Why I won’t be shopping at Save-On Foods anymore

Recently, I stumbled across a useful and free iPhone app that I’ve been meaning to review on this site. This post is not that review. This post is about my recent experience(s) with it at Save-On Foods, which is a local grocery store chain.

As the post title implies, it doesn’t end well.

First of all, a little background. The useful iPhone app I found is called Cardstar which allows you to catalog all your retail reward cards in one little place. You simply find your merchant in the list within the app (they support a lot of major Canadian stores), enter the number from the barcode on your reward card and it creates a nice little screen on your iPhone that displays the merchant logo along with your barcode like on the right.

Pretty simple little app that means I don’t have to have a keychain that resembles the high school janitor’s or a wallet like Mr. Constanza. I’m pretty indifferent to these rewords programs…but they can save you some cash on sale items so it seems to be a necessary evil…plus I don’t like paying full retail if I can avoid it.

I was pretty sure that the scanning technology in my local grocery store wouldn’t be able to scan off the highly reflective iPhone screen but I wanted to try. So a few weeks ago, I went to Save-On Foods which is close to home and bought a few things and asked the clerk if she could use this method for my rewards card. She said she had never been asked before but would try. As expected, it didn’t work no matter what she tried. Cardstar says that in the event your info can’t be scanned, the number is there in a large, readable font (unlike on some of the rewards card) and the clerk should be able to simply type it in, which she did. No problem.

My wife also tried the same thing after I told her of my success and she had no problem getting the clerk to type it in.

So today, after being shut in for 5 days thanks to the flu that I seemed to have picked up while at PAX, I decided it might be a good idea to get some supplies since the cupboards were empty after being stuck indoors for almost a week. I spent about half an hour picking up stuff then went to checkout.

Me: “can you try this? (I show her my iPhone with Cardstar screen up) My card is at home”
Clerk: (tries) “it’s not working”
Me: “Can you type it in? The number is right there”
Clerk: “Oh no, I could lose my job if I did that”
Me: “Seriously?”
Clerk: “Oh yeah, we can only use the card numbers if they scan in since you could change it. They even changed the system so I can’t enter the number in manually”

Then the woman in line behind me offers the clerk her card.

Me: “then can you use her card?”
Clerk: “No…then she’d be benefitting from your purchase”
Me: (incredulously) “I’m okay with that…it’s not that much stuff, I just don’t want to pay full price for some of these items”

By now, the supervisor (or manager – I’m not sure) has come over and wants to tell me why I can’t do something that I’ve already done a couple of times recently. She mentions that I signed a contract to get the rewards card that I wouldn’t alter the number and only produce the real card to benefit from the reward. She (and the clerk) also mentioned that I could bring my receipt in and get the difference back later. So instead of paying about $35 for what I had in my basket, I’d get to pay 20-30% more now and have to remember to bring in my receipt (and real card) to get my refund. No thanks.

Perhaps if I wasn’t hungry and still a little out of it from the flu I would have argued with her but decided it wasn’t worth it and told them I wasn’t going to argue with them about it and simply go somewhere else…and that’s what I did, leaving all my stuff right there.

Strangely, the Safeway clerk didn’t appear to lose her job when I gave her my phone number for their rewords program which she manually entered. I haven’t had their card in my wallet for years because of this simple, easy method of delivering it to them.

I don’t blame the employees at Save-On for my experience…they were just doing as instructed. I can also understand (on some level) the desire to only scan real cards. But to not even accept someone else’s card behind me? That’s just stupid.

Fortunately for me, there are plenty of other stores nearby that I can shop at.

25 Comments

  1. IGA also accepts your phone number as a substitute, so I don’t understand why Save-On won’t.

  2. GregEh says:

    They’ve always been jerkholes about their stupid cards. Only place that won’t take a phone number.

  3. Tyler Ingram says:

    I’ve let other customers in line use my card. I get the points, so what? SaveOn still get their money no matter who’s SaveOn more card is used.

    Safeway is funny, i used to work for them and if you didnt have a Safeway card or forgot your phone number, they would use a default card to swipe if you ask them. Or you could sign up for a new card. Then again Safeway doesn’t have a points system like SaveOn does, but it can save you $0.07/L of gas at the Maple Ridge location ;)

    Perhaps it’s a recent policy of SaveOn? When I let another customer use my card it was only a few weeks ago.

    Good ol’ Pattison group eh?

  4. Mike Browne says:

    Holy smokes. That’s some crazy bureaucracy right there. I’ve had people use my card and vice versa and have seen it recently. I have a funny feeling you ran into a couple of dogmatic, by-the-book types. These type of people usually suffer from serious hemorrhoids.

  5. Jordan says:

    Is that your real Save On Number? It’s pretty sweet.

  6. Paul Garay says:

    Very disturbing story. I’ve given my Save-On card to customers in the lineup in-front of me, with the clerk totally aware of it. I’m wondering if this is some sort of new policy? I’d certainly write a letter if I were you.

  7. Kyler says:

    Save-On’s always been the one where you really do have to buy 2 items in a 2-for-$6 deal to get the deal (unlike most places where when you buy one, it’s just $3 during the sale).

    I’ve always been bothered that they don’t accept phone numbers (thus requiring you to carry their card everywhere). And they’re one of the few where you won’t get the sale price if you don’t have a card. I’ve often pondered how they can do this when it’s illegal to make providing statistics information (basically what they’re doing when you use your card) mandatory to get the sale price. It’s supposed to be like all those contests… you know, the ones where you buy a product and enter, but if you read the fine print they have to allow anyone the ability to enter “no purchase necessary” by some means.

  8. I’ve always wondered: why do they even bother with these cards anymore? I mean, every store has one, they all give you a discount, and few of them actually give any other “reward” (Safeway used to allow you to buy stuff with points, but that was discontinued).

    What do they do with this data? I’m intensely curious about this…by this point, Safeway should be able to accurately predict when I’m going to run out of stuff. Heck, they should meet me at the door when I arrive with a cart already half full of my usual staples (“Hiya Mr. Wilson, here’s your six pounds of bacon and 36 rolls of toilet paper!”).

    What would be great is if Safeway and others turned this into a way to help people with meal planning. They know what you have already (from past purchases made on the rewards card) – help the user create their grocery list!

  9. Greg says:

    Wow… you’re like the Bizzarro me. I’ve also tried Cardstar, which I used successfully at the self-checkout at PriceSmart at Market Crossing (Byrne Rd. at Marine Way). Which surprised me, because usually I have trouble scanning my actual Save-On card there.

    I’ve also had no problem at any Save-On or PriceSmart having somebody else provide a card on the rare occasion I don’t have mine. One of those times was two weekends ago, in Kelowna, where a cashier told me I could just use the “manager’s card” which she had on hand for exactly those occurrences!

    So I don’t know what retail bureaucrat gods you pissed off, but I sympathize.

    I also totally agree that there’s no reason Save-On couldn’t grab all their demographic information from a phone number.

    (P.S. I tried Cardstar at the library, but it didn’t work. I might try again at some point; could just be the angle, or the type of barcode was wrong.)

  10. braiden says:

    wow thats bull shit i work at save on and u are perectyl aloud to use a phone to scan or type in the number and we do not loose are job,the only reason we cant u se phone # are besaseu some people have a hell of a lotve poionts on the card and som random guy could make uo a numeber

  11. Lucy Mcdonald says:

    Its becuase It could be a fake number,
    Even though you are aloud,And who knows with technology today you could be stealing other people points somehow. Its not that hard to bring your card put it on your key chain if you can remember you hone you can remember you KEYS.

  12. Sorry Lucy, the way the system works, you give a phone number to receive points – there’s no incentive to give someone else’s phone number.

    As for “it’s not hard to bring your card” as a defense of this idiocy, consider how many rewards/memberships the average people might have to carry if we followed your suggestion: Safeway, Save-On, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Starbucks, Chapters Rewards, etc. The list goes on and on. It’s unreasonable to essentially gouge a customer because they don’t feel like transporting your reward card all the time.

  13. SOM Member says:

    SIMPLE REASON: THE ALBERTA PRIVACY LAW!
    IT IS AGAINST THE PRIVACY LAW FOR ANY BUSINESS TO COLLECT, STORE AND ACCESS ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION FOR MARKETING PURPOSES IF YOU BUSINESS IS NOT LOCATED IN THE PROVINCE OF ALBERTA.

    BECAUSE SAVE-ON-FOODS (OVERWAITEA FOOD GROUP) IS B.C. BASED AND HAS IT IT OPERATIONS OUT OF ITS HEAD OFFICE IN BURNABY, IT IS AGAINST THE PRIVACY LAW TO ACCESS THE CUSTOMERS INFORMATION WITHOUT THE CUSTOMERS CONSENT. (OTHERWISE ANYONE COULD STEAL YOUR PTS FROM YOU).

    SAFEWAY / SOBEYS HAVE THIER DATABASES LOCATED AT THIER STORE SUPPORT CENTRES WHICH ARE LOCATED IN EDMONTON AND CALGARY. THEY CAN LEGAGLY ACCESS THE CUSTOMERS INFORMATION WITHOUT THE CUSTOMERS CARD PROVIDING THAT THE CUSTOMER AGREED TO THIS AT THE TIME THE CARD WAS ISSUED. (VAGE)

    SO IF YOU WERE SHOPPING AT SAVE-ON-FOODS AND YOU FORGOT YOUR CARD, THEY HAVE NO WAY OF OBTAINING YOUR CARD NUMBER BECAUSE THEY CAN NOT LEAGLLY OBTAIN IT.

    YOU HAVE 2 OPTIONS:
    (1) PAY THE FULL PRICE, YOUR POTENTIAL SAVINGS WILL BE DISPLAYED ON THE RECEIPT. EVERY ITEM THAT WAS ON SALE WILL BE IDENTIFIED. BRING THE RECEIPT BACK TO THE STORE WITHIN 5 DAYS ALONG WITH YOUR SOM CARD TO CUSTOMER SERVICE. THEY WILL REFUND THE SAVINGS BACK TO YOU (IN THE SAME MANOR IT WAS PAID), OR DISCOUNTED ON YOUR NEXT GROCERY PURCHASE.
    (2) REPORT YOUR CARD AS LOST OR STOLEN. FILL OUT A NEW APPLICATION AND GET YOU SAVINGS THAT DAY. HOWEVER YOU MAY LOSE YOUR EXISTING POINTS!!!

    SOM POINTS ARE WORTH $$$. WE CANT GIVE THESE OUT TO ANYONE, WE NEED TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE!

    IDENTITY THEFT IS TH NUMBER ONE ISSUE TODAY AND SAVE ON FOODS IS TRY TO STOP IT. WORK WITH US!

    ABSOLUTLY NO EMPLOYEE / SUPERVISOR CAN MANUALLY KEY A SAVE ON MORE CARD NUMBER IN THE SYSTEM. THIS FUNCTION WAS REMOVED A YEAR AGO TO STOP INTERNAL THEFT. THE CARD MUST ALWAYS BE SCANNED. IF THE CARD CAN NOT BE SCANNED, WE CAN NOT GIVE THE DISCOUNT. SORRY! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MANAGER CARD OR GUEST CARD.

    I ALWAYS GET NERVOUS GIVING MY PERSONAL INFORMATION (PHONE NUMBER) IN PUBLIC PLACES. THEY ARE ALOT OF BAD PEOPLE OUT THERE TRYING TO MAKE AN EXTRA BUCK.

    ONE BIT OF ADVICE: ALWAYS COVER YOUR PIN WHEN USING DEBIT. YOU NEVER KNOW WHOS LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER.

    HOPE THIS ANSWERED EVERYONES QUESTIONS

  14. Stacie says:

    Thanks for yelling. Has nobody taught you any web etiquette? A Save-On employee keyed in my card number and it worked just fine. I don’t know about you but I have better things to do with my valuable time than return to the grocery store within 5 days with my receipt to get my money back. I’d rather give another company my hard-earned money.

  15. Dear CAPS LOCK…

    I don’t know which privacy law you’ve been reading, but that’s not what the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) says:

    11(1) An organization may collect personal information only for purposes that are reasonable.

    (2)Where an organization collects personal information, it may do so only to the extent that is reasonable for meeting the purposes for which the information is collected.

    I would argue that having the contact information of the cardholder would be considered reasonable, as would the purpose of using the phone number to look up an account number.

    Your invocation of the threat of identity theft is similarly erroneous…overhearing your phone number or stealing the Save-On database to get your address isn’t going to give anyone sufficient data to conduct identity theft. Data such as your birthday, mother’s maiden name, or Social Insurance Number would be required.

    At any rate, your phone number and address are likely already publicly available. Is your home phone number is listed in the phone book? Of course it is. Is your resume online? Do you have a social network account? Do you own a house? Then all of the data you contend could be used for identity theft is already available to the public, and in some cases is actually part of a government-maintained public record.

    Let’s call a spade a spade here: it’s poor customer service, plain and simple.

  16. chris says:

    Save-on jacks up the “without card”price, then charges same price that another grocery store would, in the guise of a discount. I’ve seen this several times with products whose price I’m familiar with.

  17. me says:

    All they ask is that you bring your card with you when you shop. Bring it, scan it , no problem. I have bought a lot of things, and took a trip to Vegas, with my som points. I find that the som point system is much more rewarding than the other systems that require 10s of 1000s for a “shoe lace”. Maybe it’s because the points are more valuable that they are more careful with how you acquire them. When choosing my battles, I would rather spend my energies on something more substantial.
    And as per another comment…. if the sign says 2 for $6.00 you can buy one for $3.00 just do the math. Not like some other stores where you have to buy “multiples of”

  18. Jen says:

    There is a lot of mis information displayed here. A coulple of key points are:
    Save On foods Head Office is in Langley, not Burnaby as the “yeller” has stated.
    You DO NOT have to buy 2 items to recieve the 2 for discount.
    Safeway is strictly a money saving card, no points.
    Save on points are worth money. the use of your own card only is to protect you from someone redeeming all of your points.
    Cashiers are not allowed to ask a customer to use their card on someone elses purchase. If you, the customer asks another customer in line to borrow their card,the cashier may let it go but now that person’s card number is on your receipt and if you have to come in for a refund/adjustment the person’s card you borrowed is now affected.
    If applying for a Save on card, you can give very little information and still recieve a card if you are worried about idnetity theft.
    Save on does not sell the information to anyone, only used is for marketing information and track your shopping habits so you may recieve deals/coupons that apply to the products you already buy.
    If you have forgotten your card, a manager will upon request use a manager’s card so you can recieve the discounts. Points are donated to charity.( Children’s hospital which Save On raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for each year.)
    Finally, the card is a loyalty card just like all the other retail stores out there have its just more complex than the competition. Just look at Cosco, if you dont have a card, you don’t shop at all!

  19. Gaia says:

    I know a bit about Save-On-Foods. There is a reason why the company prefers that you keep the receipt when you forgot your SOM card. When you bring your receipt back with your card to get a credit ($$$), they expect you to do some shopping. This minimizes any losses prior to the crediting process.

    Regarding cashiers, there are a lot of brainless robots out there who goes by the book. If they were really smart, then they would have known exactly how the SOM card system works. Although the employee’s contract states that they are not allowed to punch in the SOM# manually, smart employees will disregard that part of the contract and use a random card, as long as the managers are not around.

    And then the points. The company donates the points to charity for tax write-off purposes. In my opinion, this should be made illegal in Canada. It’s a form of tax evasion. The fact that you have to use so much points to get so little is even more incriminating. I think 1000 points is equivalent to $1. Outrageous!

    Lastly, the prices. The prices are still too high even with the discounts. Because of that, the managers (majority of them are high-school dropouts) end up making more money than the average professional workers. Store managers make $90K/year! But if you shop in let’s say a produce-only market, the supermarket owner is more inclined to cheat on taxes (by voiding cash transactions). So it’s just a matter of picking your poison. I prefer the latter, because I prefer competition than an SOF monopoly.

    If you want better customer service, it’s impossible. The (outsourced) foreign workers are responsible for the dismal wages in Canada. The corporations created the notion of outsourcing workers in the first place. If you want a dramatic change (paradigm shift?), then the first thing to do is to remove the majority of the corporations’ powers. Otherwise, be succumbed by the corporations’ ruling power.

  20. @Gaia: Outsourced workers are responsible for dismal wages in Canada? Hardly. A lack of productivity and balls is responsible for dismal wages in Canada.

    I’m getting tired of Canadians beating the “business is evil” drum. Business isn’t inherently good or evil, it’s up to those in charge of the corporations that make it one or the other. That’s not to say that there shouldn’t be accountability, merely that ridding ourselves of corporations would also eliminate most of the positive changes that corporations have wrought over mankind’s entire history.

  21. Natasha says:

    Why can’t you give your phone number/card number to receive points, but only redeem points if you have your actual card. Seems simple to me – no card, no redeeming. If you’ve STOLEN someone’s card number or are using someone else’s phone number and you can receive points, what’s the big deal? As long as you can only redeem points with the actual card.

    I don’t mind if other people use my card number/phone number to EARN me points – go ahead, steal my number – but you can’t steal my points without stealing my card (steal my card and I report it as stolen, so you still can’t steal my points)!

  22. jarred says:

    YOU CANNOT USE YOUR PHONE NUMBER FOR SAVE ON FOODS,
    that is because someone could redeem your point;s ,or order something in the catalog,so you must use your card to redeem point;s ,and earn them,and also if you do report your card as stolen ,it takes at least a week to become deactivated,and someone could have used all your point’s in that time,and it would be hard to prove that you did not use them,to get them back

  23. J says:

    I’d just like to tell you, as a Save On Foods employee, that what the clerk and manager told you, was bullshit.

    You’re more than able to use another customers Save On More card if they are willing to lend it to you. Even new employees know this, as they’re told “You are not able to scan YOUR OWN personal card for a customer if they are unable to provide their own. However, if another customer in line is offering the use of their card, it’s acceptable” The only thing we can’t do, is ask them for you. Otherwise, borrow and lend away.

    A lot of Save On stores are no longer offering the use of a “Store Card” We had one for a few months, and then just recently it was no longer available for use. I never understood the reasoning for that. However there are times when there are no other customers around and the person at my till would really prefer to get the savings but either don’t have their card with them, or don’t want to take the time to sign up for another card, to which I’ll tell them I’ll use the “store card”, but just use a random left behind/old/random card floating around my till.

    Unlike what Jen says, 5 posts up, using another persons card and later returning something will have NO effect on the other customer. The full card number does not appear on the bill, and therefor in order for the card to be affected, the said card needs to be re swiped.

    The next time a clerk or member of the management team tells you you’re unable to use another customers card, tell them you know for a fact they’re full of shit.

    In regards to manually punching in a card number, I will admit to being told by management that we are not allowed to do this. However, I do it whenever I’m unable to scan a card. I’m unsure of the reasoning behind this, as it’s not like we’re fabricating the card number out of our heads. As long as we’re not punching in the number while doing a Card Transfer, I don’t see the harm.

    And the iPhone app has worked at my store, they just need to use the gun. I’d definitely hold off on letting them put your phone on top of the scanner itself.

    Save On Foods isn’t the best place to shop, my dear people. You’ve no idea what kind of bullshit goes on behind the scenes.
    I highly recommend not applying for any sort of job their, either.

    Best of luck for your shopping future :)

  24. J says:

    And to the SOM MEMBER way up who types in ALL CAPS:

    Do you work for Save On Foods? If you did, which you somewhat claim to, then you would know that it’s possible to key in a members card number. What kind of prehistoric system doesn’t allow it? I’ve been with the company since 2002, and I’ve worked with many different OS’s. Each one has given the option to manually punch in a number.

    And Braiden…who claims to work for the company as well. I’m sorry my dear, but you’re a buffoon. I hope you’re not telling the customers that they can’t use their phone number because “they might have a hell of a lot of points and someone could steal them”?! What the hell is wrong with you, did you or did you not receive any sort of training for your job?

    The reason we can’t use a customers phone number is quite simple. Our computers simply don’t allow it. Save Ons head office hasn’t set up the option of doing so. Not to say it won’t in the future, but at this present time, it’s purely a SCANNING option.

    I’m wondering, to the topic creator… what location did you have such shitty service at?

  25. tkz says:

    Beware, poor sentence structure.
    I know I’m responding to an old post but if I need to say this.
    I’m sorry you had such a shitty experience, but those are the rules now.
    We cannot scan another persons card for you because it breaches a “privacy law”, vague, I know. Management has made it very clear that if we are scanning other peoples cards for each other we are putting our jobs at risk, either by suspension or termination. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford either of those)
    Personally I’m getting fed up with people who are too lazy to take a card with them, or put one in their wallet/purse (there’s plenty of room, really, look) If you honestly forgot your card, it’s not that big of a deal, you aren’t walking 200 miles through a frozen tundra to pick up your groceries; just take the receipt back, it doesn’t matter that much if you bring it back in 5 days or 20.
    Hell, sign up for a new one, we don’t care. But to get in a cashiers face and bitch and moan for something beyond their responsibility is unreasonable and pathetic. I’m sick of people who complain about not being able to save the money THAT DAY and then walk out of the store without their receipt because they’re “too good” or “they have no time” to bring it back and be refunded. (let’s be honest, everyone has time and you’re a liar if you say you don’t)

    To Brendon J. Wilson: You don’t have to carry a Safeway card with you (oh you have no idea how much I wish you didn’t have to carry a Save-On card). And do you shop at Mountain Equipment Co-Op more often than the grocery store? Prioritize. It really, really isn’t that hard to have the cards with you if you think about it.

    I don’t mean to insult anyone and I apologize if it came out that way, but please try to look at this situation with some empathy and perspective.

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