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“Disloyalty” program not saving customers at Save-On-Foods

Like most of you, I have a wallet stuffed with customer loyalty cards. Some give me discounts on purchases. Most allow me to collect points towards free flights, hotel stays or merchandise. One or two provide the opportunity to do both.

All card-issuers share a common objective: to encourage my repeat business. While this may not always be true, I suspect loyalty cards have some influence on our buying habits. Recently one retailer changed the rules related to its loyalty card in a way that inadvertently creates potential customer disloyalty.

According to the company website, a Save-On-More card enables you “to take advantage of lower prices on hundreds of items throughout the store and at the same time [collect] Save-On-More reward points which you can redeem for free merchandise.” What is missing is the “small print” advising that you must now present the card to take advantage of any lower prices advertised throughout the store.

It wasn’t always so. Once, the cashiers had customer courtesy cards they could swipe if the customer had forgotten his card. The points weren’t credited to your account – they went to the local food bank which could use them to purchase groceries – but the customer received the discount.

Just before leaving for vacation in late March I cleaned out my wallet, removing any cards (including my Save-On-More card) that I was unlikely to need in Egypt. A day or so before we were to leave I dropped by Save-On-Foods to pick up a few items. Realizing that I didn’t have my Save-On-More card, I asked to cashier to give my points to the food bank.

“We don’t do that anymore,” she responded. Asked why, she explained that too many customers weren’t carrying their cards so the staff was “enforcing” a rule that customers had to provide a card or they would not receive any discounts. I could keep my receipt and if I brought it back to customer service – with my card – I would get a refund and my points. I paid and left.

By changing the rules, Save-On-Foods has created a barrier to its customers receiving discounts on their purchases. The result: I think I’ll shop at Safeway more frequently. There I need only give my phone number to get the discount when I forget my Safeway card.


Nelson Scott offers several Customer Service Presentations, including Customer Service MAGIC: Changing Complainers into Loyal Customers; What Your Mother Taught You About Customer Service and other Training Resources developed by Service Quality Institute and the Vital Learning Corporation.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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