Shopping For Groceries, Card Required. Scam or Not?

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Being forced to use a 'loyalty card' to get advertised prices really pisses me off.

Why are all the grocery stores using a system where I must use a ‘loyalty card’ in order to get their advertised sales price? And does everyone hate it as much as I do?

Another local store, Albertson’s here in Dallas, made the switch last week and I shopped there for the first time since the change today. They’re now using a program called ‘Just For U‘. It looks and operates exactly the way it did at Tom Thumb several years back. I hated it then, and am pretty sure I’m still going to hate it just as much today.

With Just For U, not only must I use the card at the store to get the sale price, but from my computer or smart phone I must first go online to their website to add the items I wish to buy to my card. How stupid is that?

I understand how the system is supposed to work, so I went online from home and I added their best deals to my online list. There was the .99 DelMonte pineapple, a 24-pack of bottled water for .99, 93% lean ground beef for $2.99 a pound, and a few other things.

And… almost half the sale items failed to ring up at the correct sale price, leaving me to spend 25 minutes in line at Customer Service to get it fixed… while my ice cream melted. Grrrr!

Why do the stores do it.

Some ‘loyalty card’ programs such as the new Albertson’s Just For U I find tortuous to use. At the risk of alienating their customer base, why are these programs so popular?

Supposedly stores use loyalty cards to track what their customers buy so that they can make better marketing decisions.

I call BS on this. Studies show that other than selling the data, very few retailers themselves actually do anything serious with the data. And the data is so extremely dirty (meaning customers who value their privacy sign up with fake information) that its practically useless.

Obviously, stores who use loyalty cards benefit in some way or they would discontinue the program. What are those benefits? In my opinion…

  1. The store is able to advertise phenomenal prices which brings people into the store.
  2. However, a good percentage of customers will not want the hassle of using the card and will instead pay the higher price. The store is basically able to charge two different prices for the same product. One price for people who care about what they pay and another for those who don’t. A win for the store.
  3. Another fairly large percentage of customers will intend to use the card, but will goof up in some way. They may forget to use it, or forget to first go online and add items they plan to buy. If the customer fails, the store collects full price. Another win for the store.
  4. Many customers think they’re getting the advertised price, but never notice when they don’t. The digital screen which shows prices as they ring up is confusing and some price adjustments are not made until after the cashier totals the bill. They are likely shopping in a hurry to get home, get supper on the table, get to the kids ball game, etc.
  5. Difficulty of using the card may actually be a way to eliminate certain customers (myself included). I shop the sales, often coming into the store for sale items only. I doubt that I’m a highly prized customer.

The solution.

The solution… shop somewhere else. I can take that Albertson’s sale ad and price match at Walmart. Or I can shop at Aldi, a store that I love, love love.

If I can’t have the sale price without jumping through all these stupid hoops, well maybe I no longer care to shop at Albertsons! And maybe, just maybe, that is their goal – to get rid of the shoppers who cost them money rather than make them money. I think I’ll save them (and myself) the trouble of being slowly driven away by leaving now.

Photo courtesy of DigitalArt at

Do you hate loyalty card programs? Please comment below. I need to know I’m not alone. 🙂

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