Going for the CVS Jackpot
Have you ever played the CVS/pharmacy game? The one where you go in and get $30 or $40 worth of toothpaste and diapers for free? Bloggers write about this all the time. They do show and tell, posting pictures of all the stuff they got for free. They even get some press, like Chrissy Thompson in Atlanta, who got $140 worth of CVS/pharmacy stuff for under $10. The NBC station there did a story on her in May and the reporter told me it was one of the most popular segments of the year.
Erin Gifford, an Ashburn resident, also did this recently on a smaller scale. She proudly displayed the $30 worth of loot she picked up at CVS/pharmacy for nothing in a blog post titled, "I hit the CVS Jackpot Today!" She paid nothing for stuff like children's medicine, toothpaste and soap using a system of coupons and certain rewards she received through CVS/pharmacy's ExtraCare card.
"There are people who are very strategic about it and really map out all their purchases before they go," she says.
Gifford says she got into the CVS/pharmacy game and became a coupon user only recently. Now she admits she buys almost everything she can at CVS/pharmacy, including cereal, using coupons and the savings card. The other day she got two bottles of name-brand shampoo for free, using coupons. Sometimes she actually is in need of the item she purchases, or she buys it because she'll eventually use it, or she buys it because the offer is too good to pass up and she ends up giving it to charity.
The ExtraCare program is the largest consumer rewards program in the country with more than 50 million cardholders, according to a CVS/pharmacy liaison. And these same cardholders received a combined total of more than $1.5 billion in money-saving offers and rewards last year. Washington ranks No. 4 among the top five communities where shoppers saved the highest amount of money through the ExtraCare program. During the last six months of 2007, Washingtonians saved more than $2.3 million using that little red card. But did CVS/pharmacy intend for people to get stuff for free?
"When CVS/pharmacy launched the ExtraCare Rewards program, we intentionally created a unique system that would be both easy for shoppers to use and beneficial enough that they would get excited about it," says John Barron, director of relationship marketing of CVS/pharmacy.
And what about the blog chatter about getting free stuff?
"We're glad that CVS/pharmacy customers share tips and stories with one another about how using Extra Bucks has made a big impact on their lives and budgets," Barron says.
Gifford says CVS/pharmacy is far and away known as the place to shop, especially in the community of blogging moms who write about deals and coupons. Yes, they do it to save money but there's also the thrill of the hunt to master those pennyless shopping trips.
So you want in? Here how it works:
If you don't have one of those red ExtraCare cards from CVS/pharmacy, get one online or in stores. Hand it to the cashier every single time you make a purchase at CVS/pharmacy, even if it's just for a pack of gum. Why? Because every time you do, you collect Extra Bucks, which is money that can be used for future CVS/pharmacy purchases. With every purchase, you earn 2 percent of that purchase amount in Extra Bucks and $1 for every prescription filled. Four times a year -- January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 - the store will give you all the Extra Bucks you collected in the last three months and let you use them toward purchases in the store.
Another way to build up Extra Bucks is through a program CVS/pharmacy introduced in April 2007 where they'll advertise certain items that, when purchased, will earn you even higher amounts of Extra Bucks instantaneously. Those bucks will be printed out on your receipt and you bring that receipt with you on your next CVS/pharmacy shopping trip and use it like a coupon toward your purchase. Just make sure you're buying slightly more than your Extra Bucks because CVS/pharmacy doesn't give you change if you don't use the full amount.
Another way savvy CVS/pharmacy shoppers save is taking advantage of the store's coupons and weekly sales. The store will print out coupons on their receipts and they've also recently installed kiosks in 4,000 stores (266 in Washington, Maryland and Virginia) that will print out coupons on the spot. Gifford has been able to get free items through a buy-one, get-one-free promotion. She uses a buy-one, get-one-free coupon on top of that and ends up paying nothing.
So do you play the CVS/pharmacy game? What's your strategy for getting free stuff there? What other stores have free stuff or good coupons? Who's got the best savings club cards? Post a comment below.
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