August 2012

Sign up for grocery store e-mails

Get great coupons and early notice delivered to your e-mail

Safeway's "Just 4 U" program is probably the best example of the benefits of giving your e-mail address to a grocery store. But I have found that just about every chain has something to offer in exchange for your e-mail. 

There is the issue of spam, of course. Every large corporation swears that it won't sell your e-mail address, and they may or may not be truthful about that. The larger issue tends to be light-fingered employees. In my experience, a lot of security leaks happen because some low-level button-pusher gets bribed into handing over a copy of the company's database of customer e-mail addresses. A list like that, of verified good addresses, can be worth a lot of money on the open market. 
But assuming that you have a reasonable spam filter, frankly I think the risk is worth it. (Your mileage, as they say, may vary.)

Customized pricing: great or terrifying?

Unfair to consumers?

The New York Times has an article on something many shoppers have already learned about: custom tailored coupon and pricing programs, such as Safeway's "Just For U" program. On the face of it, these programs look like the holy grail of couponing: no coupons to clip, and great steep discounts on the things you buy all the time (or things very much like them). 

But as the New York Times points out, this also represents a beachhead for a possible future where the price of goods is not fixed. Where, much like airplane tickets, the cost of everything in the grocery store is fluid, depending on the season, the purchaser, or other factors.
Put it this way: it's great that I have been getting a run of steep discounts on Starbucks ground coffee. Safeway has obviously put 2 and 2 together and discovered that I buy Starbucks ground coffee, but only when it is on sale below a specific threshold. Those bags of coffee are less than a pound (only 12 ounces), and I only buy them if they cost less per pound than they would if I bought them at the Starbucks store a block away. Lo and behold, I have been getting a string of deals on this particular kind of coffee - and as a consequence, I have bought (and stockpiled) a lot more of it than I otherwise would have.