Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Point System

No, no, dear NFTY friends. Trofie Wife is not referring to THAT point system. Instead, I’d like to sit for a spell and discuss our local grocery store and its customer loyalty program. (Yes, a far cry from my recent political punditry, but as I am often reminded, I have a great span of interests from low- to highbrow.)

I was very relieved when I clocked the presence of this store on my first visit to Arenzano, because it bore the whiff of the familiar—my sister shops at a sister store in Zurich. Apparently in Zurich it pays to sign up for a *free* loyalty card because you can save on your purchases and earn valuable points redeemable for prizes. It took me a while after digging through the paraphernalia in-store and online, but I finally scoped out the Italian version of this program, and it most certainly is not free (maybe Zurich needs to check her receipts again). In fact, it appears to me to be so insane that, if you pardon my decent into Larry Davidism, I feel the need to riff on it for several more paragraphs. Enjoy (or go back to that work you’re supposed to be doing).

So, for 25 euro, we can join the store as members, thereby gaining our loyalty card as well as the right to earn points and take part in cooking demos and local excursions (Martello asks: “why would you want to go on trips with the grocery store??”) The aforementioned points can then be used to select gifts that are published in the annual members’ guide. I initially flip flopped regarding the value of this investment. I surmised that it was true that we (mostly I) would be going to this grocery store quite a bit during our time in Italy and if we could save a euro here or there that could be put to better use (train or plane tickets, anyone?) why not? However, there are plenty of weekly discounts available to nonmembers, and just how long would it take us to earn back the 25 euro in accumulated savings when so many discounts hover in the 10 to 20 percent (read: 30 to 40 cent) range? As I perused this year’s selection of premiums, I realized that in this case membership did not have its privileges. Readers, let me take you through some of the prizes just to demonstrate the craziness of this set-up.

One euro spent is equal to one point earned; it is unclear from the materials that I have (and can comprehend) if you are allowed to carry points forward from one year to the next. Thus, if you spend 3.800 euros OR you cash in 1.850 points and pay 19,50 euros (I might also add here that it’s very confusing that in Europe a comma is used as a decimal point and a period is used in place of a comma in marking thousands), you can be the proud owner of—a handmade, wooden oil and vinegar dispenser. The Scandinavian design is clean and functional, but you can probably pick up something like it on QVC for $29.99 or less.

Next: A toaster with slots for four slices of bread. 3.700 points (3.700 euros spent), or it can be yours for 1.750 points and 19,50 euros. Hmm, does this 19,50 price maybe allude to the actual value of the item? Need I remind you that I picked up an actual TOASTER OVEN at the competing grocery store (which also boasts a point system) for only 10 euro??

Here’s one for the bambinos: for 2.700 points (or 1.250 points plus 14,50 euro), you can be a proud owner of a backpack featuring a cartoon image of a squawking rooster (and for those of you who remember from high school that animals make different sounds in different countries, apparently a rooster crowing in Italy sounds like: “chicchirichi!!” Personally, I prefer the French, “coo-coo, coquiercoo”).

And now for my absolute favorite. The pièce de résistance. Weighing in at 11.300 points (that’s a lot of groceries) or 5.400 points plus 59 euros, is…A MEAT SLICER!! Why on earth would you need this in your home?? I saw it on the premium shelf (before I realized that it was a “premium” and thought it was just part of the miscellany on the “random shelf” (which turned out to be the “premium shelf”) and I thought to myself, “now isn’t that odd…a meat slicer.” This premium, I might add, is valued more highly than a weekend at a spa in Acqui Terme (4.400 points), a tree in a national forest (2.000 points; I’m at least happy to see that these points can be donated towards worthwhile causes), a free ticket on any national (4.000 points) or European (7.000 points) flight!! Maybe I just don’t get how important sliced meat is to the majority of those inhabiting these parts…

Now I always found the Park Slope Food Co-op to be fairly ridiculous, which is why I never joined (apologies to any members out there), but this so-called “co-op” is molto crazy! It’s more like members are co-opted by their ridiculous system! Please: If you would like an olive oil set or a four-slot toaster or a professional grade meat slicer, please, please, please just buy one on your own!! Don’t spend 11.000 euros on groceries! I can understand if you just happen to spend that much a year and the slicer (or any other prize for that matter) is an added bonus, but seriously, a meat slicer? In sum, we are not joining the club at this store or any other. Not only because of the scam-scented point system, but because I take great offense at the presence in a store of a shelf with alluring items displayed on it, but when you decide you’d like to buy one (and seemingly believe you can afford it) you are told that it is not possible to do so! I may be very liberal, but I’m still a capitalist! So, should we be in the market for any condiment dispensers, appliances, or cock-a-doodle-doing (or otherwise) backpacks, we’ll accumulate them the old fashioned way—by picking them out of the free piles in Brooklyn!

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife


hillel hammerman said...

I did the math on your point/euro awards. Sure makes you wish we still had S&H green stamps (Hmm, those initials sound familiar!)

eldrhammer said...

S&H green stamps actually DO still some of the deeper parts of brooklyn (even farther than Tierra del Fuego..3rd ave and 90th st)

Trofie Wife said...

I just Googled, and apparently you can play online as well now: and