Saving at the supermarket used to be simple. Everyone had a sale price. Stores then started offering loyalty cards. Customers had to scan a plastic card or enter a phone number at checkout to activate the discount. Many grocery chains are now replacing these loyalty cards with smartphone apps.
You’ve probably seen ads that say, “Go digital and save more!” However, to do this, you need a smartphone. Then download the app and create an account or link to an existing loyalty card using your phone number. Once a week (or more frequently), the store publishes digital coupons. Before you go shopping every time, you have to open the app, sort through the available coupons, select the ones you want, and click to add each one to your account. At checkout, scan your plastic loyalty card (or a digital replica of your cell phone) or enter your phone number. This will enable all “clipped” coupons. If there are no issues at checkout, such as the coupon not working, you will get the advertised savings. Otherwise, you will be charged the full amount.
Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, reviews his weekly in-store sale circular. However, the process can be confusing. An informal survey of Consumer World readers conducted in September 2022 found that he could not explain how one out of three of his consumers got digital-only prices. rice field. “I can do it, but not everyone can,” he says Dworsky.
Dworsky and other consumer advocates say these app-centric grocery transactions could put people who aren’t digitally connected at a disadvantage. “Millions of seniors who don’t use the internet or own a smartphone, and low-income shoppers without broadband access are barred from these offers. It’s a way of getting the advertised selling price to fewer and fewer people,” says Dwolski.
The app has its strengths and weaknesses, says CouponSurfer president Adam Schwartz. On the positive side, consumers can save on products and select the specific coupons they want. “Takes time. Some apps are difficult to navigate and performance varies.”
Many consumers are frustrated with the switch. “Shopping shouldn’t be work,” says Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta tech industry analyst who shop at multiple supermarkets. “Stores have different apps. Some don’t. You can pre-clip, but many of us can’t,” he says. “So I often stand in front of an item that I find on sale.
“The average customer doesn’t have the time or the desire to do that,” he adds. “In my opinion, these stores are using technology to improve sales, but they are losing the segment that doesn’t want to play games.”
Other customers have expressed privacy concerns. Using the app means giving the store the right to track your buying habits, such as how many donuts you’ve purchased or your favorite brand of spaghetti sauce. While that tracking is beneficial, some stores will send you coupons for the products you buy most frequently or alert you to product recalls, but it still feels a little intrusive.
Not everyone hates apps. Los Angeles publicist Susan von Segern says she opens Ralph’s app once a week to review coupons and then “clip” what she or her husband thinks they’ll use. . “Then I went to the Clipped tab, sorted by expiration date, looked at items expiring in six days, and put them on my grocery list to make sure I bought the deal before it expired. I will make it possible,” she says.
Von Seggern is thrilled to see his checkout total drop from $230 to $200 after applying his loyalty card. Plus, when you fill up a gas tank at Ralph’s Station, you’ll convert points for up to $1 off every gallon of gas. Her savings are 20-30% each week, she says.
In a perfect world, the deals advertised by stores would be available to everyone. In the meantime, there are a few ways even those who don’t want or can’t handle grocery apps on their smartphones can save money.
1. Shops without loyalty programs
A handful of supermarkets ensure that all shoppers receive the best prices on their purchases. In some cases, Publix store flyers include paper coupons that save even more money, but are redeemable by anyone. You can also consider large retailers such as Walmart and Target.
2. Look for digital alternatives
Some Safeway and Albertsons stores offer “clip or click” coupons that let shoppers choose between paper and digital versions. Each week, you can click on an in-app deal or rip out a paper coupon from the weekly flyer. , also offers the option of digital clipping.
3. Share cards
If privacy is a concern, Schwartz suggests getting a group of friends together to join the loyalty program with one phone number and email address.
4. Check out the kiosks
Schwartz has seen stores install kiosks that automatically add customized offers to their loyalty account by entering a phone number or swiping a loyalty card. These offers are in addition to the discounts offered to all loyalty card users.
5. Clip Maker Coupon
While the number of newspaper insert coupons is declining, you can still find coupons to print at home on websites such as CouponSurfer, Coupons.com, P&G Good Everyday, and some supermarket websites.
6. No app? Ask for the deal anyway.
In many cases, cashiers can charge digital prices on request using common in-store loyalty cards that are always available at the checkout counter. Please ask at checkout.
7. let me hear your voice
If you have strong feelings about these apps, please share your concerns with your manager. Better yet, call the company’s 800 number or ask the store for their email or head office address to file a complaint. Dworsky said: “If enough shoppers continue to seek offline alternatives to apps, stores may hear and make changes.”
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Denver-based writer Laura Daily specializes in consumer advocacy and travel strategy. Find her at dailywriter.net.
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