Marketing 101

King Soopers

The biggest scams going in the United States these days are, of course, Obamacare and Medicare D, two racketeering enterprises where health insurance and drug manufacturers first created problems that were then “solved” by the government. But set that aside. I want to focus on a minor racket, that of grocery stores forcing us to carry “loyalty” cards so that we can “save” money when we shop.

Above, if your eyes are good enough, you will see that I purchased a pound of hamburger and a pound of ground lamb, and that in so doing I “saved” $2.00. This is nonsense. I went to the grocery store and “spent” $17.24. I did not save a dime.

It is the job of marketers hired by grocery chains to create the illusion that shopping is an enjoyable experience, and that we avoid high prices by belonging to “loyalty” groups that offer “savings.” On the other side of this coin, it is the job of grocery stores to get as much money as humanly possible out of our pockets with each visit we make, while at the same time creating as little pain as possible.

So they took their regular price structure and added a layer on top of it so that when we shop they can appear to be marking down products, ‘saving” us money. Indeed, if some fool wants to shop without one of their loyalty cards, he will be reamed a new one. It makes sense to carry the card.

Yet another purpose behind the loyalty cards is to create a profile of their shoppers that they can sell to other corporations. Just like a Sherlock Holmes story, each little purchase we make is a clue that marketers use to construct our database, widely shared. No sooner do we buy organic produce than ads for organic produce turn up on our Facebook pages. I kid you not. They are that good.

Here’s how I have tried to avoid the entire scam/racket: I searched the obituaries for a man who died in a nearby town, and used his name and address as my own. I grabbed a real phone number, but an old one not in use (so I could remember it), and waited until the people behind the service counter at the store were busy, and handed in my application for a loyalty card over the shoulder of the person in front of me, as if I was in a big hurry. I did not want them checking my ID.  The clerk then handed me my loyalty cards.

They might by this time have gotten around this bit of trickery, so it might be time to find another dead guy. I did get an offer one day at self-checkout for a $5.00 credit if I supplied my real information to them, but I have to think that when we use a credit card, they can match that information to the loyalty card, privacy be damned. It could be a no-win situation for the consumer, even those of us who are on to their game.

But I’ll soon be scanning the obits again.

22 thoughts on “Marketing 101

  1. Checking the etymology of the word “Grocer” leads us to the word “Gross.”

    from Late Latin grossus “coarse (of food), great, gross” (see gross (adj.)).

    gross (adj. Via notion of “general, not in detail” came the sense “entire, total, whole, without deductions ” (early 15c.), as in gross national product (1947).

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  2. The whole loyalty card thing is a double edge sword that I am costly cutting myself on. When I am in a “can’t fight them” mood, I use that damn card, get my savings, feel defeated, and go home. But every 3 months I get a coupon book with all my usual purchases inside that are offered to me, the loyal consumner either free or extremely discounted. Yeah for technology. Yeah for Me.
    Now since I can’t beat the system all the time, I have found that if I use the card consistently for 3 months, get the coupon book, and then not use my card but rather use my spouse’s card and my coupons with that card, it’s a double win. After a month of no use with my loyalty card, Kroger sends the almost identical packet of coupons to me again with some added bonus coupons of more of my fave products. Only this time the coupon packet doesn’t say “Thank You”. It says “We miss you”
    It’s not much but it makes me feel better that I am getting one over on Krogers. Even though I am not….

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    1. Krogers is Kings Soopers is Freds … all use the same computer database. I guess I miss out on coupons … the liquor store where we buy our beer and wine recently started a loyalty program offering savings of maybe $12 maximum a month, which is what I figure must be less than our information is worth on the open market. They would only offer discounts to us if they could turn around and make money on it.

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    2. By the way, a clerk at Barnes and Noble asked if we belonged to their loyalty program, and I said no, and she suggested it is a good deal, and I said the problem is I am not loyal to you. She said that was a good answer. But I ask, why would I be loyal to an impersonal corporation? They certainly don’t give a shit about me.

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  3. This leads nicely to the US of A, another impersonal corporation with a flag and all kind of weird symbols put in our faces, and in our wallets, to show loyalty (worship). We’re supposed to believe Washington D.C. gives a shit about commoners? How about our state corporations, or county or towns, or our church(s)? Mass delusion.

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  4. this has a much deeper meaning than it looks on the surface. We have overproduction on almost everything. The price no longer reflects the value of the product in the Adam-Smith’s context of scarce resources. Prices are still supposed to regulate the distribution but not through their objective value because it is low due to the overproduction. So they invent such things like this bargain via collecting “points” for being a loyal or a valued customer. They can’t give it to you for free. At least not yet. 🙂 In future we’ll have a different kind of currency, derived from what we now call crypto currency a la Bitcoin. You’ll work not knowing how much you earn and you’ll buy not knowing how much you pay. It is the old communists dream called “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

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    1. I don’t know the future. I do know the “value” of products in the store are mostly the result of advertising, which is used to create the illusion that some items have more intrinsic high quality than others. I saw this best used with Apple computers, no better or worse than PC’s, but with a legion of annoying true believers touting their exceptional qualities. This was all done via advertising, “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac.” So too with phones and cars and breakfast cereal. Advertising is the beating heart of our economy, and at the center of every ad agency is a group of behavioral psychologists who define the “message” that the “creatives” must build the ads around. It is inherently invasive, subversive. It is all lies. Our economy is built on psychological intrusion, deception and lying liars.

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      1. value usually means the costs of “creation”. For instance the value of 1 kg potatoes comes from the average costs of planting, growing, harvesting and distributing potatoes. This price can vary if that potatoes are sold as bio, as rare or whatever. Same thing with Mac’s and PC’s.

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          1. that’s the other subjective meaning of value. A glass of water in your house has almost no value, in the desert it becomes priceless. That is the context of scarce resources. With overproduction and globalization this context no longer dominates the creation of prices. Still everything hast to be made by somebody and therefore represents a value, which due to overproduction gets lower and lower. That’s why productive jobs are not paid well while bullshit jobs like mine are paid well. We are still adapting the global society to this new times where everybody can be provided with necessities but there is not enough labor for everybody to earn his living.

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          2. Interesting … what I noticed (but did not comprehend) when I became a self-employed CPA in 1986 was 1) I had time on my hands and could still make a decent living without the constant daily grind, and 2) I had left the groupthink environment and no longer had to mind-meld with an employer to make sure that my and his thoughts were in harmony. We cannot live comfortably when there is such tension.

            If everyone were self-employed and realized that we now produce so much with very little effort, what would become of us? Would people dissipate into useless activities like substance abuse? Would they read and wonder and explore? Whichever way the majoroty if us might go, the ruling class cannot allow such freedom. Here in the US, our primary and secondary and student loan schooling regime, our housing ownership, health care and tax systems are all designed to keep people chained to their jobs, not only in wage, but mind slavery as well.

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          3. it’s a human G.P.S. also known as an H.T.D. human tracking device. Every time we use a card,or even breathe our information is sold or passed on. notice how if you don’t have the card on hand they always want your phone number? you’ll be sure to hear from someone SOON !! This is how we get our “so-called”discounts…our information is” PRICELESS”.

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  5. and that’s what slavery really means. In the classical civilization slaves were handled like a part of the family. All worked together and the owner only controlled the quality and productivity through his better knowledge and experience. When in the later period rich slave owners left the control of labor to few selected and semi-freed slaves working as overseers the slavery became unproductive and soon obsolete. The same thing happened in the time of feudalism where slaves were called vassals. Now we call them employees. There never was this brutal slavery as described in novels ad movies. The difference to the past is that only now we really can provide all people with necessities without the need to work for everybody. And a life without a real job is not fun. It is the job which makes you feel needed and important. We all are part of the global society now. Like it or not. You asked if people would read, wonder and explore? Not without the experience of tiredness coming from work. Without work leisure becomes pointless. If you’ll drink only the best wine, it would become tasteless to you. To enjoy something you need the experience of the negative.

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  6. If one is state property, one is a slave. One who uses a surname given by the state at birth is a slave. How the slave is treated by the system, or what is permitted by the system has no effect on the status of that person/citizen. Almost all of us are slaves, in fact.

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    1. it’s more complicated I’m afraid. The state is an illusion as such. You cannot be owned by an illusion. But you are forced to participate in the global society by the system. It may be possible to live off-the-grid in the USA but in Europe it is not feasible anymore. Mark mentioned Obamacare at the beginning. The purpose is not to your health of course. In Germany you are forced to pay for healthcare. You cannot live without heath insurance. It is not permitted. If you work as an employee and earn less than 55k yearly, you are forced to take the state controlled healthcare, if you self-employed or earn more than 55k you can opt for the state controlled or the “private” healthcare. Once in the private healthcare, which is also state controlled by the way, there is almost no way back. The private HC can be cheaper if you’re young and healthy and make good money. The state controlled HC costs more if you salary increases. But if you are in the private HC and old you have to pay more, even if you don’t go to doctors and earn no money. That’s the trick. They force you to stay in the private HC, take all your money, force you to sell your house and everything and when you have nothing left, they will happily pay for the HC. Until you die. I’m sure, healthcare in the USA will end the same way. The system is full of tricks to keep people without significant savings their entire life. If you still try to make some, they will use the healthcare to take it from you or some other tricks.

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  7. Talking about “Marketing 101″…
    The famous slogan of Nike Let’s do it was taken from the last words of Gary Gilmore, a multiple murderer…

    Gary Gilmore

    [A]n American criminal who gained international attention for demanding the implementation of his death sentence for two murders he committed in Utah. After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a new series of death penalty statutes in the 1976 decision Gregg v. Georgia, he became the first person in almost ten years to be executed in the United States.

    The founder of advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, Dan Wieden credits the inspiration for his “Just Do It” Nike slogan to Gilmore’s last words.

    So “there is no such thing as bad publicity”…

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    1. ‘Gary Mark Gilmore was born in McCamey, Texas, on December 4, 1940, the second of four sons, to Frank and Bessie Gilmore. The other sons were Frank, Jr., Gaylen, and the writer and music journalist Mikal Gilmore. Frank Gilmore Sr. (c. November 23, 1890 – late June 1962), an alcoholic con man, had other wives and families, none of whom he supported. On a whim*, he married Bessie (née Brown) (August 19, 1913 – June 30, 1981), a Mormon outcast from Provo, Utah, in Sacramento, California. Gary was born while they were living in Texas under the pseudonym of Coffman to avoid the law. Frank christened his son Faye Robert Coffman**, but once they left Texas, Bessie changed it to Gary Mark.
      ‘In the morning at the time of execution, Gilmore was transported to an abandoned cannery behind the prison, which served as its death house. He was strapped to a chair, with a wall of sandbags placed behind him to trap the bullets. Five gunmen, local police officers, stood concealed behind a curtain with five small holes**, through which they aimed their rifles. When asked for any last words, Gilmore simply replied, “Let’s do it.”‘ – wiki

      Was she in a Sewing Circle?
      ** What?

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