Say Goodbye to Carrying Around 8+ Different Discount Cards - Put Them All Onto One Card
August 15, 2006 1:56 PM   Subscribe

posted by zouhair at 2:00 PM on August 15, 2006

Sweet crap that's useful.

The only downside is the liklihood that a custom-built barcode card might not work as well with an auto-checkout reader (or a few checkout clerks, to be sadly honest)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2006

Imagine handing this to a salesperson.

"What's this?"

"I made it on my computer, it's a club card"

"It doesn't look like our club card"

"Just scan it"

"It's not working"

"Try the 5th barcode down"
posted by null terminated at 2:08 PM on August 15, 2006

That's a neat idea. When I worked at Food Lion, I'd find those little keyring versions of our discount card all over the place, so I cut one apart and hot glued the barcode onto my box cutter, so i could just swipe my cutter instead of having to worry about a card.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:11 PM on August 15, 2006

We need a bugmenot style mashup with this thing. I've been wanting to do something similar with phone numbers for a long time (you can usually type in your phone # if you don't have the card) but that requires you to give your number to strangers.

I HATE HATE HATE grocery cards. Just another way we get screwed by the man...
posted by crunchyk9 at 2:13 PM on August 15, 2006

this is so cool.
posted by luriete at 2:17 PM on August 15, 2006

If stores will take them, it might be interesting to do this with the club numbers of some deserving charities - assuming it's the type of club where the benefits are more than just immediate discounts. If it earns points or rebates or something, it'd be a handy way of micro-donating.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:23 PM on August 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I just keep my eyes peeled and pick these cards up off the ground. If I ever lose one, I can usually find another in a few days.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:24 PM on August 15, 2006

Please add the awesomeness tag.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:30 PM on August 15, 2006

Still waiting on 666. This must be 444.
posted by Tube at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2006

Hell yes.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:52 PM on August 15, 2006

I've been doing this on my own for a while. I haven't had problems with clerks, just a few puzzled expressions or the odd question. They're generally happy to let it scan.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:09 PM on August 15, 2006

Heck, you don't even have to do this sometimes - I handed the woman at the checkout in Giant a Petsmart card, and didn't even realize it until she scanned it (it worked), looked at it, and said "You gave me a petsmart card."

My guess is that it's the same company running the back-end for a lot of these different club cards, and just rolling out the same sequence of cards to different markets - my Petsmart card didn't bring up a name in the Giant system, so maybe it was an account that hadn't yet been associated with a person.
posted by god hates math at 3:13 PM on August 15, 2006

I usually punch in a phone number that may or may not be mine, rather than bothering with the card itself... (Of course, I tend to use credit, so it's all tied to me anyways...)
posted by inigo2 at 3:14 PM on August 15, 2006

"What's this?"

"I made it on my computer, it's a club card"

"I'm getting my manager"
posted by smackfu at 3:21 PM on August 15, 2006

The cynical side of me is thinking this site is harvesting all these club card numbers to fund the "Joe's new iPod fund" via escrip.
posted by jaimev at 3:28 PM on August 15, 2006

That could only work with a hand held scanner, right? Sweeping it across the counter scanner would probably pick up the wrong code. I usually do self-checkout and use the keyring cards, and still accidentally scan the wrong one if i don't hold my keyring right. I could see slipping your card inside a sleeve of paper with a slot cut so only one code shows at a time, but jesus why bother.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:41 PM on August 15, 2006

I love how some of these cards actually list how much you've saved for the year at the bottom of each reciept. I've refused getting the cards for years, but after my girlfriend pointed out how much we've "saved" she then procedes to ask me "now can we go out to dinner every week?"

"Yes, as long as you don't mind Stop and Shop knowing where we are 24/7."
posted by portisfreak at 3:44 PM on August 15, 2006

How strangely lo-tech. I thought all loyalty cards had magnetic strips nowadays. And surely shops would assume multiple folk were sharing a single card if you presented a dodgy homemade version, which they wouldn't like as it would deny them the chance to do all that evil shopping pattern analysis stuff?
posted by jack_mo at 3:45 PM on August 15, 2006

I made one of these for myself a couple of weeks ago, collecting four cards onto one sheet of paper. I've had no trouble with getting it accepted, but it's awkward to wield.

When self-scanning, I have to use my fingers to cover up the three barcodes that I don't want to scan. It was difficult the first few times, but I've gotten better at it. Likewise, clerks have to do this, and it's obviously a pain for them. The last clerk suggested putting it in booklet format and putting just 1-2 on each side of each page. (So I could put two at the extreme ends of the front of one card, and two others on the back, and fit all four on just one card.) I thought that was a good idea.

Note, too, that the linked site creates barcodes that are far bigger than they need to be. You can hack off 75% of the height of those UPCs and they'll still work just fine.
posted by waldo at 3:45 PM on August 15, 2006

I've never given my real name or address when signing up for these cards. Never have had a problem getting one.
posted by any major dude at 4:15 PM on August 15, 2006

This invention is in the spirit of Rob Cockerham.
posted by JDC8 at 4:19 PM on August 15, 2006

I want the ability to say that my numbers can be used by other people submitting their numbers to this site.

Then I want to be able to have a card printed with 8 randomly-selected numbers for the ones I submitted.
posted by Revvy at 4:30 PM on August 15, 2006

Some of the loyalty programs, like Borders for instance, actually grant discounts in advance, so using someone elses would benefit that person.

Great idea... very well done. I'd pay a few bucks to have that put onto a credit card sized plastic card and have it shipped to me.
posted by JakeWalker at 4:36 PM on August 15, 2006

i cant remember if this was linked in an FPP, but this guy has instructions for an origami wallet, and he suggested scanning and printing your club cards right onto the outside of the wallet:

the three card monte

pretty cool.
posted by joeblough at 5:19 PM on August 15, 2006

I'd like to see this idea implemented using e-Ink. Your card could display one barcode at a time as needed, based on some button presses or other input.
posted by warby at 8:25 PM on August 15, 2006

warby made me think - would a barcode displayed on say a PDA or cellphone screen be scannable? If so, a simple app wouldn't be hard to whip up to do such a thing.
posted by luftmensch at 8:50 PM on August 15, 2006

I'm just imagining the savings.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 9:15 PM on August 15, 2006

Avoid the rush later: bar code tattoos.
posted by cenoxo at 9:32 PM on August 15, 2006

These 'favored customer cards' piss me off to no end.

If I was really a valued customer, they would create a "discount account" for me on their system, and allow me to use it by flashing my ID or giving my name and number or something. Why should I have to carry around 8 different barcodes (on one card or many) at all? Let me sign up once, then just get the discounts by looking up my account at the register. What does the card add besides annoyance to customers?

Or just give the same deals to everyone and stop using "discount programs" as a front to track customer habits...
posted by rsanheim at 10:03 PM on August 15, 2006

I've been making photocopies of my discount cards for a while now -- just the backs, of course, and "laminating" them in pairs (two different barcodes back to back) with clear packing tape. Never had a problem. "I believe your barcode is on this side."
posted by kindall at 10:29 PM on August 15, 2006

If I was really a valued customer, they would create a "discount account" for me on their system, and allow me to use it by flashing my ID or giving my name and number or something.

Uh, that's pretty much how it works. At most places you can just give them your phone number.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:31 PM on August 15, 2006

Am I the only one uncomfortable with the change in American grocery stores? I HATE Safeway mainly because of the fake friendliness.

"Finding everything okay?" Jesus--I just walked through the door and grabbed a cart! By the time I get through the produce aisle, at least two employees have inquired after my health and wondered if I've found everything okay. One guy asked me on three occasions when I encountered him in different aisles how I was doing and if I'd found everything okay. I told him--and I am not making this up--that if he asked me one more time, I would get a stalking order against him.

And then the horror when you get to the register.

"Did you find everything okay?"

If I'm at the fucking register and you are ringing up my fucking groceries, don't you think it's A LITTLE LATE to ask me if I found everything???? I am sincerely tempted to tell them that while I found the frozen burritos and the Cheeze Whiz, unfortunately, I was unable to locate the Ex Lax, the adhesive tape, and the freezer paper but I'm sure that all these nice people in line behind me would be more than happy to wait while you show me where they are.

But the time when I really cringe is after they ring up my over-priced groceries (which they kindly then "discount" because I am one of the elite people who belong to their Club.) They give me my change, look at the cash register slip for the name on it, and then say in that perky voice, "Thank you, Mrs. Olson! Have a nice day! Do you need any help out with that?"

God, how I loathe that! Corporate headquarters wants you to go away with the impression that the checkout person actually remembers you and that you are shopping in a friendly, neighborhood store where they care. If they knew me, they would know that I just want them to quit calling me Mrs. Olson because THAT'S NOT MY FUCKING NAME!

And do I need any help out with WHAT, exactly? WTF? I have just purchased a loaf of French bread and a bottle of Rolaids--do I LOOK like I need help out with it?? What exactly would they do if I said "yes," have someone carry it to me car for me? If everyone in the store did that, it would bring business to a screaming halt.

I have been promising myself that I will get another Safeway card in the name of something along the line of "Putzgrabber" just so that I can watch the discomfort of the checkout clerk in calling me that.
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:41 PM on August 15, 2006 [5 favorites]

That's an excellent standup routine there, leftcoastbob.

Along those lines, it's interesting to me that I get by far the friendliest service and actually know the folks at the local market that doesn't do club cards. For the most part, when I get meat, I get it at the local Bristol Farms (it's hyper-close, I can walk there in 2 minutes, which is no small feat in LA), which is now part of Albertson's, but doesn't use any club cards. It also doesn't offer much in the way of discounts, which is why I don't buy name-brand products there. Still, the people there know who I am, they recognize me, and know what I want. When I show up asking for a couple of filets, the guy knows that I want them 1 3/4 inches thick.

That's the thing. For all the fake friendliness, everyone in the world can see right through it. Admittedly, it *is* better than the exceptionally rude employees one can get at other places, so there is a plus side, but it's still nothing like a small store that you go regularly and people actually know you at.

And for those of you who know Bristol Farms, yes, it is a fancy-pants store that's owned by a mega-market, but my local one really does feel like a small market that offers really, really good products. In the meantime, to avoid snark, if you know of a better butcher shop in the west LA area, I'd love to hear about it. Also, if you're feeling generous, a good place to go for fresh fish wouldn't be so bad either.
posted by Swervo at 11:16 PM on August 15, 2006

I HATE HATE HATE grocery cards. Just another way we get screwed by the man...

Actually, the primary reason these cards are used is to track item popularity, so the stores know what to keep on the shelves and what they can safely do away with. They can also custom-tailor coupons to suit your buying habits (often printed on the back of the reciepts your receive at the checkout counter).

The more nefarious practice is when you walk into a store, sans card, and they ask you for your phone number. Ever have that happen to you? Best Buy, Home Depot, Radioshack... they all do this. Why? "What possible good could come from knowing my telephone number," screams your inner voice.

Ah, that's the dirty little secret. The first three digits of your telephone number (after the area code) are called the prefix. The area code reveals the general area of a state you live, but the prefix reveals what specific town you're from. In practice, the prefix can be shared by a couple of towns, and in cities like New York, the prefix (and sometimes area code) don't mean squat. But for the other 99% of the United States, knowing the prefix means the store (and parent company) know where their buyers are coming from. That helps them to determine where to open up new stores. So if you hate big-box retailers, and particularly hate them coming to your town and crappifying your neighborhoods, give them a fake phone number, or better yet, use a prefix where a store already exists.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 AM on August 16, 2006

Actually, the primary reason these cards are used is to track item popularity, so the stores know what to keep on the shelves and what they can safely do away with.

That can be controlled entirely by the back end. Register systems track item popularity by the UPC code. It's saved into a database letting the store know how many have sold and how many are on hand, when they were sold, etc. The card is letting them know who is buying what.
posted by aristan at 6:50 AM on August 16, 2006

I'm sooooooooooo with leftcoastbob. Just kills me.
posted by ryran at 8:12 AM on August 16, 2006

The cards are being used to track item popularity among the biggest spenders. If you regularly buy a lot, and you like fancy cheeses, and there are a substantial number of other shoppers who also regularly buy a lot and like fancy cheeses, why then, you're likely to see the fancy cheese section expand. Because stores make all their money on the big spenders and want them to shop at their store instead of somewhere else. If these shoppers are having to go to some other store because of the fancy cheese selection, well, that's gotta stop. They don't care about, say, me -- I usually spend $20 or $30 at a time and it probably costs them as much to check out my order as they make on it.

For the same basic reason, stores are carrying more organic stuff these days. You've got a group of shoppers who have demonstrated their willingness to pay six bucks for a gallon of milk. If you're Safeway, do you want them to have to go to Whole Foods to get it? Who knows what else they'll happily overpay for if you slap the word "organic" on it? (Note that Safeway just introduced its own line of organic products.)

BTW, the exchange portion of the phone number is basically useless for geographically locating cell phone and VOIP numbers, just for the record. Still, Safeway never got around to putting the correct info into their system and think my name is Denise, who is apparently the woman who owned the phone number I had at my previous apartment before I got it. Which is kinda fun. Oddly enough they get my real name (and print it on the receipt) every time I use my credit card there, but somehow that information never percolates back to the central database, so every time I pay cash I'm Denise again...
posted by kindall at 8:37 AM on August 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

the retail outfit I work for just rolled one of these cards out nationwide this year. it's a real pain in the ass right now, but as they become ubiquitous I think ideas such as the all-in-one will become more common. it certainly is more useful. at first one of the things I liked about the card constellation that we hand out to the customers is a tiny sticky barcode that comes with the normal size and key ring cards. you just peel it off and stick it to your wallet or another of your club cards or wherever you want. nobody seemed to use it though, and it recently changed from the barcode to the card ID number. plenty of people just use their phone number. if folk started showing up at the reg with pamphlets of their various cards, it would be no more ridiculous than the ones who put all their keychain cards on a separate ring.

to the idea that free club/membership cards are only for tracking customers I say that's a bit narrowminded and a rather tinny idea. sure, it's an application, and no I'm not saying that application is good at all, but there's plenty of other reasons a retail outfit would want its customers to have one of these cards. and, as anyone who has a few of the cards knows, there's benefit for the customer in them, too. (Civil_Disobedient, how does that prefix idea apply to cell phones? my cell is my one and only, and it's the number I use at the grocery, so what does that tell them? on preview, kindall addressed this q.)

one other application of the cards on the retail end is that stores have a budgeted amount of discount each year---how many dollars they are willing to discount to customers---and a membership card allows them to easily program, implement, and track where and when those discount dollars are 'spent.'

as to leftcoastbob's routine on fake friendliness, I can understand. I catch myself twice or thrice asking the same generic-looking guy with his mouth agape if he's finding everything ok all the time. truth is, usually I'm bored out of my mind and just dying for something to do/someone to help. (and it's not that we're a slow store, either.)
posted by carsonb at 9:01 AM on August 16, 2006

I only have four discount cards. I feel inadequate.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 10:39 AM on August 16, 2006

Stop & Shop is pretty obvious with the "manipulative" discounts. They don't just give you a product coupon. They give me something like a $5 off $50 total coupon. I NEVER spend $50 in one trip, so that would take real effort. But other people spend $50 every trip, so they would love that coupon... but they'll never get it.
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on August 16, 2006

how does that prefix idea apply to cell phones? my cell is my one and only, and it's the number I use at the grocery, so what does that tell them? on preview, kindall addressed this q.

Quite simple. Most people don't give their cell phone number away to those they don't want to receive calls from, since (at least in the U.S.) you're paying for the minutes. Percentage of people who use their cell phone number when asked by a random, pimply-faced clerk at a big-box retailer: negligible. Along with that, percentage of VOIP users: see percentage of cell phone number-givers.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:33 PM on August 16, 2006

carsonb, I feel your pain. I suspect we share the same employer - and I'm a TS. My February *sucked*.

leftcoastbob, where I work (and in many retail stores) a lot of our friendly behavior is scripted and mandated, not to mention tracked by mystery shoppers and/or customer surveys. Not that we're not friendly people by nature, but we get graded on things like "Did you greet the customer within N seconds/minutes?" "Did anyone offer to assist you today?" Not to mention that many people who will absolutely refuse to ask for help will cop to needing help if you walk up to them and offer assistance.

As for "Did you find everything okay?" - I ask that at the register. People who will not go up to the customer service desk or ask an employee for help will speak up at the register. I'll get them the item, get a co-worker to fetch it, or offer other assistance.

If I saw one of the 8 bar code cards, I'd probably say something like "Ah, so you read Metafilter too?" That should freak them out nicely.
posted by booksherpa at 10:12 PM on August 16, 2006

Someone should write a book--Incompetent Shoppers and the Clerks Who Enable Them.

Think about this statement: People who will not go up to the customer service desk or ask an employee for help will speak up at the register.

Why is that? Do you really believe that there are that many really incompetent people wandering the aisles of Safeway? Are there actually people who are too ashamed or too shy to tell the truth to the perky Safeway employees who have already asked four or five times if they've found everything okay? They need to bond with the checker and only the checker to let him/her know that they had been unable to locate an item? (Over the loudspeaker--"Jason, will you bring the industrial strength Preparation H to checkstand Three?")

Maybe grocery stores should add another sign at one of the lanes in the store. They could have "10 items or less" lanes and "Too stupid to find the produce by themselves" lane. All the other lanes should have a sign saying, "Don't even think about holding everyone else hostage to your gross incompetence. If you haven't found all your purchases by now, either go back and find them or do without."
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2006

Eh. If a cashier asks me if I found everything and I didn't, I'll probably say so. Not particularly because I want them to rush off and find something for me, but just because they asked the question. My usual answer though, is along the lines of 'Yeah, I came looking for milk, and I found it. It and this entire other basket of stuff. How does that happen, anyway?'

Similarly, I very rarely ask anyone to find me something in a grocery store, as generally speaking, I can find it myself if I just wander around long enough. And I like grocery shopping, so I tend to meander up and down every aisle in the place anyway. But if someone actually asked me if I was looking for something, and I was, I'd probably say 'Hey, yeah, actually, where do you keep the cream of tartar?'

I'm not sure being asked those questions really improves my customer service experience all that much - it's not like I was unhappy before they asked me the question. But I can totally see how they actually elicit a lot of responses.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:14 AM on August 17, 2006

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