Supermarket  Discount  Cards

Every item in the typical grocery store has a barcode on it, so the store managers know exactly when every item is sold, and at what price, and they know what other items are purchased by the same customer.  This enables them to determine the percentage of the customers who buy steaks and also buy charcoal, for example.  The only thing they can't determine without The Card is the identity of the person who bought these items.  Even that could be determined by matching check and credit card numbers.  But what difference does it make if a gallon of milk is purchased by a young bachelor or by his grandmother, as long as it is sold?

The existence of the discount card means that the supermarket has established two sets of prices:  The normal price for first-class customers, and a higher price for customers who shop anonymously.  But why?  Obviously the stores are collecting data and selling it to the highest bidder, regardless of what they tell the customers about the confidentiality of the information collected.  It makes no sense to believe that the stores set up this system with any motive other than profit.

It is also obvious to those of us who use one or more grocery store discount cards (under a fictitious name and address, of course) that the store does not gather information for the benefit of the customer.  If that were the case, the store could easily offer prizes for those who purchase the most.  For example, it might take me a few years, but my favorite grocery store could express their thanks in some way when they find that I have purchased a thousand gallons of Diet Coke, or a hundred pounds of my favorite breakfast cereal.

This material came from Stores that promote the use of The Card aren't just trying to win your loyalty.  You are being used.

He was a fugitive — until he used his CVS rewards card.  The Cobb County Sheriff's Office contacted Key West police Thursday [3/23/2017], saying Jamaal Seymour, 37, was possibly in Key West and wanted on a number of counts.  A "be on the lookout" alert warned that Seymour be considered armed and dangerous.  Seymour's thrifty nature did him in, police said.  "Intelligence showed that Seymour had used a CVS rewards card at the Truman Avenue store around 6 p.m. on March 14," Crean said.  "Detectives began searching for Seymour."

Mass. Retailers Ask For ZIP Code, And Lawsuits Follow.  In the past two years, at least 25 retailers have been sued for more than $100 million for requesting ZIP code information from Massachusetts customers.  Most of the lawsuits have been settled or withdrawn, but the practice of asking customers for their postal codes — bits of information with a marketing value of perhaps 5 cents each — has cost retailers millions of dollars in settlements and attorneys' fees.

Big Brother checkouts could socially profile shoppers.  Big brother style self-service check-outs which socially profile customers to stop shoplifters are in development, it has emerged.  Symbol Technologies, the company which helped develop self-scan checkouts for Tesco and Asda, has lodged a patent for a programme which monitors a lot more than the shopping in your basket.  The technology takes into account whether the store is located in a bad area; the time of day; shopping history and queue length before determining if it is likely a shopper has stolen items.

OfficeMax puts 'daughter killed in car crash' on letter to dad.  Chicago resident Mike Seay told NBC 5 he was shocked to recently find amidst his mail a coupon offering $10 off a future purchase at OfficeMax that was addressed to not only him, but also, "Daughter Killed in Car Crash." [...] "Why would they have that type of information?  Why would they need that?" Seay asked in an interview with NBC 5.  "What purpose does it serve anybody to know that?  And how much other types of other information do they have if they have that on me, or anyone else?  And how do they use that, what do they use that for?"

Data Brokers Gathering Dossiers on Millions of Americans by Income, Disease, and More.  A Senate panel released a report and held a hearing before the holiday break on the multibillion-dollar and largely unregulated data broker industry, which showed that these firms have several avenues to collect sensitive data on consumers. [...] Data brokers collect a huge volume of detailed data about consumers, from what illnesses they may have, to what car they own and what types of soap they buy.  They use this information to create consumer profiles that categorize consumers, or "score" them, without their consent.

Never Give Stores Your ZIP Code.  Why make such a big deal over five digits that only records that someone lives in the same area as many thousands of others?  Because along with other information, the ZIP code may provide the final clue to figuring out your address, phone number and past purchasing details, if a sales clerk sees your name while swiping your credit card.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.  Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers.  And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy.  Target, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.

Is It Possible That Snowden Is A Hero?  Even those who do not use the Internet or have a computer are having all their data and information collected by the government as well as political marketers.  Every swipe of a credit card, supermarket card, library card, debit card, is downloaded to the Net at relatively low cost to the government.  GPS in cars and smartphones, Onstar vehicles, can have their locations tracked by the Department of Defense which developed this technology.  Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags can be used to track everything from household products, casino chips, animals and even people who have them inserted under the skin at fancy VIP club to facilitate faster access to club.  These RFIDs are in our passports.  Authorities can place GPS devices on suspect vehicles without court orders thanks to the Patriot Act.  This is not fiction.  It is real and it is happening to all of us now.

Big Government Mind-Readers.  The data compiled by customer reward cards could help [Big Brother] evaluate the nutritional contents of your grocery lists, assess your fashion tastes, and analyze your shopping habits.

How the Government plans to use loyalty card data to snoop on the eating habits of 25 million shoppers.
Supermarket spies.  The shopping habits of Britain's 25 million supermarket loyalty card holders could be grabbed by the Government in an attempt to halt the UK's dangerous obesity crisis, it was claimed today.  People who buy too much alcohol, fatty foods or sugary drinks would be targeted with 'tailored' health advice under plans being considered by the Coalition.  With more children than ever dangerously overweight, parents could also be contacted if their bills show they are not giving their offspring a balanced diet from their weekly shop.

Tracking down outbreaks of food poisoning with grocery store loyalty cards:
Initial suspicion of listeria outbreak led to far-reaching investigation.  [Scroll down]  Elaine Stevens, 81, doesn't remember exactly what food she served for the past month, but she keeps her King Soopers credit-card receipts to make sure she gets all her frequent-flier miles.  Tri-County officials also got her loyalty card information for the grocery store, so they could check her purchases.  By tracking the melon purchases of patients back to the distribution trucks, investigators from the state and the Food and Drug Administration narrowed the focus to two farms...

Supermarket cards threat to privacy?  Privacy advocates say a wealth of data is being collected by supermarkets via electronic shopper cards and that the information could be linked with other biometric technology to form in-depth personal databases without a person's permission or knowledge.

Data collection is lucrative for supermarkets.  While some stores currently allow participants to enroll with false identification, others don't.  And the experts agree that the trend is moving toward requirement of real information because such data is lucrative.  Failure to participate "voluntarily" could result in higher grocery bills.

Privacy and Consumer Profiling:  Profiling is the recording and classification of behaviors.  This occurs through aggregating information from online and offline purchase data, supermarket savings cards, white pages, surveys, sweepstakes and contest entries, financial records, property records, U.S. Census records, motor vehicle data, automatic number information, credit card transactions, phone records (Customer Proprietary Network Information or "CPNI"), credit records, product warranty cards, the sale of magazine and catalog subscriptions, and public records.  Profiling has sparked an entire industry euphemistically labeled "Customer Relations Management" (CRM) or "Personalization."

Grocery Club Cards:  Real Savings?  John Vanderlippe says those little cards that promise special savings for special customers are nothing more than an industry scam.  "I find it offensive that they make it appear you're saving money when in fact, you're not," he says.  He claims that card stores cut prices for their card-holders on items already jacked up to make it look like a better deal.

How much information can the government demand from us?  We don't have to give corporations [personal information].  We do so for our convenience.  If I don't want a credit card company to track my spending habits, I can pay cash.  If I don't want Safeway to track my product purchases, I don't have to have a membership number.  I like the convenience of credit cards and I like the discounts that go with grocery store membership cards, but I can quit playing the game at any time to preserve my privacy.  The stakes are different, though, when the government is involved.  When it's the government demanding your information, you have no leeway to say "no!"

CDC uses shopper-card data to trace salmonella.  As they scrambled recently to trace the source of a salmonella outbreak that has sickened hundreds around the country, investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention successfully used a new tool for the first time — the shopper cards that millions of Americans swipe every time they buy groceries.

Welcome to the Smart Grid — Check Your Privacy at the Door.  [Scroll down]  At first, it was simply annoying.  For example, an individual might subscribe to a magazine, and suddenly would receive solicitations to subscribe to three others. ... Then came the day when people began to deliberately inflict this sort of thing on themselves.  At the grocery store, the bookstore, or office supply outlet, do you have a 'membership' or 'rewards' card, promising special discounts or rebates for using the card every time you shop?  There is a contract implicit in the use of such cards:  you permit the company to track your purchases — and thus predict, or shape, your future expenditures — in exchange for a small monetary reward.

Discount cards have pros and cons.  Many consumers see loyalty cards as a quick way to save money.  More than 70 percent of shoppers participate in two or more such programs, according to the A.C. Nielsen Frequent Shopping Survey.  But others bristle at the thought of having to give retailers their name, address and other personal information in exchange for a card that allows the store to track their every purchase.

The privacy vs. health tradeoff.  Some grocery stores are using the data gathered from their "loyalty cards" to notify customers who bought products that have been recalled due to the widening peanut contamination affair. ... How do customers feel about their purchasing information being used in this way?  I suspect most people are positive about it — but I wonder whether it would be viewed quite so positively if the product in question were, say condoms.

'Loyalty cards' mean no privacy in store.  Cashiers at supermarkets, drug stores and other retailers that have rewards cards — or "loyalty cards" as they're termed in the trade — always have a store card that they keep around for customers who forgot their cards or who, like me, simply refuse to use them.  "We can't do that anymore," she said.  "If you want, you can sign up for one right now." … "No," I said.  "If I can't get the discounted price, then I'm not buying."  We were at a standstill.  So I made good on my threat.  I walked out, leaving the groceries behind.

How Grocery Stores Are Feeding Fears:  Protesters in Seattle and growing ranks of disgruntled shoppers around the country claim that the personal data and shopping information collected by supermarket companies from loyalty cards purchases violates their privacy rights and doesn't even save them money.

The Price Of Loyalty:  Gary Hawkins is not only a grocery store owner, he's an industry consultant who praises the benefits of "customer specific pricing."  That's when a store prices items or gives rewards according to how much you spend. … Customer specific pricing is so new, no one knows how many stores are doing it, but Hawkins says it's a growing trend.  "You would think that the discounts would be almost targeted for the people who need them; instead what we're seeing is the exact opposite."

Supermarket "loyalty" cards are designed to reward only the wealthy.  Although expensive advertising and in-store promotion convince shoppers that the cards are there to save them large amounts of money, the stores see the cards as data collection devices designed to help them keep track of who buys what.  This information is then used strategically to raise prices and increase profits.

Grocery Store Loyalty Cards:  The Bigger Picture.  The usual rationale for loyalty cards is that it makes stores more efficient at stocking their shelves with products you want, and allows them to pass the savings on to you.  If you think about this for a moment, it doesn't make sense.  If all the grocery stores want is to improve their efficiency, they just need to know what items are being sold and what items are bought at the same time.  There's no reason for them to need loyalty cards for this.  They can record all of this information without knowing who was making the purchases.

Calling All Shoppers:  On Grocery Store Loyalty Cards.  Besides increasing their bottom line — and you thought you were saving some bucks — grocery store companies are also taking a privileged peek at your personal information.

Miles of Aisles — A Supermarket Pricing Survey.  Do supermarkets which have "shopper card" or "loyalty card" programs inflate their "regular" prices?  I have contended that they do, for several reasons — to make their card-holder "specials" look better; to subtly coerce shoppers into signing up for the cards; to recoup the costs of running their card programs and increase profits.

The Truth Behind Grocery Store Discount Cards:  Many advocacy groups across the country will warn you that these types of programs are an invasion of privacy because the true purpose of them is to track an individuals spending.  Do you really want your grocery store to know what you drink or how often?  What your preferred birth control method might be?  What kind of over the counter medicine you use.  Do you trust that this information won't be sold?

Ten Things Your Supermarket Won't Tell You:  For example, many manufacturers gladly pay "slotting" fees to score shelf space at eye level, where the products are most likely to attract attention.  And that bakery smells good, doesn't it?  There's a reason those ovens are always on full blast.  "Studies show the smell of baking bread drives people bonkers," says [marketing professor Arun K.] Jain.  The scent drives up sales all over the store.

What men want — in the supermarket.  Brian Galloway, a computer security manager in Dublin, Ohio, argues that the cards are a "tremendous frustration" because they levy a "privacy tax" on customers.  "I believe the whole purpose of the savings card is to generate information the store can sell," says Mr. Galloway, who is single and shops once or twice a week.  "Some of these cards want you to give your e-mail address and phone number."  He pays with cash to preserve his anonymity.

Loyalty Cards:  Reward or Threat?  Who cares if you buy one brand of tissues over another, or favor name-brand microwave pizzas over store brands?  Supermarket chains care.  So does CVS.  So much so that they use discount cards (referred to as "membership" or "loyalty" cards) to offer you what seem like great bargains.  They use the cards to keep tabs on what you purchase, how often you shop, and what your buying preferences are.

Albertson's dumping its discount card.  The supermarket chain said Wednesday [9/24/2007] it's doing away with its Preferred card program in Dallas-Fort Worth and instead will offer discounted items to all its shoppers. … In 2001, Albertson's was the last major chain in D-FW to introduce a loyalty card, and now it's the first to take it away.  Tom Thumb has no plans to end its Reward Card program, and likewise Kroger is standing by its Plus card, the companies said.

Note:  Albertson's Preferred card was introduced November 7, 2001.*.

Somewhat related...
Major grocer getting rid of self-checkout lanes.  Albertsons LLC, which operates 217 stores in seven Western and Southern states, will eliminate all self-checkout lanes in the 100 stores that have them and will replace them with standard or express lanes, a spokeswoman said.

Supermarkets Eliminating Self-Serve Checkouts.  Some grocery store chains nationwide are bagging the do-it-yourself option, once considered the wave of the future, in the name of customer service.

Griping over swiping:  Some like savings at grocers, others see 'Big Brother'.  [Suppose for example] You are rejected for health care coverage, your insurance company tells you, because you have a heart condition and your grocery store records show that you have been filling your cart with potato chips and rich desserts.

The card up their sleeve:  It sounds good — loyalty cards entitle us to freebies or cash simply for shopping at our local superstore.  Of course, retailers get something in return:  a heap of information about us we might prefer them not to know.  That's before they get started on the new tags that track you and what you buy.

SOLD, to the highest bidder!  If you were wondering just what the data compiled by their "preferred" card might be worth this information from the sale of prescription data from Winn-Dixie's bankruptcy filing might be of interest.  As Winn-Dixie closed some of their stores they sold of the pharmacy records.  CVS paid $6.4 million for the records from 62 stores, Eckerd bought the records from 20 stores for $2.7 million, Kroger paid $1.47 million for 12 stores' records, Target Corp. purchased nine store records for $1.15 million and Publix bought 11 store records for $1.9 million.  The press release stated, almost as an afterthought, that the purchaser also got the remaining inventory.

Grocery store robot scanner a royal pain.  Bagging groceries with a robot is left to the customer unless some store employee takes pity.  ... I surmise there is a certain acceptable level of loss of goods not paid for because the machine cannot catch everything a customer might do.

Supermarket:  Let your fingers do the paying.  A supermarket has given its customers the choice of paying by fingerprint at a store in the state of Washington — and has found them surprisingly willing to use the biometric system.

How safe is your card data?  Programmer leaves secret "back door" into database.

Credit card data stolen from supermarket chain.  A computer hacker stole thousands of credit card numbers after breaching security at two U.S. grocery store chains owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group SA, the companies said on Monday [3/17/2008].  Nearly 2,000 cases of fraud have been linked to the breach….

How safe is your card data — part II — Information sold on open market.  After the 9/11 tragedy a supermarket voluntarily gave their "loyalty" card data to federal authorities in the hope it might help find the perpetrators.  Two recent articles suggest the release of this data may be more routine than the supermarkets would lead us to believe.

Malware cited in supermarket data breach.  Unauthorized software that was secretly installed on servers in Hannaford Bros supermarkets across the Northeast and in Florida enabled the massive data breach that compromised up to 4.2 million credit and debit cards, the company said Friday [3/28/2008].

Free turkey soon to be extinct.  As you sit down to this years Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, there is a good chance your main course cost more than it has in previous years.  While holiday turkey offers are still a staple of the supermarket industry, the amount of the discount appears to be declining, at least in stores with card programs.

Tesco advertising SMS unsubscription requires loyalty card membership:  Tesco can add you to their advertising SMS list without a club card, but they cannot remove you without a club card.

More robot scanner phenomena:  Twice in one week I've tried to use a robot scanner only to find it is stuck at the FINISH AND PAY node of the transition diagram.  The bagging area has nothing in it.  There is no customer around, except me.  Conclusion:  shopper rang up the goods, bagged them and left.

Just say… NO CARDS!  A free people does not show identity papers to buy bread.  If your supermarket is asking you to "sign up" for a "frequent shopper card" — just say — NO.

Store Customer Cards a Source for FBI?  According to one privacy expert, at least one national grocery chain voluntarily handed over to the government records from its customer loyalty card database in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.  And others say customer databases — including those culled from travel, financial and insurance industries — are routinely shared with the government for surveillance purposes.

You're Under Surveillance.  In the midst of all the hypocritical and self-righteous talk about the fact that the National Security Agency actually listens to calls from known or suspected terrorists talking to someone in the United States or vice versa, is the fact that every single American is under surveillance these days.  It begins with the Social Security number that is issued to newborn infants!  There is hardly a purchase you make that isn't monitored for the purpose of selling more of the same or identifying you as a potential customer for something else.

ID Theft is a Symptom of our Database Culture.  The theft earlier this year of thousands of credit card records from the nation's third-largest warehouse club illustrates the potential for massive-scale identity theft whenever so much purchase-enabling information is stored in one place.  It also illustrates how difficult the cleanup can be.

Supermarket Cards track consumer habits.  Typically, stores charge cardholders less than the shelf price for many items, making signing up for one hard to resist.  But to critics, the cards are merely marketing gimmicks that force people to exchange personal information for savings that may not even exist.

The Dark Side of Supermarket "Savings Cards":  Privacy advocates worry about the misuse of personal and purchase data.

Big everything is watching you.  The first time I went to the invaluable Internet Movie Database, the home page said, "Hello, Jon Carroll!  How do we know who you are?  Click here." I declined; I know too much about what I don't know already.  Oh, and the Safeway card handy for in-store specials?  More data.  Suddenly buying diapers?  Someone wants to know that.  Increase in Advil consumption?  Watch for the Paxil brochure in the mail.

Are Supermarket Cards a Threat to Privacy?  Experts are concerned about the use and abuse of personal information.

Practical and Legal Protection of Computer Databases.  Databases have long existed in manual or book form.  Contemporary examples of manual databases still abound, such as the phone book and many reference books, including legal reporters.  The computer database is essentially an information compendium like a phone book which has been placed in a computer and thereby automated.  When information is computerized, however, there are many more ways for the information to be accessed, manipulated and used; the value of the database to users is thereby greatly enhanced.

Shoppers looking more closely at political stance of companies.  What's in your shopping cart?  Increasingly, it's full of political statements.  Identity shopping, once the pursuit of only political radicals, is moving to the mainstream.

Somewhat related:  Wal-Mart Hit By Gift Card Scam.  In Tami Kegley's case, her receipt shows the $150.00 card was activated at 11:32 in the morning, then cashed out three hours later in a another state!  "At a store in California," Tami explained.  "He (the Wal-Mart employee) wasn't sure how it was being done, but he told me it had happened several times through that same store in California."  Wal-Mart acknowledges the scam, but for security reasons will not discuss details.

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Supermarket Cards FAQ page

10 Reasons Not to Use a Fake Card

Isn't participation in supermarket "loyalty" programs voluntary?  Stores can set non-member prices as ridiculously high as they want.  In fact many have done just that in an effort to squeeze the last holdouts into signing up.  If your local supermarket wants to, it can raise the price of a gallon of milk to $15 - but "reward" members with the "sale" price of $2.98.  Should you then be impressed when your receipt says, "Congratulations, you saved $12.02 by using your club card"?  Rather than feel grateful for the "opportunity" to pay normal prices, you should feel angry that prices are manipulated like that in the first place.  Why do they do it?  Because they want to monitor your shopping.

Is privacy a factor here?
The Nation's Best Grocery Stores:  Consumer Reports grocery store survey polled 24,000 readers to identify what they call the country's best supermarkets.

Somewhat related:
And You Thought a Prescription Was Private.  [Scroll down]  But in fact, prescriptions, and all the information on them — including not only the name and dosage of the drug and the name and address of the doctor, but also the patient's address and Social Security number — are a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients' knowledge or permission.

Somewhat related:
10 Secrets About Store Brands.  It's a common misconception that private label products are just the better known brand with a different coat of paint.  Not true.  There are dozens of small companies dedicated solely to developing store brands and they work directly with the retailer to develop the item, label and price points.

Supermarket Scanner Errors Can Cost Consumers Up to $2.5 Billion Each Year.  Each year, consumers lose $1 billion to $2.5 billion dollars because of scanner errors.  Even though sometimes mistakes at the checkout counter come out in the customer's favor, that doesn't help the customer who was overcharged.

15 Ways Supermarkets Trick You Into Spending More Money.  There's a reason your mother told you to make a grocery list and stick to it.  Every part of the supermarket from parking lot to checkout counter is designed to make you spend more money and buy more food than you need.

The 12 Worst Supermarkets in America.  Not all supermarkets are created equal.  For many Americans, stopping by a chain supermarket has become a major chore, involving long lines, rude employees, unsanitary conditions and poor selection.  Consumer Reports recently conducted a survey of more than 24,000 shoppers to rank the best and worst out of 52 grocery store chains — and the results show just how disappointing customer experience can be at some megastores.

The Whole Foods Hustle.  There is no discernible nutritional difference between food from the farmer's market and food from the supermarket, scientists report.  But there is a dramatic price variation, and that status separation was the point all along.  People don't pay for better-for-you.  They pay for better-than-you.

I Want My Cheese.  [Scroll down]  Then I start looking for cheese, only to discover that some genius in Safeway's marketing department thinks that cheese should be spread out over about seven different locations throughout the store.  You have your cottage cheese here, your artisanal cheeses there, your shredded cheeses somewhere else, and so on.  There is no logical order to any of it.  Five minutes into my shopping, I am filled with rage and I feel manipulated.

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Updated March 29, 2017.

©2017 by Andrew K. Dart