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The Seattle Times reports that most of the city’s supermarkets now offer loyalty marketing cards to shoppers, telling consumers that it is through use of the cards that they can get the best deals.

According to the paper, the chains’ various offers are as follows:

    • Safeway has its Club Card.
    • Kroger-owned QFC has its Advantage Card.
    • Albertsons has just introduced its Preferred Savings Card.
    • Haggen's has its Haggen Cards.
    • Fred Meyer says it is developing a card program, but that it will not be required to get the lowest prices.
    • Larry's Markets doesn't require a card for sales, but has an Epicurean Club for which it charges a $40 annual fee to get discounts on upscale items.
    • PCC Natural Markets doesn’t have a card, but does charge $60 for a lifetime co-op membership, which gets members a 10 percent off all items on "Member Appreciation Days" once a month.
    • Top Food & Drug, Thriftway, Red Apple, and Trader Joe's do not have card programs.

The question being asked in Seattle, as elsewhere, is whether people using the cards really are saving a significant amount of money; the skepticisms is fed by a certain level of distrust about how personal information is going to be used by the chains. There is a feeling among some Seattle shoppers that there is a certain “me, too” attitude that is causing the broader usage of card programs by the chains.
KC's View:
The problem with these programs is that despite what they are called, they really aren’t loyalty programs – they are just electronic couponing programs.

Consumers might be less concerned about privacy if retailers just called them that -- it would be more accurate, and conjure up fewer “big brother” images.

That said, we still think that both retailers and shoppers alike could benefit from real loyalty programs -- the kind that prove to consumers that the retailer is loyal to them.

That’s the Content Guy’s Mantra # 4…