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”
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.