Over the past couple of months I’ve been caught up in what I like to call the “CVS Chain Reaction.” Not really caught up I suppose, but more: “taking advantage of an available and advertised system that happens to string you along.” Let me explain.
Some time ago (I’ve forgotten precisely how long) I noticed a CVS ad. Specifically: “Frosted Mini Wheats = 3 for $7.” I happen to like Frosted Mini Wheats and that seemed like a reasonable price, 3 for $7 = 1 for $2.33. Oh and the deal had an additional feature: “buy 3 get $2 in “Extra Bucks.” So it was really “3 for $5” or 1 for $1.67. Now I wasn’t certain what “Extra Bucks” were, but I like any bucks, so extra ones sounded fine to me. Plus, I had a $1 coupon to boot.
So I go into CVS, grab three boxes and present my $1 coupon. I pay $6 out of pocket and get a nifty receipt with stats like a baseball card. The “retail price” for those three boxes was $14.07. Yikes. I guess some people out there pay that, but not me. The sale price was $7. My out of pocket was $6. Then the receipt also had $2 in “extra bucks” along with a $1 CVS coupon for cereal. Of course the catch is that you don’t get those “extra” two dollars until you buy something else. Like I said, they string you along.
So, never having thought about purchasing anything from CVS, what was I to buy? Why, more Frosted Mini Wheats of course. This time was even better. 3 for $7, another $1 coupon, a $1 CVS coupon and $2 in extra bucks = $3 out of pocket. I get another receipt, same cool stats, and the same $2 in extra bucks.
Having fulfilled my cereal quota for the quarter, I now have $2 to spend on other stuff. Each week I strategically plan an item or couple of items to “buy.” Sometimes they are free, sometimes it’s just a dollar or two – but in each instance additional “extra bucks” accompany the purchase. And so the chain goes on and on – each time buying an item with extra bucks that gives me more extra bucks. It’s a vicious cycle.
Eventually I get tired of this sequence (14 separate purchases) and decide to buy some, wait for it and then gasp, non-“extra buck” items. It started with Frosted Mini Wheats, it ended with laundry detergent and paper towels.
Here’s a list of items that I gathered through the “CVS Chain Reaction”:
8 boxes of Frosted Mini Wheats
3 liters of mouthwash
7 tubes of toothpaste
3 bottles of body wash
3 liquid soaps
4 cans of soup
3 large bottles of laundry detergents
1 roll of paper towels
In total I collected 36 items. How much do you think they cost and / or would have cost? Go ahead, take a guess. I don’t know if what follows will be impressive or not, but its fun to guess anyway.
Here’s the punch line:
Retail Price = $156.44
Sale Price = $99.87
Out of Pocket = $34.35
Some people out there paid $156.44 for the same 36 items that I happened to accumulate. Perhaps not literally the exact same shopping list, but nonetheless full price for the items described above. For the thrifty among us, taking advantage of sale prices, those items would have only cost $100 or so. For me, it came out to just $34.35 – less than $1 per item. A feat that would have been, in my opinion, impressive for just one of those items much less 36 of them.
Personally I would have settled for a $1 box of Frosted Mini Wheats and been on my way, but they insisted.