CASPIAN: Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

What Savings?

Advantage card The QFC "Advantage Card" is No Bargain
Katherine Albrecht CASPIAN
Prices aired on KIRO (CBS) Channel 7 TV
June 14, 2002, Seattle, Washington

Kroger steps in, imposes a card, and raises prices

Kroger, the largest grocery chain in America, has spent the last decade swallowing up locally owned and operated supermarkets around the country. When they bought out QFC and Fred Meyer stores in the Northwest a few years back we were not surprised. Nor were we surprised when, despite assurances that QFC would remain card-free, Kroger imposed a shopper surveillance card called the "Advantage Card" on QFC shoppers on May 1, 2002.

Of course, QFC is promoting the card as a great way to save money, but experience has taught us to take Kroger's savings claims with a grain of salt. We did some checking and found that this this time was no exception.
QFC "Advantage Card" prices are no deal

When a local volunteer and I examined QFC's sale prices for KIRO Channel 7 TV in Seattle, we found that many of the new "Advantage Card" prices are no bargains. In fact, on items throughout the store it's obvious that the card is actually taking advantage of shoppers.

Totals as shown on TV
7 Sale Items Compared

Katherine Albrecht on KIRO TV
We picked out 6 common grocery items -- all national brands that are the same at all stores (except strawberries, which looked identical to us). We bought two 2-liter bottles of Coke, bringing the total up to 7 items. All items were promoted as being on sale with the "Advantage Card."

Many QFC prices nearly 50% higher than the competition
Item QFC Price without a Card QFC "Advantage" ard Price
Albertson's Bonus Buy Price
No Card Needed

By shopping at QFC without a card we paid over $9 more for our seven grocery items. (That's 81% more!) Even with a card we were overcharged nearly $5.

For a huge number of items throughout the store QFC "Advantage Card Savings" turned out to be much worse than at the card-free competition.

Closeup of products
Kellog's Corn Pop Cereal 3.99 3.99 2.50
Cheezit Crackers 3.79 2.39 2.00
Orowheat Bread 2.99 2.00 1.50
Oreo Cookies 3.49 2.99 2.00
2-Liter Coke (2) 1.49 1.25 0.79
1 Lb. Strawberries 2.79 2.00 1.50
TOTAL 20.29 16.09 11.22
(To see copies of the actual receipts click the totals above)

Adding insult to injury by circling card "savings"
[Coupon Image 3]

"Make sure you tell the customer how much they saved and point out and circle the amount at the bottom of the receipt. Also, thank them for being a QFC Advantage Customer."

- QFC's written instructions to checkers (according to an employee)

Though we spent $4.87 more with QFC's card than we did down the street, QFC had the nerve to claim at the bottom of the receipt that the "Advantage Card" had saved us $4.16.

Cashiers are even instructed to circle the savings with a pen as they hand the receipt back. What better way to rip off customers than to nearly double prices, reduce the total a bit, and then make a big deal over how much customers saved?

This fake savings strategy leaves many customers smiling all the way to the cash register. How often have you heard this:

"Yeah, it's creepy that the card spies on me, but it's worth it -- look how much money I save!"

The solution is simple: Boycott QFC

If you don't like the idea of shoppers being taken advantage of and treated like fools, the solution is simple: Boycott QFC. Don't play their price manipulation games. Once card opponents STOP SHOPPING at Kroger-owned stores (and I believe there are millions of us) the financial impact on Kroger will be so overwhelming that it will force them to drop the card.

Stay away from Safeway stores, too, since they have been manipulating prices and collecting data on shoppers for years now. There is no other way to put an end to these programs than to refuse to participate.

Unlike shoppers in many parts of the nation, Seattle residents have a wealth of card-free shopping alternatives. Head to your locally-owned Red Apple, Thriftway, PCC, Larry's, and Madison Markets. Trader Joe, Tops Markets, and Albertson's are also card-free shopping alternatives. Patronize these businesses and thank them for respecting your privacy -- and your intelligence.

Be sure to also write a letter to Kroger explaining why you're leaving QFC. Tell them you want the same low prices for all, and that you'll be back just as soon as they drop the card.

For more on the June 14, 2002 television price comparison, see KIRO TV's website: Consumer Group Protests QFC's Advantage Card

The KIRO news segment is also available in streaming video format on request for members of the media and other interested parties.