Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true. Maybe the names should have been changed to protect the innocent, but they weren’t.

[musical interlude] This is the city, Ventura California. I live here. I’m not a cop. It was Wednesday, August 8th. It was hot in Ventura, too hot. I was shopping at the local Von’s store. This is not a pretty story. It’s a story with some complaining, some confusion, some whining, and some price reductions, but most of all… most of all there will be something else.

I beg your pardon, what is this? Some kind of feeble joke?

I don’t think I’ll ever be shopping at Von’s again.

There are hashtags in the title because I’m hoping someone of authority at #Von’s or #Safeway reads this. I considered submitting the form provided on the site for questions and complaints, but I doubt anyone at Corporate ever sees them. I’m hoping someone sees this because I think they’ve mucked things up.

First, with the exception of Trader Joe’s, WinCo Foods, and maybe Sprouts, I hate shopping at the big chain grocery stores. I love when they have sales. I love when they have something I want to buy at a good price. I love when they’re not especially busy. Too often that’s not the case. Too often their sales, their stock, or they check-out lanes are a mess.

I’m a senior of the citizen variety, not the high school or college variety, and I take advantage of sales as often as I can. Von’s is the closest grocery store to where I live, so I take advantage of as many of Von’s sales as I can. I used to love shopping there, but ever since Safeway bought the chain it’s become a nightmare. Maybe the problem is that Vons just has too damn many kinds of sales and specials. This is a partial list: five for five (buy five or more advertised mix and match items and save a dollar on each), 10 for 10 (buy 10 for $10), buy one get one, buy two get one, buy two get two, buy three get one, 50% off, three-day sales, four-day sales, thirty-day sales, $5 Fridays (advertised items at $5 each), and what was once my favorite –  “Just for U” digital coupons. While most of the sale items are marked, the digital coupons are rarely marked unless they are also listed among the advertised items.

“All we know are the facts, just the facts.” – Dragnet

Often the various sales overlap. For instance today you can buy Lucerne yogurt 32 oz $2.50 (2 for $5) advertised in the flyer or $2.53 with a digital coupon. The current flyer says you can buy 4 boxes of General Mills products for $10, or $5.00 with a digital coupon. However, there is no such digital coupon. There are two digital coupons. With one, you can save $1.00 on two boxes of cereal, and with the other, you’ll save $5 when you buy four boxes of certain General Foods products. That’s probably the one the person who put together the flyer had in mind, but it didn’t work out quite right. After reading the flyer and looking at the coupons I was confused. As it turned out for me, there was no reason to be confused, because I wasn’t going to get the savings for any of those deals.

The biggest pain in the ass with the digital coupons is you have to read the fine print because not all flavors or sizes of a product are eligible for the coupon. The reason you have to read the fine print is that Von’s (and other big chain stores) don’t mark the shelves or the shelves aren’t marked well enough to show which products are eligible for the discount and if you guess wrong, you lose. The same goes for all the other sales. Six of seven flavors of a product might be on sale, but it’s up to you to figure out if the one you want that isn’t marked is also on sale, or if the tag fell off or if someone forgot to put the tag on the shelf. Too often you guess wrong and while its close relatives are on sale, it’s not. Guess wrong and you lose.

To take advantage of Von’s “Just for U” coupons you need a Von’s card that’s also registered at Von’s online site because that’s where you’ll choose the coupons you want and you’ll click “Add” to add them to your Von’s card. When you get to the cash register you’ll either swipe your Von’s card or enter your phone number to apply the savings.

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

I went to Von’s today to do some shopping, but I also had to get a refund on a sale item I that hadn’t worked out the way it was supposed to last week. This is what happened. I had a digital coupon that said if I bought a box of regular Cheerios I could get a box of Cheerios Oat crunch for free. In the store, it took me a while to find the Cheerios Oat Crunch because there are many different kinds of Cheerios and the sale item wasn’t marked. Eventually, I found the box pictured in the ad. However, when I got home and checked my receipt I saw that instead of saving $5.29 for the cereal, I was charged for both boxes. Since I’d gotten the savings for a couple other digital coupons I knew it wasn’t a matter of having not entered my phone number at the cash register. I talked to the shift manager who told me to tell the cashier when I checked out to get the refund.

So, I did my shopping. Remember that General Mills products special I mentioned earlier – buy four and save? I decided to take advantage of that, just to improve my odds in case, not all the flavors were included I picked out five items. It meant I should save at least $12. At least, that’s what I thought was supposed to happen.

Apparently, the cashier was new (I’d never seen her there before) and she got flustered when I tried to explain the refund. First, she talked to her the shift manager, then she started mucking things up. She punched some numbers into the register and it gave me $.29 change. Since she didn’t then give me the five dollars I thought she was going to deduct it from my charges for the day. Instead, of giving me the $5 she gave me a box of Cheerios, at least that was the result because she didn’t charge me the $4.49 for one of the boxes of Cheerios. Messed up, right? I was still owed $.51, but she didn’t tell me what she was doing, so it wasn’t until I got home and was able to check the receipt that my eyes were opened and I started to see. Until then I knew things were messed up, but I didn’t know if it was me or the cashier or the store or Von’s who had messed them up. I like to make sure it wasn’t me before I start accusing someone of making a mistake only to be told it was me who made the mistake.

Vons Receipt 8-8-18While the cashier was fiddling with the refund I entered my phone number and waited. I’m pretty sure she ran a transaction for the refund, then started a new transaction for my groceries, but since she didn’t tell me I didn’t know that, but I was charged full price for everything I bought. When she handed me the receipt I saw that something was mucked up, but before I started discussing (a nice word for arguing) the matter I decided to go home and make sure the mucking up hadn’t been my fault. It wasn’t. I’d done everything I was supposed to do. I’d added the coupons to my card. I’d entered my phone number to record my card with the cash register. I’d paid my bill with a valid credit card.

  • $5 for four of the General Mills products, $4.99 for the extra General Mills product (the most expensive of the five I’d picked), $2.50 for a bag of salad (two for $5), and $.97 for three bananas, totaling $13.46. That’s according to the Von’s Flyer.
  • Also according to the flyer, if the digital coupon hadn’t been entered for the General Mills products I should have been charged $10 for the Cereal and Fiber one bars, plus $4.99 for the extra product, $2.50 for the salad, and $.97 for the bananas, totaling $18.46, minus the $5 – $13.26.
  • Or there’s the variation with just the $5 savings for the coupon. $13.26 for four of the General Mills products, $4.99 for the extra one, $2.50 for the salad, and $.97 for the bananas, totaling $23.62.

Although the last scenario had the same total as the one on my receipt, the math wasn’t the same as that on the receipt. This is what it says the cashier rang up: two boxes of Fiber One bars for $4.49 each. One box of Cheerios for $4.69. One box of Chex cereal for $4.99, bananas $.97, and a bag of salad for $3.99, totaling $23.62.

I know, numbers. Too many numbers. Too much information. This is the point where most people throw up their hands and say it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the $5 or $2 or $.51 cents to take the receipt or the product or both back to the store, to point out the mistake to someone who will often have no idea what you’re talking about and might be wondering why you’re going to so much trouble for so little and you’ll be embarrassed by the thing because there’s a good chance there will be other customers waiting in line also wondering why you’re going to so much trouble for so little, after all, mistakes are made, suck it up.

It seems to me that either the digital coupons don’t get added to my Von’s card when I press “Add,” or they are not all read by Von’s system, or the store’s staff are either too busy or confused by the task and don’t link the product to its coupon. At any rate, it’s a highly flawed system. At least once a month I get overcharged for something. Sometimes I take it back. Sometimes I don’t bother and accept the loss because it’s not worth my trouble to deal with. I guess it’s my donation to help keep my local Von’s store in business.

I really, really, really, really, really (too many reallys? Okay, I’ll cross one out) really hoping someone from Von’s/Safeway reads this because I will not go back to any Von’s for any reason (not only that, I might do a little bad-mouthing like I’m doing now) until this is taken care. Unfortunately, this should not have happened, but it did.

“It’s called a mistake, Friday. But I guess you never make any of those, do you?” – Dragnet

There are just too many questions that need answers. Which discounts were the ones that should have been applied to my transactions? Which ones seem to be there just to confuse me? Why did the cashier not just refund the $5.29 instead of just $.29? Why did she presume the cost of all boxes of Cheerios are equal and not charge me for one in trying to rectify the fact I was charged for a box that should have been free? Why does Von’s flyer show an online coupon has to be added to the card to get a discount, yet the coupon does not exist. Instead, a similar coupon exists that offers a very different discount.

This is what I would like to happen. First I would like to Von’s/Safeway to send me a check for the $10.67 I believe I am owed (see variation #1, plus the $.51 difference between what I paid for the first box of Cheerios and what I was actually refunded), although there’s a good chance my math is wrong by a few cents because this whole thing is so terribly confusing.

Second, although I love them I’d like Von’s/Safeway to dump the digital coupons. Either that or at least clearly mark every product that is being offered with digital coupon savings. Vons used to that years ago, but I think people got so upset when they got to the cash register and found they didn’t get the savings because they’d never added it to their card. Or Von’s could simply advertise all the Von's receipt - 8-2-18digital coupons on their site and give the discount to anyone who bought the product (I’m sure that would wreak havoc with their system, though). Best to just go back to the old ways. If you want the discount, you cut the stupid coupon out of the ad, bring it into the store, and remember to present it to the cashier.

“So don’t expect us to roll over and play dead when you say you’re dissatisfied.” – Sgt Joe Friday, Dragnet


P.S. Is there a Von’s company policy about cleaning the cash register tape printer heads? You should have seen the thing I brought in there today, no wonder the cash register was flustered and confused. She was trying to give me a refund based on something that was almost impossible to read. Here’s the part she was trying to read >>
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