Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Plastic creep

On the list of "You know you're going Dutch when" includes such things as: waiting for a parking space--for your bike, cruising Marktplaats.nl for furniture, and wearing leggings-and-boots (ladies) or blazer-and-t-shirt (gents). Women, in particular, will carry purses that can outfit an entire army platoon, and sometimes does--Karel tells me that, on more than one occasion, when he was little, his mother would pull out a sweater from her purse for him.

But perhaps one of the definitive "You know you're going Dutch" signs is having an Albert Heijn card. As one of the most ubiquitous supermarkets, what makes the AH (pronounced "ah-ha") unique in a land of penny-pinchers is that it's actually not the cheapest, and the generic supermarket brand of stuff is a cut more expensive than the truly generic stuff. Actually, the last is not unique to the AH, and I've noticed the same at the C1000. The difference is that you don't mind it at the AH, but you do mind at the C1000, and I think it's because the packaging of C1000 stuff looks so tacky cheap, and if you check the price, you expect it to be lower than it is.

One of the first things integrated expats will have learned is that getting a Bonus Card will save you lots on your groceries. This little piece of plastic lets you take full advantage of sales, and get the lowest prices on items marked with a "BONUS" sign. Whether or not it's actually the lowest price you can find is debatable, and framed by the greater question of whether it's worth the twenty-minute bike ride in the other direction to find out.

About three years into my stay here, the Bonus Card was joined by my Ringfoto card, where I'd bought my DSLR. 1% cash back made sense at the time: I'd spent about €1500 over one month for all the stuff associated with a DLSR, and that netted me a set of free prints. Since then, it's not seen much action at all.

Then my boyfriend went on a survivalist kick and procured a Bever Zwerfsport card: Bever is kind of like REI in the States, selling fashionably styled Gore-tex--because we all know that, when you're in the middle of nowhere, pink is "in". But they also carry a lot of really handy things, like water bottles and (good) flashlights, carabiners, heavy-duty walking shoes, climbing gear, and Sporks (handy for lunch). Why do I have it, if he's the survivalist? Because he never remembers his :-D

We didn't mind: Outdoor gear and photo prints aren't things we get regularly, and the time between purchases is long enough to allow us to forget that we'd signed away our annonymity for 25% off retail price. We don't buy from those stores often enough to be considered "valued customers". If it'd just stopped there, we would have been golden.

But I draw the line at Kruidvat. Kruidvat is sort of like a cross between a dollar store and a CVS--it's always fun to browse the crap racks in the back of the store, because every now and then something nice will pop up. It's where I buy things like shampoo, so I go there pretty frequently, the better to stock up on name brands at generic prices. Imagine my surprise, then, when the cashier did not ring up the price on the sign, but something in between the advertised price and the full price. When I pointed out this discrepancy, she merely handed me the flyer for a Kruidvat card. "Use this to get the full discount."

I'm not sure why this annoys me so much. It's not like you have to give out your bank information with anything--unlike a credit card, these are basically just bar codes that get scanned at the time of purchase. Maybe it has to do with my ego asserting itself, saying, "I'm ME, not Every Other Dutch Dude." Maybe it's because my wallet is that much heavier. Maybe it's that the Kruidvat card is so virulently red--and that's just the one side; the other side is silvered, so that it can reflect "your smile when you see how much you've saved". Because really? Who smiles at a bottle of shampoo?


  1. AH is always a dual card for me - AirMiles is right alongside. However after years of using it, I still haven't accumulated enough AirMiles for anything useful. Jumbo is pushing me to take a care now; I'm resisting -- didn't even know that Kruidvat had one.
    Enjoy the great spring weather

  2. I keep on losing my AH cards which does not seem to be a very effective way of saving money with them :p