The Hassles of Getting Rewards from CVS’s Rewards Program

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CVS’s ExtraCare rewards program promises a lot: 2% back on everything you buy in the store, along with an “Extra Buck” for every two prescriptions filled. The problem is that an unknown (but presumably huge) number of customers never realize those rewards.

The LA Times’ David Lazarus takes the program to task:

Rather than keeping track of your Extra Bucks in the company’s computer system and applying Extra Buck credits to each new purchase, CVS includes your Extra Bucks on an unusually lengthy receipt every three months.

In other words, customers are expected to schlep the yard-long receipt around with them and to apply the Extra Bucks themselves.

Moreover, you can’t spend a few Extra Bucks here and a few there. If you have $10 worth of Extra Bucks and apply them to a $5 purchase, the rest are forfeited.

In February, after I wrote a post entitled “How Customer Loyalty Isn’t Being Rewarded” that mentioned the shortcomings of reward programs—including that of CVS. Afterward, a CVS representative reached out to me and tried to explain that the company’s reward program was far ahead of the pack, that it was more high-tech and more consumer friendly than the competition. I sent an e-mail back with some questions similar to the ones that Lazarus poses in his story. Here’s a snippet of my message:

The system seems pretty high-tech, scannable and all. So why is it that customers only get credited for their Extra Bucks if they produce a paper receipt? Seems outdated — and also, a pretty easy way for customers to never use their bucks (b/c they unknowingly toss out their three-foot long receipt, which I’m sure I personally have done). Why isn’t the credit just added to the customer’s account? What’s the company’s reasoning here? Any stats you care to pass along regarding what % of Extra Bucks are actually redeemed?

No one responded to my questions.

But Lazarus reports that CVS is now in the process of tweaking the program so that reward program members actually get their rewards:

The solution seems pretty obvious: Keep the Extra Bucks stored on CVS’ computers or on customers’ cards. That way, customers will be assured of receiving their rewards each time they make another purchase and will have a powerful incentive to keep bringing their business to CVS.

I’m glad to say that CVS has reached the same conclusion.

“We’re working toward what you’re describing,” [CVS chief marketing officer Rob] Price said. “As we speak, we have a militia of technical people looking at how the receipt won’t be the currency going forward. The goal is to have the reward stored in the customer’s card.”

How and when will this goal be achieved? And once changes are made and CVS has to live up to the entirety of its promises, will the program still promise to hand as many Bucks back to customers as it does now?

Those questions haven’t been answered yet.