The reunited Albertsons has finally clarified some confusion and confirmed what many had suspected but hadn’t quite pinned down – the “Preferred Card” loyalty program is history. Oh, and so is the Albertsons coupon policy.
More on that in a bit. But first, “our Preferred Card is no longer required at our stores to receive sales prices on items,” the chain announced on its recently-revamped Albertsons.com website. “The card isn’t so special anymore. Everyone has one. So we want to take the special step of not requiring one anymore.”
The move does not come as a surprise, since all references to the card disappeared from the website after the old Albertsons.com and AlbertsonsMarket.com merged earlier this week. The online merge reflects the merging of the two separate Albertsons chains, which are now both owned by the same company, an affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management. After the two chains initially split in 2006, Albertsons Market did away with its loyalty program, as well as its corporate coupon policy. So it seemed only a matter of time before the new owners did the same with the rest of the Albertsons chain, after acquiring it earlier this year.
Albertsons had already announced that the newly-acquired stores that offered e-coupons would no longer do so, and grocery rewards points would be phased out as well (read: “Digital Coupon, Loyalty Card Changes for Albertsons and Jewel-Osco”). The Fuel Rewards program will continue for the time being, though Albertsons says “we are reviewing it closely.”
Meanwhile, the two Albertsons chains that had separate coupon policies now have one. The Albertsons coupon policy on the new site is the one that Albertsons Market had in place, which is to say, no corporate coupon policy is in place at all. “We don’t have a blanket policy that fits every store and every market area, because your store, just like your community, is unique,” it reads. Therefore, “you would need to contact each store for a copy of their coupon policy,” a spokesperson explained on the Albertsons Facebook page.
Albertsons had asked for input on its coupon policy a few months ago (read: “Albertsons Invites Coupon Policy Ideas”). But then it also asked customers to vote on whether to name its combined chain “Albertsons” or “Albertsons Market”. The vote tally was never formally released, and no further information was made available about the input it received on its coupon policy, yet both decisions now have been made.
The new no-policy coupon policy does not necessarily mean wholesale coupon changes will happen overnight at stores that used to have a consistent chainwide coupon policy in place under Supervalu. But it’s possible. The corporate guidelines give local stores leeway to adjust their current policies. It also allows them to throw out their current coupon policies and start over from scratch, if they’d like. The company says each location’s “coupon guidelines are available at the register in every Albertsons” – so if you don’t see one posted in your store, better ask to see it for yourself, if someone tells you their policy has changed.
While all of this was going on with Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, another Cerberus-owned chain, did away with its own Fuel Rewards program. And while the company has yet to officially announce it, a number of store employees and customer service representatives say Jewel-Osco’s loyalty program will also be going away. No word on the coupon policy there, or what’s happening to the policies and loyalty programs at ACME, Shaw’s and Star Market, the other chains that Cerberus recently acquired from Supervalu. (6/23 update: Actually, now there is some news – read: “Shaw’s and Acme Ditch Loyalty Programs, Digital Coupons”).
“Our customers are the only reasons that our doors open every day,” Albertsons’ statement today reads. “Because of you, we exist. It’s that simple. We feel it’s our job to give everyone a great shopping experience, and that includes offering great prices to everyone.” And they might even take your coupons, too.