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September 23, 2013

Advertised Sales Now Limited to the Diligent

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

soup saleOnce upon a time, when you looked through the Sunday advertising circulars, and saw Tide on sale for $1.99, you simply went to the store, put Tide in your cart, and paid $1.99 at the checkout. Simple.

Sales were advertised broadly, and open to everyone. And even if you didn’t know the item was on sale before you walked in the store, you nonetheless got the benefit of the sale price when you checked out. Then, maybe a decade or more ago, some supermarkets questioned why they were giving discounts or offering sale items to everyone who just walked in off the street.  So they created loyalty cards or club cards so that only customers who allowed the store to track their purchases could buy the items advertised in their circulars at the sale price.


card only

Clever. Very clever. Saves them a ton of money (at our expense). But now it gets even worse. All three major drugstore chains — Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid — have figured out a way to get customers to pay full price for sale items and only get credit for the discount price toward a future purchase.

CVS started it several years ago with “extra bucks”. That is a system whereby cardholders are shown a sale price for an item in an ad, but pay full price or close to full price for it. On their register receipt will be a coupon good for the difference between the advertised price and full price. That coupon can be used toward a future purchase.

For example:

In this case, you are attracted by the $4.97 sale price (“it’s like getting it for $4.97” they say), but you really have to pay almost $9. You get back $4 in merchandise credit for future purchases on a subsequent visit to the store.

What’s problem with that? You are really getting a discount on something else, and not on the sale item that attracted you to the store to start with. You have to make a second trip to the store (or go back and do a second shopping on the first trip.) You only have a few weeks to use the credit before it expires, so you could lose the money (and in effect really would have purchased the original item at full price). You also could wind up having to buy more merchandise on that subsequent trip that you may or may not want or need.

Walgreens followed suit a couple of years ago offering “register rewards”, and sometime after that, Rite Aid jumped on the bandwagon with “+UP Rewards”.

To make matters worse, Walgreens will only accept one register reward per item. So if you have collected a dollar credit here, and a two dollar credit there, and want to apply them to the purchase of a $3 item, you can’t. (CVS and Rite Aid will accept multiple credits toward a single item.) And Rite Aid won’t let you use credits earned today until 6 am tomorrow, thereby necessitating a second trip.

This whole system of giving discounts only to cardholders, coupled with making you pay full price instead of the advertised sale price is all designed to SAVE THEM MONEY by getting you to spend more and potentially save less. That’s some system.

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  1. Menards have been doing this for years but you don’t get the coupon with the receipt. You have to go by the service desk, find the card with the coupon number that is printed on the receipt and mail it in, then a few weeks later you get a coupon you can use on a future purchase.

    Comment by Peter — September 23, 2013 @ 7:08 am
  2. First, I refuse to get a Rite-Aid card. They still ask me EVERY time I shop there, but I’ve developed a style of answer – “NO, I don’t” which seems to have halted their previously irritating follow-up, “Do you want one?” As for the point of this story: For the longest time, their milk prices were substantially below two supermarkets, without necessity of using Rite-Aid card. Suddenly, Rite-Aid increased milk by .10 per gal. No big, I thought, but I missed the small print -with card- on the shelf tag. Got to register and without card, milk had actually jumped .55 to match supermarkets. I still relish their incredulity when I instantly asked to return milk for refund. I won’t change THEIR world, but mine was brighter.

    Comment by Marty — September 23, 2013 @ 7:30 am
  3. I don’t have a problem with loyalty cards, but I avoid retailers that make me jump though additional hoops to get the discounts promised by a loyalty card. I don’t remember the last time I shopped at CVS, Walgreens, or Rite-Aid. Their loyalty programs are insulting and their prices are usually higher than average which negates the benefit of a loyalty discount.

    I found it much better to shop at stores that have consistent discounts and don’t try to hassle the customers about it. Big Lots is a good example of a discount store that may not always have exactly what you need, but you don’t have to struggle when you want to save money. I hope dollar stores don’t start focusing on loyalty cards because I always rely on them for savings.

    Comment by Wayne R — September 23, 2013 @ 8:14 am
  4. The store I frequent has started printing these great coupons that expire in 7 days. Then usually they have some other string attached like a min spend of 150. Then they are usually wadded up in 10 other bits of paper and forget at home :(. Would it be so hard for them to attach it directly to the card for my next visit? To bad the dollar stores near me are not actually better. The price per oz is usually the same or worse for smaller quantities.

    Its funny many of these stores would be better off it they advertized their real price per oz/unit. The prices would look smaller (more people in the store). Their competitors would have to move to the same model. It also would protect their customers from ‘shrink ray’ pricing. Instead they want to hide it. This sort of trickery pricing is what is putting many b&m stores out of business. The internet makes it a snap to comparison shop.

    Comment by me — September 23, 2013 @ 9:11 am
  5. Staples Rewards makes you wait until the next quarter (3 months) before you can spend the Staples ‘rewards’.
    The first and only time I made a purchase with this program, I didn’t receive notice that $28 was available
    in these rewards. I inquired and was told I had about 2 weeks remaining before the $28 would be forfeited.
    Apparently, there is a time limit on when customers have to spend the ‘rewards.’ Honestly, I don’t have time
    to monitor all of this. I only deal with their free, online rebates. BTW, thanks so much for the heads-up on
    the free case of Staples multipurpose paper a couple of weeks ago!

    Winn Dixie’s old customer card was free for the asking, no customer ID necessary. Now, they require your
    driver’s license to apply for their card – one where they track your purchases in exchange for pennies off
    gasoline. No thanks!

    Comment by Savvy Shopper — September 23, 2013 @ 11:18 am
  6. This is a major reason I no longer shop at CVS or Walgreens.

    I used to like that Walgreens did not have a “rewards” card, but they added it a couple years ago.

    These loyalty cards are so stupid. The stores love them because people forget to scan them, the stores can keep track of all your purchases and market ads to you, and they can pull tricks like this to con you.

    Plus, half the time it seems the rewards don’t register either when you buy or go to use them.

    Hate to say it, I shop at Walmart most of the time because they just have one price, it is on the item, it is that simple.

    Kroger is terrible as well, if they have a “10 for $10 mix and match” you have to buy all 10 items, but others that say “10 for $10” you can just buy one or more to get the price. It is beyond confusing.

    Plus, the “10 for $10 mix and match” if you buy 11 items the 11th one is at full price.

    Just so sick and tired of how every store has to play games and trick you just to sell items. Again, thank you Walmart. Besides, Walmart matches prices anyway.

    Comment by Tina — September 23, 2013 @ 11:23 am
  7. One more rant about Kroger. I do like their digital coupons, but they are a scam.

    Let’s say there is a coupon for $1 off for a can of soup. Well, while that $1 off coupon is running the soup will always be at full price. But miraculously, when that coupon expires they will put that soup on sale.

    It’s the same trick all these clothing stores do, they pretty much have ONE PRICE they use to sell everything but they confuse you with mark ups/downs and sales prices.

    Comment by Tina — September 23, 2013 @ 11:25 am
  8. I think Mouse Print is getting a little carried away here. They need to stick to isssues like Breyer’s Ice Cream or whatever they call themselves now.

    CVS is quite in the open how these Extracare $’s can be used. They can be used to buy other extracare and sale items. So I frequently pay $0 for a lot of items.

    If you don’t like using those extracare $’s then don’t. I do and find I walk away with a lot of merchandise for very very few dollars.

    Comment by Alan — September 23, 2013 @ 11:56 am
  9. The stores do this so you spend more money at that store. It is legal, but not a clean way to do business.

    Comment by Richard Ginn — September 23, 2013 @ 12:05 pm
  10. I’ve been “lucky” enough to sometimes get these sale-price discounts without knowing it, but generally it’s annoying to have to return to get my discount price (only to find that the discount coupon is expired.)

    As for these “loyalty” cards, they were okay when they started in the supermarkets but then I noticed that the prices of things skyrocketed and their sale price when using the card was the same as the regular price at other local grocery stores. So now they get to track my usage PLUS I pay full price (or more!)

    Comment by RobS — September 23, 2013 @ 1:50 pm
  11. WOW! What a revelation! I thought I was the only one being scammed like this!
    I am a senior citizen and I have me son shop at Walgreen’s for me, taking the ad with him.
    I have had to go back myself and get refunds 3 times in the past 4 months for overcharging: the employees said the ad right in front of them “would not read the bar code” or they would “forget” to scan my “reward card”!
    I try to always check my receipt when my son returns.

    Comment by EDITH — September 23, 2013 @ 2:05 pm
  12. Up here in the Northwest, Albertson’s no longer requires a loyalty card to get the sale prices so the ad prices are for everyone. If you get Albertson’s gasoline then you do want to use the card which I don’t.

    Comment by Julie — September 23, 2013 @ 2:09 pm
  13. CVS can be done, but you have to know how to play the game (and I agree it is a game.) In the beginning you have to outlay a small sum of money-I did it for under $20, and only buy items that will give you ExtraBucks, using store coupons & manufacturers coupons (you can combine them.) Then, just roll over your EB, and use more coupons, and so on. I’ve been doing it for about a year now and my last receipt shows I’ve spent $419 in store and saved $1500. I have a stockpile of toiletries that fills 8 cabinets and most of it was close to free. The more you spend at CVS, the more they give you. I get emails 3x a week with free EB or coupons for free items. It’s a game, so just play it better than them, I guess. I haven’t tried Walgreens or Rite Aid with this system, so I don’t know if it would work there. And if you can’t spend your rewards until the next day, then it wouldn’t work for me anyway.

    Comment by Jen Goodman — September 23, 2013 @ 2:17 pm
  14. Kohl’s also utilizes this practice with their rewards card. You earn points and the reward coupon is emailed with an expiration date. The same with their Kohl’s Cash. You must make a separate trip to spend the cash earned but are given a time frame in which to use same.

    Comment by Kathy — September 23, 2013 @ 10:28 pm
  15. I wonder if what you’re describing is true of CVS stores in all states. Here in NY (Long Island specifically), an item that is on sale (for card holders) does come up on the register for the sale price. Nobody has to wait to get the discount off some other product later.

    Comment by Harold — September 24, 2013 @ 12:36 pm
  16. Eventually this BS will go the way of mail in rebates. In our area we have all three convenience stores disguised as drug stores – Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS. If I am forced to shop per order of “She Who Knows All” I am given her card. If I need something myself and they will not give me the price – “See Ya!”

    Also in our area is Market Basket, Hannafords and Trucchi’s super markets. No cards. Shaw’s has now seen the light and discontinued that scam.

    Comment by Rick — September 25, 2013 @ 8:25 am
  17. I shop at King Soopers (In Colorado this is Kroger). They have had a loyalty card for a very long time. And the thing I like the most about it is I get coupons on items I actually buy. I not only get the coupons that print out at the checkout stand, they mail me coupons. I usually get them twice a month and they are for items that I have purchased in the past. And they are usually good for at least 30 – 45 days. Maybe the other stores could take a lesson from them.

    Comment by Jackie — September 27, 2013 @ 6:21 pm
  18. I can add one more “gotcha” to the list of delayed gratification discounts. My CVS “Extra Bucks” coupon was printed using a cash register thermal printer. It was a warm summer, and when I pulled out the coupon to use on my next trip to CVS, the print had virtually disappeared. The register clerk declined to accept it (I guess I can’t blame her), so, miffed, I sent it to CVS (after getting no response to my first email). Sometime later CVS sent me a new coupon for the face amount–how generous–worth considerably less after my time and postage in lodging the complaint.

    Comment by JonK — September 30, 2013 @ 3:29 pm
  19. On the Kroger comment, I’m not sure how your Kroger works, but at the ones I shop at, sometimes I only buy a couple of items and it’s still just a buck apiece. And if I do purchase more than 10, each one is still $1. I do agree on the digital coupons, for the most part. They will run a sale on some of the coupon items but most of them aren’t any good until after the sale has ended. It still saves money with planning and don’t forget sometimes those items are marked down as manager’s specials, which adds more savings.

    Comment by StephanieG — October 1, 2013 @ 12:04 am
  20. Come on everyone, put your thinking caps on. The only reason for a store to go to the cards is profit, yes? NO! These cards also allow them to track every penny you spend, on what, for how much etc. They are SPY cards, tracking YOU, completely without your permission. Retailers make Big bucks on shelf placement for many products in their stores, now they make even more big bucks by selling YOUR information, your shopping habits, spending, etc., again without your permission and without sharing those profits with you. Ask where you use your cards and the answer is usually that they use the information for inventory and re-ordering purposes. That is a partial answer only. Specifically ask at the customer counter if they are tracking and selling your shopping information, what information, and where does it go to. SURPRISE!

    Comment by Mike — October 7, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

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