Saturday 7 June 2008

Petrol discounts

our two large supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths both run petrol discount schemes whereby you get a 4c/L discount voucher if you buy $30 or more of groceries in one transaction. While there is some criticism that the cost of the fuel discount is simply passed on to shoppers via increased grocery bills, I doubt that there is really much impact on grocery prices. For one thing, I'm sure a lot more vouchers get issued than are ever presented - I always have lots of vouchers in my wallet that don't get used before they expire after one month. The other reason is that the full cost of the discount won't be passed on from the petrol outlet to the grocery chain since the vouchers are a marketing tool to attract extra customers to the petrol station.

Woolworths recently replaced the printed shopping vouchers with a credit-card style rewards card. Each time you spend more than $30 in the supermarket you simply have the card scanned and a 4c/L discount is credited to the card. You then present the card at the petrol station to obtain the discount. The card is an improvement over the vouchers for several reasons:

  • You don't have to clip vouchers off your shopping dockets and keep them in your wallet
  • The card system automatically uses the highest value discount available, and then the oldest one. This ensures you get the best value from the available discounts.
  • If you go online to register your details for the card, you get a one-off 10c/L discount.

I got one discount card for myself and one for DW. I've already registered my card and used the 10c/L discount when I filled up last week. I'll now register the wife's card online and use that card to get a 10c/L discount next time I get fuel. After both 10c discount offers have been redeemed I'll "link" the two cards together - up to five cards can be linked, which means that a discount obtained using any of the cards is pooled with the others, and when any of the discount cards is presented when paying for fuel, the oldest of the discounts will be used up. My parents have also got the Woolworths discount cards, even though they do most of their grocery shopping at Coles. After they've used up the initial 10c discount from registering each card, we'll link all four cards together. That way they'll always be able to get a fuel discount even if they haven't been shopping at Woolworths for a while.

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Craig said...

Are you concerned at all about the privacy implications of this new card? Woolworths can now track when and where you (and your family) buy groceries and fuel and how much you bought of each... said...

Not particularly. You choose whether to get and use the discount card. It's only used with trans over $30 (when you choose to use the card). There's nothing to stop you registering the card with a dummy name and email address. WW already could match grocery purchase data with fuel purchase data via the printed barcodes, if they wanted too...

Anyhow, I really don't think WW cares, on an individual basis, who is buying what groceries and fuel. They probably are interested in aggregated consumption patterns, but that doesn't affect any individual's privacy.

It's also not a new encroachment on privacy - since I pay for my groceries and fuel with a CC, all this data (and more) is already stored on my banks database. I'm not fussed if Woolworths also had access to a subset of this data (regarding fuel and grocery purchases).

Generally speaking, I don't worry too much about privacy - otherwise I wouldn't be blogging ;)

If you are concerned about WW snooping on your grocery and fuel buying behaviour, just don't get a discount card. And pay with cash - small, unmarked bills. And wear a ski mask so no-one can see what items you're buying at the check-out... ;)