Surprise: Grocery Store Loyalty Cards Really Do Help People Return Lost Keys

The Colombus Dispatch informs us that Kroger loyalty cards do, in fact, help people find lost keys.

The U.S. Postal Service delivers about 100 sets of lost keys each week to the Great Lakes region Kroger headquarters in Westerville, which covers most of Ohio, Michigan and West Virginia. Kroger employees look up customers’ addresses and ship the keys and any attachments to their homes, often to very surprised owners.

“You just sent me a set of keys that I had already written off as gone forever,” one wrote. “You people are GREAT! The gesture was just as valuable as the keys you sent back to me!”

The key-return perk, touted when store discount cards first became popular about seven years ago at all types of retailers, has been wildly successful. Local postal carriers find six to 15 sets of keys a week in mailboxes, said Ray Jacobs of the Postal Service in Columbus.

“Any time there’s a big event Downtown, we end up with a bunch of them,” he said.

Aw. That’s nice. We always wondered if those things actually worked, but were unwilling to lose our keys just to find out. Now we know.

In other news, here’s the Weinermobile again. It’s following us.

Loyalty cards save another thing: lost keys [Columbus Dispatch]
(Photo:axinar)

Comments

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  1. AlexDitto says:

    Ah, the Weinermobile. Some call it stalking, I call it processed meat-food byproduct. Hey, I should get that on a t-shirt.

    Is it only Kroger that does this? A shame we don’t have any down here in Florida. It’s certainly a nice thing to do; Publix should take note.

  2. Televiper says:

    I don’t know about the States but Canada’s War Amps has a key return service that gives you a little plastic tag for your keys. It’s been around as long as I can remember. If you ever find keys with the tag on it you can just throw them in a mail box and they find their way back to the owner.

    [www.waramps.ca]

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    On the other hand, they’re the principle reason that I lose my keys in the first place (have to take them out of my pocket to scan the fob.)

    Of course, I notice that I don’t have them by the time I get to the car.

  4. rbb says:

    I hope Oscar Mayer is paying you guys for all the product placements you guys have been doing lately…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Man, I feel pretty crappy for putting fake info on the application for my Kroger card now.

    Wouldn’t it be just as good to create your own tag with your name, address, phone number, and postage guaranteed statement to attach to your keys?

  6. bsankr says:

    @AlexDitto:
    “where shopping is a strain on your wallet.”

  7. kingofmars says:

    I once found somebody’s keys with no identification on them except a Howard county, md library card key chain. I took it to the library and asked them to look up the person’s telephone number. They couldn’t give me that information, but they did take the keys and call the person themselves. It’s a nice way to get your keys back.

  8. Hawkins says:

    Darren666: You’re probably right about putting a homemade return-address tag on your keys, with your address.

    In the old days, before hotel room keys turned into plastic cards, hotel keys all had the words “RETURN POSTAGE GUARANTEED, DROP IN ANY MAILBOX,” with the hotel’s address, next to the room number.

    I normally provide bogus information when I fill out the application for store loyalty cards. In addition to the standard privacy-paranoia reasons, it amuses me to think up variations on the name “McDouchebag.”

    But for some reason I didn’t for Harris Teeter, our local supermarket chain, and one morning, profoundly hung over, I forgot to take the $80 cash-back that I’d requested. They tracked me down like a dog, and called me at home, and made me come back and get my 80 bucks.

  9. kingoman says:

    @Darren666: Yes, by all means, please be sure to include the info about where all your keys work so that when I find them I’ll know where I can use them!

  10. GearheadGeek says:

    You certainly don’t want your address on your keys. That’s like saying “Here’s where to find the car that belongs to these keys” and for most people (myself included) “One of these keys opens the residence at that address, too.” If you have a PO box and put “BOXHOLDER” as the name, it might not be too risky.

  11. ptkdude says:

    Dammit… now I want hot dogs.

  12. kingoman says:

    @GearheadGeek: Unless your pobox key is on the ring… leading to mail theft where they learn even more about you… and get exactly the information you were trying to make safer by having a pobox in the first place.

    You really *want* any kind of return-my-keys mechanism to go through a 3rd party. But many organizations (e.g. ex-students associations or AAA) provide this. I didn’t know any grocers did this but it makes sense and is very cool.

  13. Alvis says:

    Grocery store guy drives up to a roadside vegetable stand where you’re shopping to return your keys:

    “I believe you lost these, ma’am”

    “How do.. how did you know where I’d be, and who I am?”

    “Well of course the dozens of cameras in our stores watch you while you shop and tie that data to your Value Plus card on checkout, so we’ve had your picture for some time now. Your buying history also shows you buying many vegetable-REALTED products like dips and dressings, while purchasing too few vegetables from us to explain the need. Our computers decided you were buying vegetables at a non-network venue. Knowing where our store is, where you work, and where you live, it was an easy matter to triangulate where you might be shopping. And as your kids need to be picked up from day care in twenty minutes just down the road, the timing made sense.”

  14. GitEmSteveDave says:

    My one set of keys has about…….at least 10 “shopper” fobs on it. I’d say more than 75% have a “drop in mailbox,postage guaranteed” statement on them. My question is: Which fob do they send the keys to?

  15. Televiper says:

    I once tracked down the owner of a lost dog by calling the animal hospital with the vaccination tag number. Similar deal as mentioned above with the Library card. They wouldn’t give me the information, but they did call the owner for me. In hind sight I should of just crossed the street.

    About loyalty cards. Please just refuse the damn things. Lets stomp them out completely, they’re annoying, and take up too much space in the wallet. Be loyal to a ma and pa setup and they’ll actually just learn your name and ding a few bucks off at will.

  16. EtherealStrife says:

    Huh. Well if Ralph’s wasn’t the devil incarnate, I might actually find this to be a pleasant surprise. As is, I’d check my house for stolen items. Address + keys + minimum wage. . . .

    @GitEmSteveDave: @Televiper: [www.justoneclubcard.com]

  17. Jon Parker says:

    @kingofmars: I have one of those HoCo library key tags, but it’s not on my keys. I think I’ll put it on there. Thanks!

  18. Raziya says:

    When I was in the service desk at Shaw’s, I used to have to look up customer’s information all the time…they lost their keys, checks, driver’s license…it’s useful to have that information around to be able to help someone out if they have left something important behind!

  19. aNGryPsycHo says:

    I recently had a similar experience after losing my keys at a Tom Thumb grocery store in the DFW area. Approximately six weeks after losing them, I received a letter from their corporate office in Houston telling me they received my keys and asked me to call to identify the keys and advise to which store I’d like them to be sent.

    After the loss, I had contacted their corporate customer service to find out if anyone finding the keys would have access to my personal information, and was told that not even the local employees would be able to get my address based on the loyalty card tag number. Somewhat reassuring, but my property manager changed my door locks for me anyway.

    So even though the keys weren’t really important anymore, I was thrilled to get back my custom-made keychain. Maybe I lose a bit in privacy, but do I really care if Joe Grocer knows how much I spend on yogurt and what type of coffee I drink? Eh, not so much.

  20. jgkelley says:

    It’s Columbus Dispatch. Not Colombus.

    -Yours,

    Columbus, OH Native.

    And so that I have something useful to say in this discussion –
    If you ever lose your wallet/purse (so I’m slightly off topic), be sure to cancel your library card. Thieves are cleverer than you might think. My mom once owed hundreds of dollars in “borrowed” videos and cds that she did not check out after losing her purse.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always wondered what they’d do if you have more than one of those tags on your keys. So they send it in the direction of one of the addresses, but who’s to say that the guy at the next facility won’t read a different tag and send your keys in an endless mail loop?

  22. Nytmare says:

    Could you ask the library to just take down their description / call the police the next time the person with her card came in to “borrow” things?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well, after reading this, I decided it was worthwhile giving Kroger my real address. Given I use my credit card all the time, they already have my address on file somewhere anyway.

    You can do this online: http://www.kroger.com , click on ‘My Kroger’, create an account, then link your Kroger Card to your account. Then, you can update your Kroger Card to a real address.

    (Note – this only works if you remember the fake info you signed your card up for, since they ask you some details when you sign up)

  24. Anonymous says:

    @kingoman: Good point.

    I stated in a previous post that it sounds worthwhile to give up your real information to Kroger anyway, in light of this story.

    However, as an alternative: one could consider just leaving only a phone number (make sure its unlisted or a cellular, otherwise they can still find your address) and an offer for a reward if found, or (with permission) using a friend’s address instead of your own.

    If you live in an apartment/condo, often times just leaving off your apt #. still leaves enough information to get anything delivered (and at the very least, they can deliver it to the management office).

  25. Anonymous says:

    @mugsywwiii: Get a sharpie and scratch out the address and ‘postage guaranteed’ of the offending tag(s), leaving only one tag untouched.

  26. jeff303 says:

    @GitEmSteveDave: They take all the cards off, mail them individually to their respective addresses, and discard the keys

  27. Buran says:

    Just put a stuffbak.com tag on your keys. My VW key has a round one on it below the VW logo. Anonymous, the finder gets a reward, and I get my keys back if lost.

  28. rmz says:

    USAA does this too — for free, they’ll send you a (pretty stylish) metal keychain with your USAA number and “IF FOUND, DROP IN ANY MAILBOX” engraved on it, and if they’re put in the mail, they’ll be sent to USAA who will then get them back into your hands.

  29. The Farmer Jack tag on my keyring actually says “If found, return to any Farmer Jack supermarket,” which would be useful if there were any Farmer Jack stores left in my area. Why do I still have that tag on my keys?

    @Televiper: I know there used to be a similar program in the United States, because my grandparents used it. Here in Michigan, the vets gave you a little tag that looked like a miniature license plate, complete with a unique plate number.

    I haven’t seen those since the late 1970s, though, so I think the program ended.

  30. Raachie says:

    Mailbox? Postal Service? Wait how did I lose my keys in order for them to be found by the same people who mailed my sister’s Graduation Invitations 5 months after they were sent TO A RECIPIENT IN THE SAME STATE ? Gee.. I’d imagine by the time these people got their keys, they would have gotten new ones made by then.

  31. jdorian says:

    I used to work at a supermarket for 10 years. About every three months the local police department would come over to ask us to provide an address so that keys could be returned. And if we could do it, we did. Sometimes however, if the card was not issued at our store, we would need to call the store it was issued at and have them look it up. Even if the address we had on file was out of date, the police normally had their methods to tracking people down.

  32. dvdchris says:

    I work at Blockbuster, and someone calls every couple weeks or so with the lost keys scenario. We pull up the customer account number and call the member on behalf of the finder of the keys, or have the finder bring them to the store.
    About half the time, however, the information we have on file for the member is completely invalid and we are of no help to contact the member.
    Keep your information updated!

  33. cheddarpants says:

    I work for Kroger, and we have no access to customers’ Kroger Plus Card information at the store level. If we have keys turned in at the store, we call the Loyalty department, and they contact the customer and tell them where the keys are.