Now you never have to worry about getting bad service at a grocery store again

Where are Rathindra Nahar’s $75 in “free” groceries?

That question led us on an amazing adventure that could resonate through the entire food retail industry. No, that’s not hyperbole. I’m grateful to Nahar, and you should be, too.

Nahar recently opened a Kroger-branded Visa Card, which offered him “$75 in free groceries,” he says. “I fulfilled all requirements but the company refused to pay.”

Why?

“First they said they never had such a promotion,” he says. “So I sent them a copy of the promotion.”

Then Kroger acknowledged that it did, indeed, have the offer but that Nahar didn’t use the right link.

Remember when British Airways advertised “free” roundtrip tickets to the suckers who applied for its credit card? They don’t do that anymore, thanks to strong enforcement action by the Transportation Department.

Too bad the DOT can’t fine Kroger. And that got me to thinking: Where are our grocery store company contacts?

I’ll be honest, our research department was in a little bit of disarray this spring. We had some staff changes and a little confusion about our direction. We were so airline-focused that we’d actually created a separate category for loyalty programs.

The team needed to realign. And we did. Our first major new category: grocery stores.

What an adventure it’s been. Among the highlights:

Our names are a secret.

One of the joys of discovery was finding the names and email addresses for super-secretive companies such as Aldi and Trader Joe’s. They go to such great lengths to hide direct phone numbers and even email addresses for their executives. We spent hours digging for them. In our view, these companies do not have the right to keep their executives’ contact information private.

There’s a gap between marketing rhetoric and reality.

Some of our favorite grocery stories, including Publix, talk about customer service. But the word “service” doesn’t appear in any of their top executives’ titles, and there’s no executive point-person for someone with a major service complaint. For our researchers, this was a little mystifying and disappointing — particularly since many of our researchers prefer to shop at Publix.

If you think travel loyalty programs are bad …

We’ve just begun to tap into the insane couponing cult championed by some mom bloggers, and we know that it’s a deception on a grand scale. How else to describe buying a cake mix in bulk and feeding it to to your offspring just because you clipped a coupon? I will not use the word “lemmings.” Oops, I just did. But Canadian grocery stores, with their relentless offer of “Airmiles,” probably represent the worst of both worlds. We’ll go there soon in an upcoming story. If you’re into coupons, you might want to look away.

So how did things work out with with Nahar? Our advocates put him in touch with his bank, which told him not to worry about Kroger. They credited him $75 — in cash.

Please check out our new grocery store category before you go shopping. You can thank us later.

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