April 22 • 06:59 AM

Count me out of 'members only' gig

September 05, 2007
Editor's note: Warning! Warning! Warning! Here is another column submitted by me, although again my proofreader (and perhaps even regular readers) will speculate that it was really written by an evil twin who seems to have taken control of my every thought.

I'm buzzing through the grocery store on the so-called lunch "hour" stock- ing up on flavored water and frozen broccoli, potato and "cheese sauce" Lean Cuisine item that I shall loosely refer to as lunch, and perhaps a miscellaneous item or two I'll need later at home.

This is a frequent mission for me, one that I perform by rote—zipping down the water aisle and up the frozen food section without hardly taking a breath.

The store has been around for a long time, is convenient for me to stop in and though it's now called something else, things are pretty much located in the same place they've been for the past however many years I've been working here.

I stride to the checkout lane and gratefully lay the heavy load on the counter. Oddly, I never take a cart for these short shops because it seems like it'll slow me down. So juggling two six-packs of water, three frozen lunches, some cans of cat food and a tube of toothpaste requires a little bit of muscle and a lot of practice on my part.

Anyhow, the cashier passes the items over the scanner, one by one I might add. Like the centenarian I feel like I'm becoming, I remember the "good old days" when cashiers used to punch in a number on those "old-fashioned" register keys—4 @ whatever the price of the item when ringing up a stack of cat food cans. As much as computers and scanners and all the technology is coming out our ears, I'm thinking how things have devolved because the technology obviously isn't user friendly. The cashier rotates each individual can several times until the red light flashes and the price registers on the flat screen. I impatiently listen to my stomach growl and think about the stack of work that's on my desk.

When she's done, she says "Do you have a (Store name) card?"

"I have the form I need to get one," I reply, "but I haven't had a chance to fill it out."

"That will be $28.32," the cashier says.

Whoa. I bought two six packs of water because the big yellow sign posted under them read "2 for $6" and the sign posted under the frozen dinners said $2.85 each, and so on. Now I realize that the price signs I may have looked at were for 'Store Club' or whatever-you-want- to-call-it 'members' or something, but I'm somewhat perplexed by this duplicity which borders on deceit. With the 'Store Club' or whatever-you-want-to-call-it 'members' card, the bill would have been just over 20 bucks.

"Can't you just scan yours or something?" I ask the cashier.

"We're not allowed to do that," she says. "$28.32 please."

"I don't think so," I say. "Why would I want to pay eight dollars more than I have to?"

Silence. More silence.

"Well. Okay. Here's a new application," she says with none too much pleasure. She pulls a sheet from a stack of papers under the counter, rips a plastic card from it and hands me the cardboard form it was stuck to. And apparently her "customer service" duties aren't complete.

"You MUST destroy the other application you got," she admonishes, swiping the card over the scanner. In a bleep, my price is now $20.54 or something.

I'm amazed on two levels. First, the store leads you to believe that you must fill out an application and submit it in order to get the "savings" price. Second, that's bull#*%&! The information isn't necessary at all. The card "worked" without it. It confirms my long-held suspicions that these gimmicks are just another way for retailers and other big business to get their hands on personal information so they can target market, sell it, or whatever. That's why I don't shop at Sam's Club or fill out those 'win a free trip or what-have-you' offers because I'm under no obligation to tell anyone where I live, how many people are in my household, what my age is, etc. etc. when I'm trading my dollar bills for goods or services.

I'm also quite perturbed at this particular marketing tactic. It means that they're willing to let some poor schmuck who doesn't live around here or who doesn't want to hand over personal information pay a higher price which is obviously not necessary. It means that they can't just offer the same price to everybody all the time for some thinly veiled attempt at creating customer loyalty but it's really all about getting into our lives and our wallets any way they can. I think about the local independent grocer who's price on the tag, sign, what-have-you is the same for everyone, 24/7, and in order to get that price I'm not required to give them any personal information at all. They're just glad to have my business. And they'll be getting a lot more of it now, too.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
04 - 22 - 19
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