Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chuck the Writer Discovers Price Chopper AdvantEDGE fuel card loophole and exploits it

I'm really not a fan of Price Chopper's AdvantEDGE program. In order to get any sort of a discount at their stores, you have to acquire an AdvantEDGE shopping card, which then gets swiped when you purchase items. You get a discount, but that AdvantEDGE card tracks your purchases - which, I suspect, then get reported to advertisers and insurance companies and whatnot. You wonder why your health insurance rates went up? Maybe it's because Price Chopper snitched on you for buying that carton of Winstons.

So about two months ago, Price Chopper added a new wrinkle to their AdvantEDGE program. For every $50 you spent with your AdvantEDGE card, you could get 10c/gallon off your purchase of gasoline at any participating Sunoco stations. There is no limit to the amount of discount you can achieve - you spend $500 and you can get $1.00/gallon off your fillup.

So, after begrudgingly acquiring an AdvantEDGE card, I tried a little experiment.

One morning, I saw a woman with about two full grocery carts up at the register. The cashier was ringing everything out, and I walked up to the woman and offered her the use of my AdvantEDGE card - she accepted, and she ended up with the discounted purchase, while I ended up with 40c/gallon off my next fuel purchase!

Hey, this thing might actually work in my favor. Not only will I get the fuel at a discount, but the computers tracking my purchases will get more scrambled than an egg in a blender. "Wait, the customer is purchasing cigarettes AND nicotine patches? He's buying black coffee AND decaf? He's buying diapers AND condoms? HELP!!!"

Well, this scheme worked for about a week. I made sure to ask the customer beforehand, in case they had their own AdvantEDGE card (don't want to take their fuel money away), and if they needed a card, I was only too happy to volunteer mine.

As I said, it worked for about a week. Then one day, I went in and saw someone with a ton of groceries and trying to ring everything out. I offered my AdvantEDGE card to the customer, he accepted. The cashier, however, looked at me as if I had insulted his mother.

"Sir, you can't use your AdvantEDGE card for someone else's groceries."

"Why not?" I asked. "When I didn't have an AdvantEDGE card before, the cashier either swiped their own store card or they asked someone in the line."

"You can't do that any more, sir."

Now the customer was getting miffed. "Why can't he do that? Why can't I get a discount for my purchases?"

"You have to get your own card, sir."

"I don't want my own card. Why can't I use his?"

"Then he gets the fuel points and you don't."

"So what? You mean to tell me you're going to make me pay $20-$25 for more for my food just because a good Samaritan isn't allowed to help me out?"

"That's right, sir."

I could see where this was going. The Price Chopper cashier probably caught hell from someone about "We need to make sure we track what purchases these people are doing," and he decided it was time to lay down the law.

Rather than cause an international incident, the customer and I agreed that this Price Chopper cashier was a tool; the customer finished his purchase, and we both left.

Eventually I had a discussion about this with a Price Chopper store manager, who informed me that yes, they didn't want people sharing their AdvantEDGE cards because it wasn't "in the spirit" of the promotion with Sunoco and the fuel discounts. However, he did give me a special one-time use 50c/gallon discount card for my troubles with the cashier, and said he would speak to the cashier about the appropriate way to handle future situations.

So what have we learned from this adventure?

1. When you get your AdvantEDGE card from Price Chopper, fill out the information with an intentional mispelling - i.e., if your last name is Schmidt, spell it as "Schmit" on the application. That way, when you get junk mail addressed to "Schmit," you can go back to Price Chopper and demand the reasons why they sold your name to a marketing company, and show them the proof.

2. If you want to share your AdvantEDGE card, make sure you do it in the morning when the lines aren't very long, and only do it if the person isn't reaching for their own AdvantEDGE card out of their purse or wallet. Don't just swipe your card on their purchase without asking first.

3. Look for sympathetic cashiers; don't give the cashier a hard time. Not every cashier is a tool; many cashiers are hard-working individuals who like to be treated with respect, and will reciprocate that same respect back.

And if all else fails...

4. Shop at Hannaford or Save-A-Lot, where the prices are much lower and you don't hvae to deal with customer loyalty cards.


Anonymous said...

that's bs - i cant tell you how many times I've seen a cashier at PC swipe their own card (or at least a card in their possession)

Anonymous said...

same thing happened to me.. Guy in front of me offered me his card, even though I have my own but before I could say anything the cashier had already yelled at us both for it.

Bob said...

They only yell at you since they were not allowed to use their own cards anymore.