I just, don't shop at stores that want me to have one. Not often, anyway. Not with a card that traces back to me, at any rate.
I actually have a friend who prints up his own bar codes for them, on stickers, and just puts on a new one every few weeks.
Go ahead and say that i overthink things, but the purpose of the loyalty card is to put the customer at a disadvantage with regard to targeted pricing.
In the traditional supermarket model, you have to guess at what sort of special pricing customers might respond to.
Usually it doesn't matter much, because decades of experience have shown empirically that if you tell someone that they can buy two of something for a special price, they will gravitate toward it even if two of the single-pack costs substantially more than the double-pack on the next shelf down. Even if the "two for" price doesn't actually save them any money vs. buying one, a substantial number of shoppers will accept the suggestion to buy two.
But when deciding the numbers for coupons, it gets much sketchier. Sometimes the coupon is a loss leader. As the store operator you are agreeing to take a loss on a particular item in the hope that the customer will buy more stuff than what's just on the coupon, but you're still losing money.
The loyalty card allows the store to personalize coupons. They send you coupons that were printed just for your demographic. And yes, just knowing your address they can get a pretty good idea of how wealthy you are and how many people probably live with you.
Sometimes they're wrong. I'm a single white male living in a house that would usually have a family of five in it, and my income exceeds the total income of the family of five that i bought it from.
But usually they're right on the money. There are databases that track this stuff. I used to share office space with a guy who ran a small business producing demographic maps to order. Using no more than public information and what you told them on the survey form, they can get a pretty good idea how much disposable income you have, and what sorts of things you buy.
Through the loyalty card system, they can get direct and rather immediate feedback about whether you buy grapes at 72 cents a pound or 68 cents a pound, and so on.
I don't think this system actually works. I think it could work, but isn't actually working. In actuality it constitutes a waste of money for the grocer.
That means that their total income has to be higher, which means that on average you're going to spend more at these stores and get less.
But here's where i stand on principle: I resent the machinations of businesses that try to put their customer at a disadvantage. I respectfully reject the proposition that we should change the rules of how prices and discounts are determined, and choose instead to patronize businesses that have slightly more respect for me than that.
I'm a bitterly cynical man with a signed and laminated license to be an idealist. I pay attention to what i spend on grocery items, and to tell the truth, no store can claim to always be cheaper than some other store.
Unless that other store is A&J's Fine Foods in Scottsdale AZ. That place is nuts. And their produce sucks.
But for example, in my area, there are several stores associated with Kroger, several with Supervalu, and several with Associated. Associated food stores, of course, is the most loosely operated chain, and the chain with no loyalty cards.
There are, of course, a SuperTarget and a SuperWalmart.
I don't have to find reasons to hate the supertarget because target is a happy place. It's clean, not too noisy, and the aisles are wide and easy to navigate.
I find reasons to hate walmart because there's a wall of doritos and toilet paper in my way every time i turn around, and there always seems to be some guy trying to run a large TV through a self-checkout right in front of someone who decided to bring their entire family down to the last screaming 2 year old.
but most of the AFS grocery stores try to present the image of being a down-home low-budget supporter of lower-middle-class families.
Target, by contrast, willingly or unwillingly, gets more associated with privileged young adults and the upper middle class. And some things at Target are certainly more expensive than they might be elsewhere.
But i've observed some things.
If you want a 38 cent roll of paper towels made of 100% post consumer recycled paper with flecks of styrofoam here and there, the AFS store on the edge of little mexico can hook you up. but if you want a paper towel that doesn't tear so easily, it costs 30% more at the AFS store than it does at the supertarget.
And i keep finding things that are cheaper at target than elsewhere. Like pepto bismol in any form. and Nestle Quick. Or name-brand household cleaning products that are in direct competition with the Target store brand -- the Target product is almost always more expensive than the name brand in the cleaning supplies department. I think they do this last bit just to confuse people.
"What?! Target brand scouring pads cost a dollar more than scotch brite?! Am i taking crazy pills?!"
Don't get me wrong - supertarget is outrageously expensive if you wanted to buy a container of cinnamon, or a bag of flour, but the object lesson is that nobody has ever cornered the market on savings, and nobody ever will - or even wants to. But I'm at the supertarget every now and then anyway, because I'm addicted to their store-brand chocolate peanutbutter fudge icecream.
In summary, never go shopping with me. I'm nuts.