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Okay, this is just one person's opinion:

Safeway's "Power Pump Rewards" program (the "Arco" version, as described at http://www.safeway.com/IFL/Grocery/PowerPump-NOR-ARCO ) is unfair and deceptive.

The tag line of this promotion is

Get $1.50 off gas every time you spend $100 on groceries or selected gift cards.

To be sure, there are limitations and exclusions. Like, maybe it won't apply to milk, liquor, postage stamps, etc. Certainly they are not promising to do this forever. Etc.

Before getting into the "unfair and deceptive" issues, let's understand that this is not a huge savings. It's 1.5%. Compare that to the coupon promotion they had for Superbowl weekend, which gave you $10 off of a $50 purchase. That's 20% off. Compare to the "club card savings" that you purportedly get on a single jar of spaghetti sauce, selling at $2.00 instead of Safeway's usual price of $3.79. So while this $1.50 savings is on top of any other savings you might get, if you plan your grocery shopping around the sale items, it's not unusual to save 30% or more on your grocery purchases, at least according to Safeway's claims. In other words, at the promised savings of $1.50 on $100 in purchases, this is virtually insignificant.

The dreaded asterisk.

The asterisked footnote is in a font size that's several points smaller than the headlines. On some in-store displays describing this program, you'd have to find this significant provision buried in a 500-word disclaimer, and you'd just about need a magnifying glass. This provision requires you to meet a $400 accumulation threshold to be eligible for the rewards. Compare that to the tag line, which promises you $1.50 off every time you spend $100.

This isn't a qualification or restriction, it's a contradiction. And that's one criteria for a deceptive practice: to make one representation at one place or time, and that an incosistent representation at another place or time. If you were in court, the judge might say you had perjured yourself. And that's just what's happened. Safeway has perjured itself.

But wait, there's more.

There's a set of "frequently asked questions" in the program description as posted on the web. The answer to the first one reiterates the tag line:

How do I earn my gas Rewards*?

Simply use your Safeway Club Card to get a $1.50 PowerPump Gas Reward for every $100 you spend* on groceries or selected gift cards*.

Oops, there are those asterisks again. Let's check the footnote this time. Here's the relevant portion:

* When you meet $400 accumulation threshold.

Let's move on to the second question:

When do I get my card?

Your PowerPump Rewards Card will be issued at check-out once you have earned $9.00 in Rewards* using your Safeway Club Card (equivalent to $600 in eligible spending*).

So is that clear? You get $1.50 every time you spend $100, provided you meet the $400 accumulation threshold, but only after you've earned rewards equivalent to $600 in spending. Please excuse me if I say "Huh?"

This seeming discrepancy is addressed in the 4th question:

What if I donít reach $9 in Rewards* by the end of the program?

If you have made a total of $400-$599 in eligible purchases between 3/2/09 and 3/19/09, you will be issued a $6.00 Rewards Card upon your next store visit.

This all gets a little confusing. Presumably they don't mean that you have to make $400 of purchases between 3/2/09 and 3/19/09, but that you have to reach that level between those dates. But what if you reach that level before those dates, but not the $600 level. Does that mean you lose? Will you be eligible to earn more than $6.00? Assuming you had reached the $400 level before 3/2/09, but didn't go to the store between 3/2/09 and 3/19/09, would you still get your card if you came to the store between 3/20/09 and 3/29/09 (it would presumably have to be by 3/28/09, because your rewards expire on that date).

Conclusion

Yes, this is one person's conclusion. It's a complicated set of rules for a little reward. If it motivates you to buy just one or two items at Safeway that might have been on sale at another store, you will have lost all the PowerPump rewards you supposedly have earned. The rules are designed to create a substantial amount of "breakage" (causing you not to get the rewards for purchases you did make) and make it sound like a much bigger deal than it is. So that's unfair. Unfair, and deceptive.

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Revision r1.1 - 11 Feb 2009 - 04:51 by EliMantel web search for EliMantel
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