Opinion: I hate the idea of Tesco’s ‘special’ Clubcard prices

Opinion: I hate the idea of Tesco’s ‘special’ Clubcard prices

Are Tesco promotions really rewarding loyalty, or just a way to get us to trade our data for cheaper prices?

Joanne Christie

Saving and Making Money

Joanne Christie
Updated on 8 May 2019

Last week I received an email from Tesco saying it was giving me a “special thank you for being a Clubcard customer” by way of “Clubcard prices”. 

From yesterday (Tuesday, 7 May 7) until 26 May, it is offering discounts that are only available to those with Clubcards.

Normally I’m a sucker for a Tesco promotion.

When one of the rare ‘£10 off if you spend £70’ vouchers comes my way, I immediately start making a list of non-perishable items I can stock up on to make use of it.

So why do I hate this one?

For me, it’s moving in a North American direction that I don’t think we should replicate this side of the pond.

Back in 2003 my husband and I decided to move to Canada for a year.

We didn’t have a lot of cash – the timing of this adventure wasn’t driven by having saved for it but rather the fact it was my husband’s last chance to qualify for a working holiday abroad due to his age.

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When a sale price isn’t a sale price

Given we didn’t have jobs when we first arrived, we naturally headed to the supermarket and carefully picked out a trolley load of items on sale.

When we got to the till, however, it turned out nothing was on sale… well, not for us at least.

We were shopping at Safeway, one of Canada’s biggest supermarkets, and what we didn’t realise was that to get the prices advertised for promotions you had to have a Safeway Club Card*.

We couldn’t get one as we didn’t have a registered address, so were forced to pay more for everything we bought.

After a couple of weeks of paying often double what Safeway Club Card holders paid, we mentioned to a friend in Canada how annoyed we were about the situation.

He kindly provided both his and his girlfriend’s names, addresses and Safeway Club Card numbers, and said if we told the cashier every time we went they’d run it through their accounts.

I’m not sure if this practice was allowed, strictly speaking, but it worked and we did manage to buy goods for the sale prices after that.

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Loyalty, or just a way to pull in more sign-ups?

In the case of Tesco’s offer, it says anyone without a Clubcard who finds themselves in a store offering the promotions can download the app and register for one in just a couple of minutes, allowing them to immediately access the lower prices.

The very idea that you can get the lower prices straight away by signing up makes me question whether it is actually a promotion to reward loyalty or just a way to get people to trade their data for better prices.

And, as was the case in Canada, you need a UK address to get a Clubcard.

Tesco tells me this is for “operational reasons”.

Do we really want any visiting tourist to feel as ripped off as I did back in Canada?

It’s not like we’re a country without a lot of tourists – almost 40 million people come to the UK each year, according to national tourism agency VisitBritain.

And do we want every person who has just arrived in the country to discover the hard way they have to pay more until they have a fixed UK address?

Finally, what about those aged under 18 (there’s an age requirement to get a Clubcard), or the homeless for that matter?

Do we want them to pay more? I know I don’t.

And what about if you just don’t want to sign up for a Clubcard because you don’t live near a store? Most of us see little point in signing up for membership cards if we’re at a supermarket we rarely frequent.

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No room for forgetfulness

he other issue is that you have to have your Clubcard (or key fob) on you at all times.

I regularly forget mine, especially when popping into the Tesco Express around the corner from my house.

Normally it’s not a big deal – you just keep your receipt and get your Clubcard points added later.

Not so with this promotion – Tesco says “customers need to scan their card/app when they pay to get the discount, they can’t do it later”.

According to Tesco, it is the first “major supermarket” to offer loyalty cardholders lower prices at the checkout.

I really hope it is the last.

What do you think? Are Tesco promotions a nice thank you, or a sneaky way to get you to share more of your data? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

*Safeway discontinued its Club Card programme in 2014.

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