BOSTON — Anyone who’s shopped for groceries lately knows prices are up. Staples, like beef and eggs, cost about 15% more than they did a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Most major supermarket chains now offer online rewards programs with a wide array of perks. But can they make a difference in what shoppers end up paying when they check out?
“They give you free items, maybe once a week or once a month. “I got this almost three-pound pizza, and it was free,” said Edgar Dworsky, found of www.consumerworld.org. “This is normally $5.99 or $6.99.”
“I got $5 off a $5 purchase, and what did I do? I wound up buying a two-pound bag of fish fillets. It only cost me $.99.” added Dworsky. How does he get bargains on groceries like that? “I’ve got a fistful of loyalty cards.”
Many of the online programs have been upgraded, hoping to create loyal shoppers by offering different savings incentives.
Two shoppers told Boston 25 News they find the programs helpful.
One woman particularly liked the gas points Stop and Shop offers. Every $100 a consumer spends earns $.10 of a gallon of gas, all the way up to a dollar off a gallon. Those points can also be applied to future shopping trips if a shopper prefers.
Shaw/Star Market also gives shoppers points off their visit in addition to one freebie a month and a birthday surprise. Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, gives Prime members who download their app 10% off storewide sales. Amazon’s no-fee credit cards earn an additional 5% off at checkout.
Many stores also let you download digital coupons for extra savings. Two shoppers said they weren’t religious about using them, even though they realized they were losing money.
Dworsky is surprised when he sees people shop without rewards cars. “They’re leaving money on the table. Why would you pay full price for an item if you could show a card? You know, people are complaining about inflation. This is a sure way to save.”
But in an era of computer hacks, some people don’t like supplying personal information to multiple stores and have questions about how retailers monitor what they buy.
“They end up extracting all this data from us to make these predictions that they think are going to enhance their bottom line,” explained Ari Ezra Waldman, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University.
“There are lots of reasons why a for-profit company might have a loyalty program so they can certainly feed you sales, but every time they fed you a sale, that gets you in the store, and once you’re in a store, you may buy other things,” added Waldman.
Dworsky believes the benefits of loyalty cards outweigh any downsides.
He said as he held up a sausage he had received for free from Stop and Shop, “I am personally privacy insensitive when it comes to grocery bargains. I want to save the most. I’m willing to let them track my purchases. You know, if they want to blackmail me, I bought Coke instead of Pepsi, go ahead.”
If you’re concerned about a consumer hack, Professor Waldman says to limit your potential exposure by only signing up with 1-2 stores.
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