Picking up Nickels

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hat Trick: I spent $1200 on groceries yesterday

For the third year in a row, I went to Shaw's Supermarket and took advantage of their Refund Rewards Program:

The program, which runs March 19 to April 15, gives shoppers’ grocery budgets a boost by adding up to an additional 10 percent value on a grocery gift card purchased during tax season.

Under the refund rewards program, customers who purchase a $250 or $300 Shaw’s gift card will get another $20 or $30 added to the card, respectively. The refund rewards gift cards are available at the customer service counter at local Shaw’s Supermarket stores. Customers can use their tax refunds or any accepted form of payment to purchase the grocery gift cards.

Unlike previous years, this program does not appear to be promoted very prominently for some reason. Heck, I even said that it didn't appear that they were going to have this promotion this year in my grocery spending update last week. You certainly could have blinked and missed the advertisement in the latest sales flyer which only contained a vague reference with a "See store for details" note. I even had a difficult time finding details on the Shaws web site, with the pertinent information buried in a link to this pdf file. In addition, the cashier at the service desk had trouble completing the transaction and told me I was the first person to request the deal even though the promotion had already been running for four days. Once the cashier figured out what to do, the same script was followed that I've seen in the past: she asked for my Shaw's reward card, filled out a form, loaded (4) gift cards with $330 each, charged $1200 to my Penfed Visa Platinum Gas Cash Reward card, and then handed me my gift cards.

I stopped at a Sunoco station for gas on my way home and was greeted by a "declined by issuer" message with the Penfed VISA I used at Shaws . I figured my large grocery purchase had once again triggered some fraud detection algorithm at ultra-conservative Penfed and came home to a message from Penfed's (apparently outsourced) Cardholder Security Department asking for a return call at (888) 918-7313 (a legit number on Contact Us at penfed.org) immediately after my purchase. I called them back and verified the last few purchases I made on my Penfed VISA. Once that was done, the CSR kindly released the "Protective Hold" on my account.

I pretty much look at this deal as a 10% tax free return on my modest $1200 investment, which should take me about five or six months to spend based on prior experience. It's certainly a deal worth doing to get yourself $120 worth of free groceries, that's for sure.



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