Get the Most Out of Safeway's Just for U Deals
Safeway is on the forefront of personalized grocery deals with its Just for U online savings program. If you shop at a Safeway or its affiliates (Dominick's, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Vons) you have probably seen signs urging you to sign up for Just for U. Signing up is a no-brainer — once you're using Just for U, you'll have access to discounts above and beyond the weekly advertised sales. But signing up is only the first step toward maximizing your savings at Safeway.
First, a quick explanation of how Just for U works. Once you register your loyalty card on the Just for U site, you'll be offered two kinds of deals that you can add to your card simply by clicking the deals on the site. The deals come in two varieties: e-coupons, which are available to all Just for U users, and Personalized Deals. Personalized Deals are offered to you based on what you typically buy. (See also: How to Grocery Shop for 5 on $100 a Week)
Here are some tips for making Just for U work for you.
You Must Actually Click the Deals to Get the Savings
When I attended a Just for U training session with Safeway representatives, they told me that many customers mistakenly think that all the deals shown on the Web site are automatically loaded to your card. In reality, you have to click each offer individually to get that price. Why don't they have an "add all" button? Because they're using this system to find out what we're willing to pay for things. Before I make a trip to Safeway now, I take a few minutes to check the site or the app on my smartphone to see if there are any new Personalized Deals or coupons available.
Make Sure That You Are the Only One Using Your Account
You might have a couple of Safeway cards in your household, or you might just punch in your phone number at the register without having any idea whose account that number is linked to. When I first started shopping at Safeway, I noticed that the cashiers would call me "Ms. Mrouks" when they handed me my receipt — because my phone number was linked to an account belonging to someone with that name. In that past, this kind of sloppy card use would frustrate Safeway's marketing executives, who are of course using these loyalty card accounts to study our shopping behavior, but it didn't matter much to you and me. However, if you want Just for U to offer you deals on things you're actually likely to buy, you should make sure you always use the same account. If you see weird items pop up on your Personalized Deals — like cat food if you don't have a cat — call customer service and they'll figure out if someone else is using your number. They have ways of fixing that.
Download the Just for U App Onto Your Smartphone
Safeway has improved the speed with which deals you add to your card get saved on their system, so you should be able to add deals with your phone while you're in the store and have them active by the time you get up to the register. Give it 10 minutes or so — and make sure you're getting a good cell connection when you add the deals.
Combine Coupons With Deals
This is tricky, because as coupon shoppers know, you can't redeem two manufacturer's coupons on one item, but you can combine a manufacturer's coupon with a store coupon or discount. Some deals on Just for U are manufacturer's coupons, while others are store discounts. How can you tell the difference? According to Safeway representatives at a recent Just for U training session, you should be able to pair a paper coupon with any Just for U deal where the item price is named. You won't be able to pair a paper coupon with e-coupons that promise a certain amount of money off. For instance, if your Just for U coupon says "50 cents off Friskies cat food," that's a manufacturer's coupon, and you can't use a additional paper manufacturer's coupon with that. But if the Just for U deal says "Friskies 45 cents per can," that's a store discount, and you can sweeten the deal by adding a paper manufacturer's coupon. If you try handing over paper coupons that can't be used with the deal on your card, the register will give you whichever coupon has the best value and give you back the other one.
Combine a Personalized Price With a Buy One, Get One Free Sale
Every week, Safeway offers a number of items that are buy one, get one free. If you are lucky enough to have a low personalized price on one of those items, you will get two for the personalized price, often resulting in a really good deal. For example, say that Oscar Mayer bacon is offered BOGO, with a $5.97 price. On Just for U, you load a personalized price of $2.97. Other shoppers will get two packs of bacon for $5.97, or about $3 each. But you can get two packs for $2.97 — less than $1.50 each!
Check Your Receipt
Just for U has improved a lot since its trial launches last year, but it may still sometimes happen that you don't get the discount that was promised to you. Just like with other coupons and discounts, you should check your receipt and take any problems to the customer service desk.
If You Move to Another Region, Call Customer Service
When I moved from Chicago (Dominick's territory) to California (Safeway territory), I went online and changed my zip code on the Just for U site. But even after I made the change, none of my personalized deals were working. This is because personalized deals only work in the region of the store where you shop most often. It can take several months for Safeway's computers to stop offering you your former region's deals and start offering you the new region's deals. You can speed this up by calling customer service, but even then, the change won't be immediate. Personally, if I had it to do again, I might have simply applied for a new account at my new store — but that's my suggestion, not Safeway's.
Can You Game the System?
This New York Times article quotes one shopper saying she gets better personalized prices when she alternates brands of coffee. I haven't experienced anything like this so far, but it's worth experimenting with. One tactic I plan to use after reading the article is to avoid clicking on personalized prices that I find too high — I want to teach the system that I am a customer who should be offered the absolute lowest prices.
Disclosure: Safeway provided me with several Safeway gift cards at their Just for U information session, as well as assorted goodies and a ride in a fancy limo bus.