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Are you one of the masses that, every Friday night, trawl around the nearest supermarket. Do you dread that “bumper car” experience with your trolley, do you get annoyed when your partner/children stops to sniff/read/play with whatever it is that Asda/Tescos/Sainsburys/Safeway et al.. have strategically placed on their shelves? Well I have something that might just make your experience just a tad more bearable! How about if you were rewarded for your weekly trip to the supermarket?
HOW DO YOU GET TO BE A REWARDED SHOPPER EXTRAORDINAIRE THEN?
I belong to Fact Finders who are part of AC Nielsen, one of the worlds largest Market Research companies. Fact Finders want to know about your grocery spending habits and in return you are rewarded with points. And, as they say points = prizes! I became involved a few months ago after I was sent an invitation in the post (goodness knows where they got my details from, I guess my shopping addiction must be widely known about!).
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET REWARDED?
Basically every time you shop you need to scan whatever it is that you bought on this special hand held scanner thingy! The “special hand held scanner thingy” is sent to you along with instructions (and training video should you need it) as soon as you are accepted as a panel member. You then plug this into your phone line and hey presto (!) all your scanned shopping details are downloaded to Fact Finders office in Newport, Gwent.
HOW & WHAT DO I SCAN?
You need to scan the barcodes of everything that you would buy in your usual grocery shopping. So if you pop to the corner shop for a pint of milk, scan it! If you spend £100 on your family’s weekly food from Tescos, scan it! You need to scan anything basically that a supermarket sells, regardless of where you buy it from (online, in a supermarket, chemist or over the telephone).
You don’t need to scan things like clothing, electrical goods, DIY stuff, unless of course you bought it from a supermarket ~ in that case they want to know everything you buy!
WHAT ARE THE POINTS WORTH?
You receive 370 points per month (I don’t know if this varies depending on the size of your household, as obviously with more people in your home your job of scanning all of the groceries is going to be much greater) and an additional 750 points as a welcome bonus.
As I have mentioned when you are accepted as a panel member you are sent a parcel with everything you should need in order to participate as a Fact Finders panel member. Included is a gift catalogue (which reminds me of those gift catalogues you get with certain petrol companies, except this one is a little more comprehensive and is like a mini Argos catalogue). Inside is everything from a washing machine (which takes about a decade to save for!) through to garden tools and kitchen utensils.
The company isn’t obviously going to give you something for nothing! So whilst the decent stuff will take several months, if not years to collect for, you can get some gifts after just a month of membership. A few examples:
There is also a monthly prize draw where you can win prizes such as cars and holidays but unfortunately I have yet to win! If you only grocery shop once a week, the job of scanning will be quite minimal so in effect you will be getting rewarded just for a little bit extra hassle on top of your weekly shop. The real big hassle comes if you shop everyday, as everything needs to be scanned.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
Well, apart from the obvious in the fact that you get rewarded for something you buy anyway, you are also contributing to “an important group of households whose shopping decisions will help to influence what retailers actually sell and manufacturers produce”. But if you are like me and just want your rewards you won’t really care about the second bit!
To put it another way, AC Nielsen are getting paid to analyse particular household’s shopping habits and then they pass some of that on to you, the panel member, in the form of gifts.
HOW EASY IS IT?
To be honest when I first received my set-up box full of stuff I was a bit taken back at just how many instructions there were to read. However, after the first practice with the scanner, its actually very easy to use and quite straightforward ~ anything you need to do, the scanner prompts you for. My first attempt at scanning a trolley load of groceries was a nightmare and I had to keep putting stuff back in the freezer before it melted as I was so slow at scanning! It must have taken me about 40 minutes to do my first load of shopping! You also need to tell them where you bought it from (and you will get personalised store cards for the stores that you shop in), the price, any offers and weight/packaging (if it was a fresh or bakery item) ~ all of this can be scanned via barcodes so don’t worry! Sounds complicated? It is really straightforward believe me.
Now I make sure that I pack all of my freezer stuff in one bag and scan this as soon as I get home then move onto everything else. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to scan everything for a weekly shop ~ and is much easier if I tick off the receipt as I go along as you need it to enter in prices.
If it was too much hassle I honestly wouldn’t do it ~ but for something that I do anyway, and it doesn’t take me that much longer to scan, I quite like being rewarded for grocery shopping and am saving up for a rather funky yellow suitcase!
WHAT IF THINGS GO WRONG?
Never fear, the Fact Finders team are at the other end of a freephone helpline during office hours and I have to say they are first class. I have had problems with being on Broadband and also with my answer phone picking up their calls to the scanner ~ on all occasions I have had to phone them they have been very helpful.
In your starter pack you are also given a training video, which I haven’t watched (so that is how straightforward the process is!) and a very useful file full of questions and answers, along with store and offer cards ~ all of which is extremely comprehensive and should answer most of your queries.
The only one that I have experienced is not having enough REN from the phone exchange (as I have loads of things running out of my phone line), which has been easily solved by switching off my answer phone on Saturday nights (when they usually call for automatic download, don’t worry you don’t have to do anything or even be in, just have your scanner connected to your phoneline!). You can also experience a problem if you have Broadband with a DSL filter, I have both and it hasn’t caused too much of a problem for me, but ask them if you are unsure.
You don’t enter into any contract with Fact Finders and can return your equipment (freepost) at any time should you not want to participate or find that you are having problems.
STILL INTERESTED, HOW DO YOU JOIN?
Well you get nothing for referrals so I am writing this out of my own goodwill! But should you still be interested in joining you need to express your interest either by phone, e-mail or letter (details below). This does not guarantee that you will be accepted as a panel member although they may have vacancies in your area. So if they require households of your size in your geographical area (and will keep you on file if they don't) they will send you a form to fill in asking about the members of your household. This is quite painless, takes a few minutes to fill in, and only asks basic information. After sending this away you should receive your parcel of scanner, gift catalogue, video and info file within about 3 weeks. Then you just scan away!
Well you don’t get anything for free do you, but this is as near as you are going to get! The only cost involved is the electricity to charge up the scanner (which is minimal anyway) and your time spent on scanning. If you have children its something they could actually do for you (make them pay their way LOL!) ~ which could bring additional educational benefits too (your justification!). AND...how many other ways do you know of that will reward you for grocery shopping?
If you have any more queries, please leave a comment and I will get back to you.
UPDATE 14.09.02: They have just updated their gift catalogue and most items now require less points which is a definitely a good thing! Plus I forgot to mention that all members receive a monthly leaflet containing info and any competitions that have taken place that month (you get free entry into a monthly prize draw as well as other competitions happening from time to time).
One other thing that I have noticed, and have also informed Fact Finders about is the fact that many of Morrisons household cleaning products won't scan and come up item unknown. Factfinders told me that I just have to enter them on the unknown '9999' key as Morrisons have their own bar codes for things, and the scanner doesn't recognise these products.
I have been a member for a year now and have enough points for quite few items - I am now at 4820 points which is more than enough for a lawn edger or a couple of power tools that I now have my eye on! I forgot to mention that they do have competitions to earn extra points, and send out a 4 page monthly newsletter (which is rather 'housewifey' in its design but lists winners so always worth a quick check!) but as yet I haven't won anything :-(
But, a year later I am still scanning my shopping - its become part of my routine to be honest and takes about 25 minutes after a big weekly shop, which, if you complete online surveys etc... equates to about the same amount of time.
superb, my scanners contract has come to an end and I would love to enrol with another company again. I will hope to get involved with this one. Thanks for sharing.
pink_champagne 29.08.2007 17:54
Fantastic review, covers all point, have an E :)
S.Bate 07.05.2007 09:50
A readable and very informative review. You have given all the necessary info in a clear style, with some warmth and humour added. I am tempted, but I am not sure I could be doing with all that phone line stuff - but I am certainly going to investigate further, on the strength of yours and a couple of other reviews I have so far read, re this scheme. Cheers. SB.