How Albertson’s Cut my Trust with a Loyalty Program

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I have a bit of a dilemma in my home; my young daughter works at Safeway ( her first job) but Albertson’s is more convenient a turn on my way home. I appreciate Safeway employing my young daughter and I am impressed with how they treat young people. My daughter is learning valuable life skills. So I try to split my grocery shopping between Safeway and Albertsons.

In May Albertson’s started a loyalty rewards program. (Makes sense as the Safeway is across the street) They launched a program that rewards your loyalty for shopping at Albertsons with stickers that can be traded for a Knife set. I do not need a Knife set, but my son is moving into his first apartment at the U of A so I thought …why not? Since May I have been only shopping at Albertsons exclusively and I have been accumulating my little stickers to achieve my loyalty reward; a set of Thomas knives. I did an internet search and it turns out this set of Knives has a retail value of $899…wow, Albertsons must really value me!

I have collected the stickers (through the teasing of my family members) and I filled the entire card and I am on my way to filling another. So I went to Albertsons to claim my prize and be able to proudly present this to my son. I was not sure how the redemption worked so I asked one of their workers at the front of the store and the first shoe dropped; “Sir, you do not get the “entire” set, you get one of the offers. If you read the fine print here, you get to pick from one of three offering..a butcher knife, this set, or this set, and if you claim this set it is only 40 stickers so we will give you 10 back” Ok, I should have known better I guess. I wondered how they could offer an $899 set of knives if I purchased $500 worth of Groceries. However I did noodle it a bit, rationalize it….retail of $899 probably means a cost of $399, If I would ask Nick who has sourced products for me from China over the years to source these knives I could probably get them landed in the US for $199…so this loyalty program makes sense. Besides it is not the entire set for $899, but just some of the set.

I went to the display to choose my prize and felt my son did not need a butcher knife, so I chose an offering of 3 knives he and his roommates could use. (Not happy, but rolling with it) I proudly presented my three knives to the cashier, and she asked “what are you trying to do?” I explained I want this offering here in the middle of your brochure. She explained “ you need to read the fine print, you only get one of the knives in that group of three for 40 stickers, which one would you like?” Now I’m getting pissed…so I picked a knife and mentally prepared for the ridicule I would receive when I went home. She could tell I was troubled so she said “Don’t feel bad honey, almost everyone does the same thing. When people started trying to redeem their knives like you, they too did not understand the programs. We told the bosses but they don’t listen to us, we are just cashiers.”

Now I’m really pissed! So other customers also were unhappy and Albertsons did nothing to help clarify the programs? If they did explain how it worked, and how you would need to spend $3600 for the complete knife set would it work? Doubtful!family pics 064

I am a big fan of loyalty programs and I feel there are very smart particularly in this economy. If done correctly they can build new customer trials and deepen the trust with your existing customers. If executed poorly, or worse requiring fine print, can cut your trust with your loyal customers.


If you chose to have a loyalty program please keep in mind;


· The prize must be of value to your customer

· The prize should have relevance to your buyer

· Ideally the prize should help your customers solve a problem, an unmet need

· Communicate the program clearly

· Your customers should not learn about the “fine print” at the time of redemption

· The prize should be obtainable for your average customer

· The redemption process should be clearly stated


Here I come Safeway! I hate that you make me carry a little card to get the best price, or shout my home telephone number, but hey, you are treating my daughter well.


(and for the other husbands like me, I did get that “ you are so dumb” look when I got home)


11 thoughts on “How Albertson’s Cut my Trust with a Loyalty Program

  1. Great story Mark. Thanks for blending your professional insights into a great story from ‘real life’. Please give Kendra my best. Nice to hear your eldest is at U of A. I like it much more than ASU, even if they employed Craig all those years.

  2. If you are that ignorant to believe that you would get a whole set of knives for 40 or 50 stickers ($400-$500), I think maybe you should not be handling knives at all. Your article speaks of how truly ignorant and stupid people really are.

  3. markallenroberts says:

    That Guy,
    Spoken like a tuned out corporate marketer and or ad firm rep.

    Admittedly I thought perhaps my ADD added to my frustration. My first reaction was shame on me; I should have read the fine print.

    However when the cashiers said “almost everyone thought the same thing, and even Albertson employees did not understand the programs “I felt it could have been better communicated. When I learned the cashiers shared the customers’ concerns with their store management and nothing was done, it concerns me.

    Or, go ahead and keep thinking me and other consumers are ignorant. You are right…the customers are just not “smart enough”, yah, that’s what’s wrong. Spoken like a true market looser. Market leaders are constantly assessing their customers and would have provided additional communication once they learned there was confusion.

  4. Mary says:

    THANK YOU! You saved me some embarrassment. Although, I still cannot find anywhere in the fine print that I can choose only one knife for each level. Again, thank you.

    • markallenroberts says:

      I am glad to be of service.
      I did hear from someone Albertson’s has now put up a sign on the display to help people understand how it really works.
      The shame is I liked Albertson’s , the store associates, but I just don’t trust them so now I show at Safeway with their goofy price model of showing my Safeway card.


  5. Brett says:

    Just needed to say this…. I also collected these stickers and retrieved my knives. Just as the brochure showed…some knives 40 stickers some 50 and so on. I did collect up to 6 knives and really enjoy them. Now I have been collecting the stickers for the Pots and Pans and have redeemed some already for the pots or pans I wanted and I’m enjoying them also. Im not one of those people who is going to call someone names or the like, but both the Albertsons knife and pot/pan offers were so very clear to me as how they worked I cant understand how this was misleading at all. I am a devoted Albertsons shopper not only for the customer appreciation offers, but for their lower prices and friendly staff….not to mention the Albertsons store here in Scottsdale is immaculent compared to the Safeway across the street. Again just someones opinion. Wiashing everyone a happy and healthy 2010.

    • Thanks for the comment, that’s the hard part, there are so many things I like about Albertson’s their people, their service….the promotion was in interruption as it did not meet my perception of their service expectation.

      I’m back shopping there, but they can keep their pots and pans, and if I wanted to play monopoly I would.

      As a customer it feels like Albertson’s marketing team needs to spend time in the stores to understand their own brand.


  6. Terry Duncan says:

    Dont feel bad. And DONT get the cookware. I did and regret it now. I was boiling water, didn’t check the level. It evaporated SO fast. I removed the pan from the stove and within 15-20 minutes my parakeet and my baby parrot both died. Looked on google to try to find out how 2 healthy birds just up and died within minutes of each other and found out that teflon coated/anodized products are the culprits. The only thing different that I did was to use the large Thomas pot I got from the Albertons reward program. Have always had birds and have had some really cheap cookware and this NEVER happened until we got the Albertson’s promo stuff. Warn all of your friends about teflon coated/anodized products and pets. And, perhaps coincidentally, my 15 year old daughter has been having terrible bouts with intermittent nausea for about 5-6 months now. Just around the time I got and started using my pots/’pans made by Thomas from Albertson’s. I will never use them again and am looking for an attorney now.

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