This has been bothering me for a long time. Ever since my local Albertson's starting suggesting that I get one of their little tracking cards so that I could still get low prices. What they didn't realize is that I'd just walk across the street--literally, and shop at the local chain rather than big, bad Albertson's.

Well, I was glad to see that Phil Windley felt the same way:

Doing the Thanksgiving shopping at Albertson's, I was once again slightly enraged to find I'd picked up something, thinking it was a great price (in this case a 12 pack of soda for $1.99), only to find out at the check out stand that I only got that price if I used their "value card." The regular price was $4.50. Of course, that's just a way to convince me to let Albertson's add my purchases to their collection of marketing data.

And now there's a long discussion forming on Brent's weblog as well. He mentions and says:

Remember, folks, fighting the future begins with your local grocery store.

Note to Albertson's: You lost a customer for life. I liked your store util you told me how little you value my business by asking me to do your dirty work for you..

Posted by jzawodn at December 21, 2002 08:40 AM

Reader Comments
# jim winstead said:

am i remembering the wrong store, or didn't albertson's used to advertise their lack of club cards as a feature?

put me down in the apathetic category, and thus a club and debit card user. (but i also walk to the grocery store, so my alternatives are limited.)

what surprises me is that the grocery stores are willing to roll out these club card programs, but still tolerate the overhead of the food-stamp-like programs. i've learned to avoid getting in line behind people buying lots of milk and apple juice -- a sure tip-off that they're in for a tedious checkout process.

on December 21, 2002 09:34 AM
# kasia said:

Places to buy food:

i) Local farmer's market -- freshes fuits and veggies you'll find and great prices.
ii) Small, specialised stores -- I buy a big chunk of my groceries at a Polish deli.. well, mostly out of sentiment.
iii) Co-ops.. you're in California.. there has to be one down the street..

on December 21, 2002 10:31 AM
# Reverend Jim said:

At least in the area I live (Dallas, TX) just about EVERY grocery store takes those cards.

We have Tom Thumb, Alberton's, and Kroger for major grocery stores, and all three take the cards. We used to have Winn Dixie and Food Lion (both not taking cards) but they have both gone out of business, at least in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. So, for me my only option is to use one of the "dirtier" chains like "Piggly Wiggly" (yes... somehow, we actually have a few grocery stores by that name, though none near me, thankfully), or use one of the more expensive stores catering to a specific market (which means, chances are I'm not going to find the products I want).

In short, what I'm trying to say is that, while it is possible to shop without using the cards, it becomes more (time consuming|expensive|disgusting).

I propose another idea: When you want a card, they ive you one, and all you have to do is fill out the sheet of paper. They don't verify the information, or check anything. They merely place the application in a pile to be processed later. They already know what people (as a whole) buy, and by shopping anywhere you provide that information, card or not. So, once a week, get a new card. Make up an address, make up a social security number, make up a name, and always pay with Cash. This way, they end up with a database filled with useless information.

on December 21, 2002 10:44 AM
# Reverend Jim said:

Or maybe not.

on December 21, 2002 10:46 AM
# Manton Reece said:

Jim, don't you have HEBs in Dallas? They're huge in central/south Texas. No card, and their prices are consistently lower than other stores' with-card prices.

We started shopping at Randall's (Tom Thumb) a few years ago because it wasn't as crowded. The card was an annoyance, but we signed up anyway. But the final straw was when my wife forgot her debit card and wanted to write a check for over the amount. Despite doing all our grocery shopping there every week for years, they wouldn't let us get cash back because we hadn't written at least 5 checks in the past 6 months. Never mind that the debit card we use every week is the same checking account, and that they even have our checking account number on file from their card application.

Talked to several store managers but they loved their computers too much to keep us as customers.

on December 21, 2002 11:44 AM
# john said:

I actually like the grocery store cards - but I wish they did a better job using the data they collect. I shop at 3 different grocery stores and except for when I have the kids with (then I avoid the self-bagging one) it doesn't really matter to me which store I go to. If they used their data on me to mail me coupons I might use I would be more apt to go to their store.

Of course I also like Internet recomendation engines as employed by Amazon and others, and would have no problem if Amazon bought Tivo and started to suggest things based on what was watched on TV, and I realize that would go far beyond most peoples' comfort level.

on December 21, 2002 12:42 PM
# Josh Woodward said:

I was never impressed with the Cosentino's next to you, but the one in Campbell on Bascom was the best store I've ever been to. No cards, and all sorts of great stuff that you never find anywhere else. The prices are a notch higher for some things, but it's worth it overall. The Nob Hill on Campbell is also great with a big selection, better prices, and no card. Again, I wasn't impressed with the other Nob Hill I went to (on El Camino somewhere), but this one is good. Both highly recommended if you don't mind the drive..

on December 22, 2002 05:33 AM
# Basil Hussain said:

"If they used their data on me to mail me coupons I might use I would be more apt to go to their store."

One of the largest grocery chains in the UK does this, which is why I actually have one of their club cards.

You collect points for every purchase, and then every quarter they send you coupons (value based upon points collected, of course) for stuff you actually *buy regularly*.

They know a 'discounts for card-holders only' scheme wouldn't work here... so they don't even try.

on December 23, 2002 04:59 AM
# MichaelE said:

That stuff doesn't bother me. If anything, I wish they'd use the data to better improve the offerings that the demographics point to. In the end the statistics still need smarts to make any kind of proper interpretation.

on December 26, 2002 08:16 AM
# camille said:

Five years ago when I moved to Wichita, we had Food4Less, Albertson, and Dillons grocery stores. Food4Less purhased Albertson. Last week while surfing, I realized that Kroger owns both Food4Less and Dillons. Dillons is a card store and Food4Less advertises great prices without the card.
Until Food4Less purchased Albertson it was a warehouse store. Now it is a regular store with the same prices as Dillons. Food4Less has regular sales and Dillons requires the card to get sales prices. In the end, all the money goes to Krogers.
I remember things being more competitve in Texas. However, Randalls owns Tom Thumb and Safeway and Krogers owns Randalls and now Albertson.
Although the cards are distaseful, the ability for one corporation to control food pricing in the midwest is scary. I am now shopping exclusively at WalMart, my food cooperative, and my independant neighborhood stores.
It may not be as much fun shopping the discount or mom & pop grocery but it is preferable to have one corporation with the ability to artificially inflate food prices.

on March 7, 2003 06:30 AM
# Tom said:

You people are crazy its just a flipping card

on June 16, 2005 04:38 AM
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