Monthly Archives: August 2011

Kroger offers shoppers easy refunds when mistakes happen

I recently moved into a state where Kroger is one of the primary grocery stores. I quickly took advantage of the store’s Kroger Plus Card, a shopper loyalty program which entitles you to discounts on select grocery items each week. Basically, you need the card to get the store’s sale prices, so the considerable savings it entitles me to is worth the hassle of carrying it. Plus, it also allows you to accumulate points you can redeem for fuel discounts at the store’s on-site gas station. You must give your card to the cashier on each shopping trip in order for the discounts to be applied to your bill.

After shopping one week, I got home and looked over my receipt, then realized I forgot to give my Kroger Plus Card to the cashier. My receipt noted that I could have saved more than $22, meaning I’d overpaid by that much because I failed to use the card. The next week, I took the receipt and my card to the customer service desk at the store and explained what happened. I am delighted to report the store gave me back (in cash) all the money I would have saved if I had used the card the previous week. I consider this to be an excellent example of a store showing that it cares about customers.

Kroger proved itself again the following week during a sale in which you got $5 off your bill by purchasing any 10 items highlighted in the week’s promotion. I thought I had all 10 items and assumed the $5 savings (50 cents per item) came off my bill. When I got home, however, the receipt showed I’d only purchased nine of the items, so I had been charged the full price for each one. It turned out I grabbed an item that appeared to be part of the promotion but had been put in the wrong place on the store’s shelves. The next time I went to Kroger, I explained the mishap, and the customer service staff allowed me to exchange that item for the one that was part of the promotion, then gave me the $5 I’d intended to save on my previous bill.

In both examples, Kroger could easily have refused to refund my money, pointing out that I didn’t meet the stated conditions to earn the savings on each trip. Instead, it honored the spirit of its promotions and respected its customer.

Lessons learned:

    • It never hurts to ask for a refund if you fail to meet the conditions of a store’s loyalty program or promotion due to a mistake you made. The worst the clerk can say is “no.”
    • Hand your loyalty card to the clerk at the start of your transaction so you don’t get distracted and forget to use it.
    • Check your receipt before leaving the store to ensure you got all the savings to which you were entitled.
    • If you notice an error on your receipt related to a weekly sale, return to the store before the sale ends so you can point out signage errors or incorrect pricing while the clerk can easily verify your claims. When the sale is over, it may be hard for the clerk to tell how much you should have been charged for the item in question.


Filed under Customer service

Get cheap and free items at CVS–no extreme couponing required

You’ve probably seen or read tales of “extreme couponers” lately, folks who stockpile 20 years’ worth of toothpaste and chicken broth in their basement after getting the items free. There’s no doubt these folks get some real values, but you don’t have to be a super-serious coupon clipper to score great deals. I routinely get items free or almost-free by pairing sales, coupons and the CVS Extra Care program, which gives me CVS Extra Bucks for designated purchases.

CVS is a national drugstore chain which probably has a store near you; check the CVS store locator Web page to find the closest location. In addition to its pharmacy, CVS offers a wide variety of cosmetics, toiletries, household products and food. To earn CVS Extra Bucks, you’ll need to fill out a brief enrollment form at your store and use the Extra Care card you receive each time you shop there.

CVS can be quite pricey on many items, so the key to CVS bargain hunting is to know what a good price is for the items you buy. For example, a 12-pack of Coke may sell for $4.49 at your grocery store, so a sale of four 12-packs for $10 at CVS offers a great price. Usually, the actual sale price for items like this at CVS will be something like 4 packs for $13, but then you get $3 in Extra Bucks back at the end of your sales receipt. You can use the bucks coupon on your next visit for money off almost anything in the store.

I frequently use my Extra Bucks the following week to purchase another sales item offering Extra Bucks. Yesterday, I bought a tube of Colgate toothpaste on sale at CVS for $2.99, with Extra Bucks bringing the effective price down to 99 cents. Then, I used a coupon to lower the cost to 49 cents. With my Extra Bucks from previous purchases, I got the item without any cash out of my pocket.

A few times a year, CVS shows that it cares about customers by rewarding them with bonus Extra Bucks, based on how much they’ve spent at the store during certain portions of the year.

To get the most out of the Extra Bucks program:

    • Don’t let your Extra Bucks expire—that’s like throwing cash away. Their expiration date is usually about a month after the purchase that generated them.
    • Plan your shopping trip by checking the CVS weekly sale ad online. Focus only on items which are as cheap or cheaper than what you’d pay at a big-box retailer like Walmart.
    • Shop early in the week to find merchandise with Extra Bucks in stock.
    • Ask for a raincheck on out-of-stock sale items, and be sure the clerk includes the Extra Bucks offer on your raincheck. When you redeem it, point out the Extra Bucks to the cashier before they enter the raincheck into the register.
    • Use coupons to expand your savings. You can often get toiletries at extremely low prices or free by combining coupons and Extra Bucks.

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Filed under Cheap and free stuff, Rewards programs

Buying a dining room table? Put it to the “plate test” first!

After owning the same, hand-me-down dining room table for my entire adult life, I recently had the opportunity to purchase a new one. My shopping excursion took me to several big-box furniture stores, where I noticed many tables on the showroom floor had scratches on their surfaces.

Finally, my husband and I settled on a table from Havertys called American Revival. We loved the beautiful inlay designs worked into the table’s cherry finish. At the store, I questioned the salesperson about the marks in the tabletop’s finish, but he assured me these were the result of decorative items being placed on the showroom table and moved around. He also noted the company’s policy to take any item back, for any reason, within three days of purchase.

After a couple weeks of waiting, the American Revival dining table arrived at our home. The first night we used it, we discovered that just setting our Fiesta plates down on the table caused marks to appear in the finish. We weren’t sliding or dragging the plates around, just setting them down. Plus, these plates have a smooth finish on the bottom.

The next night, despite the use of heavy potholders under hot pots and pans, heat-related marks also appeared in the finish. I quickly realized this was not the table for us. While I could have hidden the marks with a tablecloth, I found this idea unsatisfactory. I don’t see any point in buying a table with a beautiful finish if you have to hide it beneath tablecloths and placemats to prevent damage to the finish.

Havertys honored their “we’ll-take-it-back” pledge and picked up the table, issuing me a full refund. Then, I had to resume my search for a replacement. This time, I took advantage of a great suggestion from a salesperson at another store—I took one of my Fiesta plates with me to the stores and, with permission from each salesperson, set it down on the table and moved it around to see if it would leave any marks.

Take your plate to furniture stores to test the finish of tables.

In the end, we selected a table from Bassett to replace the one from Havertys. It passed the plate test, and our hope is that the special “Indurance” finish Bassett uses on its dining table tops will hold up better than the finish used on the Haverty’s table. We’ve had our Bassett table for two weeks now, and the finish looks great so far. As a bonus, you customize any dining table you buy at Bassett, so you get to select the top, legs and color combination you prefer.

My experience leads to these table-shopping tips:

  • Take along a plate to test the durability of the table’s finish for yourself (with the store’s permission).
  • Ask about the store’s return policy for items that don’t hold up to normal wear and tear.
  • Have someone go shopping with you to identify potential flaws before you buy.
  • Consider purchasing a product protection plan that can cover damage to the table for up to five years after your purchase.


Filed under Shopping tips