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I shop at a wide variety of grocery stores, around the country. Most grocery store chains offer better prices if you check out using a 'membership card' of some sort. Unfortunately, most chains are pretty regional, and I'm really not interested in signing up with all 20 of the grocery stores I shop at in any given year... to say nothing of the privacy implications of allowing the grocery chains to track my every purchase.

How can I get access to these better prices without signing up for a card myself?

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7  
If you're paying by debit or credit card, the store can track your transactions anyway. – David Richerby Jan 18 at 5:05
    
@DavidRicherby I'm aware, and personally, am more concerned about the convenience factor, but I know others who do worry about the privacy complications, and primarily shop in cash for that reason. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 18 at 5:07
    
@DavidRicherby Some of the newer ways to pay will generate a different card number for each purchase. Like Apple Pay for instance. – MiniRagnarok Jan 18 at 18:41
9  
I've been known to have one of my "employees" (furry or otherwise) register the card, so I can see who the info is being resold to. I'll fill out the form honestly on their behalf... and this sometimes has amusing effects. I was able to watch my cat's junkmail change as she aged, from toys to clothing to a Miss Teen YourState'sNameHere "nomination" (borderline scam), to colleges, to beautician schools when they noticed she hadn't matriculated. And it was always entertaining to tell a telemarketer that they were trying to sell something to a cat. – keshlam Jan 18 at 20:12
    
This isn't really an answer to your question, but I use an app called Key Ring on my android phone. Whilst it doesn't save me the hassle of registering, it does mean that I can avoid bringing a physical card with me. It works for any card that is based on a barcode or account number. You can either present the number, or a barcode (which they scan directly from your phone). It also allows you to save a photo of the front and back of the card for those rare cases where the shop wants to see that (I have a restaurant discount card where this happens occasionally). – JBentley Jan 19 at 6:32

At most of our local stores, the cashiers keep a card at the checkout counter. I think it may be mostly for people who forget their own card, but I've found that if I'm honest & just say I'd like the same discounts without having to register, they run that card through.

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5  
+1 Only fair and reasonable answer in my humble opinion, and this is what I have done as well a fair couple of times in one store (where I do have a card, but forget it quite often). – David Mulder Jan 18 at 15:55
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At the store nearest to where I live, at the self-checkout kiosk, the first thing it asks is for your rewards card. There are also buttons for "no card" and "forgot my card." I entered "no card" once, and while I was scanning my stuff, something went wrong. The attendant came over and told me to never use the "no card" button and always say "forgot my card" because it glitches otherwise. So I do that now. :P – Mason Wheeler Jan 18 at 16:06
up vote 20 down vote accepted

Most checkout systems will allow you to enter a phone number, in lieu of presenting an actual physical card. While you can guess at a number by using famous numbers like 867-5309 or 555-5555 with a local area code, I find a much more reliable method is to use my smartphone to look up the phone number of the store at which I'm shopping.

Since most stores have a 'store card' tied to the stores phone number, you can just enter this number at checkout, and it will often work just fine.

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14  
Surely this is fraud? – OrangeDog Jan 18 at 11:26
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@OrangeDog I really don't think anyone is concerned with a charge as lofty as "fraud" when were talking about a ridiculous system where the store just wants to track shopping habits for their sales. It's not like a paid membership. – JPhi1618 Jan 18 at 15:33
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@JPhi1618 Precisely. Whenever someone offers me one of these cards, I simply tell them "I'm in enough databases already." They always understand what I mean: these discounts don't come free, and I value not being tracked more than the paltry amount of money I'd save. – Mason Wheeler Jan 18 at 16:34
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@JPhi1618 It is still fraud, because you are taking the store's money (in the form of a discount) and not giving back what they stipulated in exchange (your address for marketing, and your shopping habits), and you are doing so by deliberate deceit (as opposed to merely breaching a contract). Whether or not anyone would be bothered enough to do anything about it is a separate matter. – JBentley Jan 19 at 6:29
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I've been to some Krogers (a US grocery store chain) that have a Kroger Card at the checkout lane to scan if you forgot yours. I believe the idea is that they don't want people to get mad that they won't get their discounts. From working there for a while I got the idea that customer happiness was more important than maximizing profits, I suppose the line of thought is because if a customer gets angry and starts going to a different store you lose a lot more money than a couple of discounts. – Captain Man Jan 19 at 15:26

I visit Las Vegas once a year and sure enough never remember to prior year's card. So I just go up to the service desk and ask for a new card and say "I'll fill in the form later and bring the form back next time as I'm in a rush now".

Always been given a card and it always works. Never returned a form and even the prior year's cards work when I remember to take them. You probably don't get all discounts but the ones on the shelf for carrying a card always work.

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6  
Surely this is also fraud? – OrangeDog Jan 18 at 11:27
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Don't think it's fraud, but still downvoting for promoting outright lying... :( – David Mulder Jan 18 at 15:54
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Wilful deceit for monetary gain. – OrangeDog Jan 18 at 18:54
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Both my statements are true - I was a in a rush and I will bring the form back later. "Later" has simply not been defined. There is no fraud. If you wish to challenge this action on an ethical level, consider the actions of the stores themselves. Are you fully informed of the tracking information gathered & sold on you? What about the mktg practices - eg: last week bacon reg $5.49; this week ON special - BOGO but it's marked at $8. Do you think you're saving $8 ? – Ian W Jan 18 at 19:18
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You can also ask, "Can I fill out the form later?" without promising to do so. Or even, "May I have one of these?" pointing to a pile of cards. – Dronz Jan 19 at 0:47

There are many ways, though in some cases it depends on the store policy and/or their staff.

  • You can just ask for a card, without saying anything about agreeing to fill out the form. I have done this many times, and unless it's a credit card, Radio Shack, an actual membership with a fee like Costco, or a department store or something, I have never (at supermarkets or the non-drug parts of drug stores) seen staff want me to fill out the form before using it. It would just slow them down to wait for you to fill it out, and even when there is no one behind me in line, staff have given me cards and even encouraged me not to fill out the form.

  • You can say you don't have a card, and many staff will use their own card, or the register's card.

  • You can ask your friends and family if they have such a card, and whether they mind if you use their number for it (usually the phone number). The cards usually come in family packs anyway with four or more cards for each form, so they might even have a spare card to share with you.

  • You can also trade/share cards with your friends, or strangers, or use cards you find lying around. I wouldn't recommend giving away cards to untrusted people IF they have your actual information, however, as both stores and law enforcement may try to use shopping history as evidence in lawsuits and criminal charges. (All the more reason to not give out your information, though.)

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At a number of stores I've gotten them from, if you simply say that you are in a hurry and will fill out the application later, they will scan it and let you go on your merry way. Then, just load that into an app on your phone (I use KeyRing too) and forget the physical card. That is how the cards are that many stores use at the registers. They often times are not registered and we just ones grabbed from the stack and used. At least at the few I worked at that is how it was done. It was also advised to have them scanned if the customer did not have one right away - the point was to make sure the customer got through the line as fast as possible to speed up checkout times. Some places like Kroger, track the times of cashiers, so they will scan the store card to help speed things up.

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