my purchase. That’s it.

    Comment by Ruby — January 13, 2013 @ 3:09 am
  19. It’s true that an informed consumer can do well in some cases. But how many hours, how much study, does it take to make these deals? A hour a day? Less? And how much driving around?

    I can see such sale-hunting as an engrossing hobby, like following baseball statistics. It’s not a hobby I want to take up. Between the study time and the travel requirements, I am much happier indulging my hobby as a thrift shop and yard sale queen.

    Noni

    Comment by Noni Mausa — January 14, 2013 @ 9:03 am
  20. Boy, I can identify with these comments. I refuse most “loyalty” cards just out of principle. Like Noni says, the time and fuel investment in following these tricks is not cost-effective unless you make it a hobby. The extra I pay (and I can’t afford much) I consider to be a populist “donation” to trying to change the system. I don’t like the feeling of being manipulated. (It’s the same with self-service checkouts … why shouldn’t we get a price cut for doing our own work??)

    A suggestion: all commenters and the concerned should spend that same time writing these businesses and complaining, and even boycotting them. They sneer at us because they think we’ll all be forced to succumb eventually. Well, I’ve got news for them: I’ve “downsized” my needs and desires considerably, with their encouragement!

    Comment by Sue — January 28, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

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