Saved by the card

Ruth McCullagh

Supermarket savings cards are everywhere, but are they worth it?

They hang on key chains, sit in overstuffed wallets or are lost in the movement of life.

Some say they’re a consumer’s best friend. Others say they’re a shopper’s nightmare.

What are they? Supermarket saving cards. But do they really save?

Acme associate Emily Hoit said the store’s customers really like the Acme card “because it saves them a lot of money.”

John Pribonic, Stow Acme store manager, said the card gives the customer value.

“As a loyalty program, customers receive benefits instantaneously and in the long run,” he said.

Customers not only receive in-store savings, he said, but they also can win prizes from drawings held at the store. Pribonic explained that in addition to store-related savings, cardholders receive discounts at other area establishments such as the Akron Zoo or Long’s Shoes.

Much like the Acme card is the CVS ExtraCare card. By using the card, customers receive 2 percent off for every dollar spent. At CVS’s pharmacy, customers get a dollar back for every two prescriptions filled. Quarterly, shoppers can pick up their “extra buck” coupon at the register. This coupon is a result of all the money the customer has saved during the quarter.

Similar to a gift certificate, “extra bucks” can be used on most everything in the CVS store. Hien Eham, store manager at the Stow CVS, said the card is “basically an advantage to the customer.”

“They love when they can see the money coming back to them,” he said.

In addition to in-store savings, coupons on the back of receipts help customers save money.

But not all people believe store cards help save money.

“Walgreens’ philosophy is that you shouldn’t have to have a card to receive savings at stores,” said Wayne Pownall, the Stow Walgreens store manager. “That’s just a loyalty builder and there are other ways to do that, such as customer service and a wide variety of products. There are other ways to be competitive.”

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering is a consumer advocacy group protesting the use of loyalty cards. According to the site, stores use loyalty programs to help them identify their best customers.

The store looks at what products are being bought and stocks shelves based on that information. The site said that, for now, stores do not sell a consumer’s personal information. In fact, in some cases, stores urged customers to provide false information, since it doesn’t have any bearing.

Area stores, including Acme and Rite-Aid, do not sell the applicant’s personal information. If used at all, personal information is used for minimal purposes such as when greeting a customer.

Jessica Hengeli, Kent State student and Rite-Aid associate, said after scanning a customer’s card, his or her name appears on Hengeli’s screen allowing her to address the customer by name if she chooses. According to the store’s application, all personal information is kept confidential.

Advocates supporting CASPIAN claim stores not using a saver card are more likely to give consumers a lower price compared to stores using a card. The group says those who shop at stores where a saver card is used are more likely to pay a higher price for items not on sale, or they will pay a higher price when not using the card to purchase items on sale.

To receive the best price, consumers are encouraged to make informed decisions and learn where their money goes the farthest.

Contact features reporter Ruth McCullagh at [email protected].




A price check at six local stores was completed recently using 11 common products. Three stores had a saver card, and three did not. Most products checked were the same brand, however some discrepancies exist. The quote is given for the regular price, regardless if the item was on sale that week. The products checked were:

ƒ-S 2-liter bottle of Coke average – $1.50

ƒ-S 2-liter bottle of Pepsi average – $1.50

ƒ-S 13-ounce bag of Doritos average – $3.49

ƒ-S .26-ounce stick of degree deodorant average – $2.85

ƒ-S 13.5-ounce bottle of Pantene Pro-V Shampoo average – $4.03

ƒ-S 100-fluid ounce bottle of Tide Laundry Detergent average – $7.42

ƒ-S Gallon of milk average – $3.07

ƒ-S 15-ounce box of Cheerios average – $3.43

ƒ-S Loaf of all white bread average – $2.01

ƒ-S Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, 1.55 grams average – $0.64

ƒ-S Cottonelle toilet paper, 12 rolls average – $7.82

Grand totals for stores with no cards were:

ƒ-S Walgreen’s – $41. 98

ƒ-S K-Mart – $40.49

ƒ-S Drug Mart: – $36.25

Total for stores with cards were:

ƒ-S Rite-Aide – $45.26

ƒ-S Acme – $43.08

ƒ-S Giant Eagle – $39.65.

During the price check, it was noted that Drug Mart in-store “specials” are just the regular price and senior citizens receive 10 percent off at the pharmacy.

– Ruth McCullagh