In college I moved every year, and it worked out that the closest grocery store always would be a different chain than in my previous living situation. This was in the height of the grocery store key fob discount program heyday. I think at one point I had twice as many grocery discount cards than actual keys on my key chain.
The funny thing is, you do nothing for these cards, I have really never seen a benefit aside from immediate price reductions, and if needed, you could apply for and receive an unlimited amount of them. Literally, I could apply for a new one with a new fake name and address every time I went shopping. I learned early on, however, that most stores keep stacks of extra cards by each register, so if you forget yours, they will just use one from their arsenal to ensure you get your discounts. If all else fails and they don’t have one for you to use, 99 percent of the time the person in front of you or behind you in line has one to lend you.
I’m not sure when this all changed, because I thought I was pretty on top of the situation, but this weekend I had my first taste at being marooned on no-card-for-you island.
I was at Safeway, where over my lifetime I have easily opened a dozen of those stupid little red cards, but I apparently have lost all 12 because my wallet contained cards for Fry’s, Basha’s and Albertson’s, but none for Safeway. How could this be? Panic. I turn to the two people in front of me and ask for their card, but they didn’t have one. Next I asked the gentleman behind me if he could lend me his. He didn’t have one either. Who are these cardless freaks! Are they really unaware of the potential savings these free cards can bring a person? You don’t even have to qualify, they GIVE them to you.
As a last resort I asked the cashier to use one that he had on-hand. Surely he must have stacks of those glorious plastic beacons of savings beside his register. No! Alas! He had none. He actually noted to me that if he was to let me use a card without properly completing the accompanying application, the store considered it stealing. Stealing! I’m going out on a limb here…because the prices are such a steal…?
The clerk thought it would be an effective use of my time to begin entering phone numbers of everyone I know to see if anyone’s pulled up their membership. I guess he doesn’t understand that no one has put their real numbers on anything since the federal Do Not Call list was debunked. As expected, no phone numbers pull up a valid account.
I’m starting to freak out at this point. People are waiting behind me and there is no way in hell I am paying full price for that pint of sour cream. My potential savings could be 18 cents before tax.
Finally, salvation arrives in the form of the cashier, who up until now had not been particularly helpful. As he observed my futile attempts to find a valid phone number, he asked if I knew any songs with phone numbers, because sometimes people use those since they are easy to remember. Eureeka. I enter my area code and then the infamous 8-6-7-5-3-0-9 and bingo, my discounts popped up like a winning combination on a penny slot machine.
Infinite thanks go out to whoever was ingenious enough to use a hit song as their Safeway Club membership.