Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear Ralphs, Kroger or The Prince of Supermarket Land

I have a Ralphs card. I have had a Ralphs card for years, back when it was actually Ralphs. I didn't want to have a card. It was a matter of paying more for groceries if I didn't use the card. I gave my name and phone number and became a "Club Member."

Note that I didn't say I gave my address. I did not want to give it away and this was long before the Internet and the current wave of Identity Theft. I'm one of those people that does not believe in sharing every freaking detail about my life.

Now did I miss out on coupons, third party junk mail and other assorted goodies. You betcha. It was my choice to do so. Flash forward. I'm in the store today. There is a new card in town.

I am told that that I can use my old card only until July 31st. 2008. So after paying for my groceries; well you know how much I paid cuz the card rats me out on each and every purchase. You know I am frugal except when I am not.

You know I'll pick up marked down meat in a hot minute, lean toward reduced to clear food and I will buy the high tone stuff when and if I want it and not before. You know how often I shop, when I shop and you can tell suppliers that I tend to by X but have tried Z.

Fair enough, choices and trade-offs. Now I'm at the sign-up table. I'm deciding if I want the pink label card or the yellow or green. I'm going with yellow on account I have a dark lined bag. I fill it out. Name, phone and email. I hand it back to the young man.

I'm told that I have to put my address.

I say no, I don't.

The young man says that in order to get the rebate check at the end of the quarter I have to put my address.

I say no, I don't. I just wanted to use the card in order to shop at the store. Then he says I can't have the card and takes back the application. I tell him to give me my application back, If I'm not participating there is no need for him to have my info.

He gives it back. I am livid. Here is why. I'm not hating on the concept of shopper or loyalty cards. It is voluntary on both sides. I don't have to use the card to shop in the store. I know that. I can choose to pay higher prices and remain anonymous.

I can also choose not to step foot in any Ralphs ever again. I don't have to shop at Ralphs. I got Von's, Trader Joe's, Jon's, a bunch of ethnic markets, Costco, and dare I say it, the beloved 99 Cents Only Store.

So if I have that many shopping options why am I going to debate with someone who doesn't know the answer to the questions "Why do I have to give my address if I do not want to receive mail from Ralphs or anyone?"

Privacy trumps cheapness. Now when I get this mad I want answers so when I get home I hop on Ralphs web site and get the phone number for Card Customer Service HQ. 13 minutes later I speak with someone in corporate office. I ask her the question. She was very nice but said the same thing as the young man in the store.

"So to be clear, I cannot use my old Ralphs card starting in August, is that correct?" She said that I could but that I only would be getting the club member savings.

"That is not what they are telling folks in the store, they are confiscating the old cards and you have to fill out the application for new ones."

CCSHQ said "No, that is not correct. You can still use the old card but all the prior deals like the Wine Club, the Senior Card and the Pet Card will be null in void. They won't exist." She could see where there is a misunderstanding because the folks at the store want me to get my $5.00 check after spending $500 in a quarterly period. If they can't send me my rebate check what is the point of me having a new card?

But no, I didn't have to have a new card or give up the old one.

I got an idea for you. How about you lowering prices across the board and dump the cards? That would save both of us a lot of time and headaches? Oh, yeah. That tracking thing.

Here is my burn point. If you have my information in the first place why not just transfer me electronically to the new card and mail me the new card? Oh, yeah. You can't cuz you don't have my address. Strike that.

If you want to give me a new card let me pick it up at the store w/o giving you my address. If you want to give me a new shiny slicked up card that is fine, but why don't you make the change on your end?

I have my doubts if anyone knows the real deals here. If what the CCSHQ said is true then when I go to I have to enter my address in order to add my information. I'm kinda hip to fields marked in black as mandatory information.

Look Ralphs/Kroger, I'm sick and tired of being electronically sliced, diced, resold and re-purposed. Because whatever discount you give me in the store is more than compensated for in terms of valuable data of shopper preferences, staffing needs and ancillary data that you collect, share and sell. It is compensated for when you have a legal action.

Let me use my old card and there will be no further trouble from me. But if some whipper snapper tries to take my old card they can have it.

I won't be needing it anymore. Think I'm kidding? Remember the California Supermarket Strike?

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