CASPIAN: Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering

Food for Thought

CASPIAN Price Comparison Results
Food 4 Less Cheaper by a Landslide

November 1999, California

"But I can't stop using my club card, it saves me so much money."

People who think that privacy-invading "club card savings" are their cheapest shopping options are the victims of marketing hype. Here is definitive proof (in my town, at least) that shoppers can save a LOT of money -- and regain their privacy, too -- by steering clear of the card stores.

I live in the Bay Area of California. Within a ten-minute drive of my house are three major supermarkets: Safeway, which spends millions promoting their card program; Food 4 Less, a "no-frills" bag-your-own-groceries market with no card program; and Lucky, a card market which just converted to Albertson's, and will no longer have a card. Since I completely boycott the card stores, I've been doing my weekly shopping at Food 4 Less.

Simple observation told me that I was saving a lot of money compared to my friends who insist they only shop at Safeway "for the savings." So I prepared a list of 41 grocery items and boldly strode forth to test my beliefs. (To see my comparison shopping list click here.)

I had expected to find that Safeway and Lucky were more expensive (they have to pay for all those ads somehow), but the results astounded even me. Take a look:

Here are the totals:
  Food 4 Less
Privacy Ribbon
Surveillance X
Surveillance X
Number of Items on Sale
(of 41 items total)
12 12 15

Privacy Price
 $85.57 $116.85 $118.25

"Card" Price
N/A  $103.39 $102.10 or
Lowest Possible Price $85.57 $103.39 $109.10

Safeway's no-card price is $32.68 higher than Food 4 Less (that's 38%, folks) and Lucky's no-card price is $31.28 higher (37%). Even the "card" prices are about 20% higher than Food 4 Less. I can think of things I'd rather do with $30 than fund another Safeway radio ad or contribute to a bigger hard drive for the Big Brother database.

Granted, Food 4 Less is not an "upscale" market, and I do have to bag my own groceries. But once I get it home, their Yoplait yogurt tastes just as good as Safeway's or Lucky's. So the next time somebody tells me that the reason they're letting Safeway scrutinize the minutiae of their shopping habits is to save money, I'm going to know where to send them.

* The Safeway card price is hard to calculate because of the "Buy One Get One" mess. For example, a dozen eggs at Safeway were $1.98, but were on "Buy One Get One" special. So although one dozen eggs works out to $0.99, you still have to hand over $1.98 to get any eggs at all. And who needs two dozen eggs?

The $102 figure represents what you would pay if you could buy only one of each item (at half the regular price); but of course since you can't do that, the $109 represents what you actually have to hand over to the store to get the items on your list (though granted, you'll get to pack a few extra items in your bag by the time you finish).