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Doesn’t this look like a good thing? Guess again. From what I can read in the little blurbs they’ve been sending me, it amounts to a noticeable change in the way they do business. Somehow, though,it doesn’t appear that I, the customer, will be the one to benefit. The basic elements seem to be these:

  • The Rewards Card will no longer accrue points to be redeemed later for grocery purchases. Now you’ll be able to use them only at Ralph’s and Shell fuel stations. In essence, you spend $100 on groceries, gaining 100 points which you can then redeem for a 10-cent discount per gallon on their gas. Let’s see: for a 20-gallon fill-up, that’s a whole $2.00 off their price. Considering that Shell prices around here range from 20 to 30 cents more per gallon than Arco (and others), it doesn’t feel like much of a bargain.
  • If I wish to continue receiving Ralphs Reward Certificates (the food-redeemable points mentioned above), I must make my purchases using their own Ralphs rewards plus Visa card. I choose not to have another card, thank you. If I do decide I want one, it won’t be one I’m coerced into buying. As a side note, Ralphs isn’t the first to offer less-inflated prices for house credit card users; many retailers do it (think Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCP) but it hits home when it applies to food.
  • They will accept manufacturer’s coupons at face value only. Back in the day, Ralphs (and several others) gave you double value for your coupons. The last few years, they’ve already changed the policy from TRUE DOUBLE VALUE to DOUBLE VALUE UP TO $1.00 (face value) to DOUBLE VALUE UP TO $1.00 (total value); a $1.50 coupon that was worth $3.00 a few years ago is now worth half that. On top of the face value the retailer gets a handling fee of (usually) 8 to 10 cents per coupon.

Of course, it’s been a game for quite a while. All the markets offer “Sale” prices if you have a club card. (They simply increased the “regular” prices to account for the difference.) The card gives them a fair amount of personal information about you and allows them to tailor ads to suit your buying preferences.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against goods and services providers making a profit. If I had an idea to make a profit myselft I’d certainly go for it. But I would never try to trick people into thinking they’re getting a bargain when it’s really a matter of paying what they should have in the first place.

The solution, as I see it, is just to grow all the veggies I can and laugh all the way home from the market. Their plastic tomatoes can’t match the flavor of the ones outside my back door anyway!

As for the real LOW PRICES! they are announcing, we’ll wait and see. I’ll give you a report in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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