Thursday, March 21, 2013

Albertson's & Hasbro Bros: Not a Match Made in Heaven

Dear Albertsons,


We love your store. We love the convenience of your local Carrollton store (#4269). Even my kids, ages one and three, love your store. At just under a mile from our home, we sometimes make a fun afternoon of grocery shopping, pulling the kids’ Little Tykes wagon up the hill to our neighborhood store, the kids riding in your police car shopping cart while we run down our grocery list, collecting fun stickers from your tireless and good-humored cashiers, and then coasting our wagon back down the hill to go home.


The grocery manager – I believe that’s his position – is always present, friendly, and helpful throughout the store. It doesn’t matter if we’re shopping on a weekday morning or a Sunday afternoon, he’s always there, making sure the shelves are in order, checking to see that we’ve found what we need, and letting me know about that week’s specials.


Your cashiers can get my kids to smile, especially in that crisis moment when my cart goes one way to get loaded, and I go the other to pay the bill. Call it overly ambitious attachment parenting, but my kids always freak out. If I were a cashier, I’d wear earplugs, roll my eyes, and tell their mom to shop faster, so her kids weren’t worn out by the end. The cashiers at #4269 pass out stickers, and my kids put them on like a badge of honor: they’ve survived another grocery shopping trip.


For their part, the courtesy clerks push the cart of panicked kids around to my side of the counter, and then cheerfully go out of their way to load our bagged groceries. And someone always offers to help us to the car.


So we love your store.


But here’s the deal: we hate your Monopoly game.


Sure it looks fun, the store decorated with Hasbro Bros memorabilia, bonus ticket opportunities everywhere you look. We picked up three game boards in anticipation of our multiplicitous game tickets (our monthly grocery budget is second only to our mortgage), and we even set up a special side table in our kitchen to help organize the games.


Somehow, Albertsons has managed to suck all of the fun out of my favorite childhood game, and instead stirred up forgotten memories of throwing the board in protest when I found my older brother, appointed banker, was secretly “borrowing” from the bank.


Through an awful combination of over-complication, circuitous ticketing, and misnomer “prizes,” Albertsons has created this terrible, long-term, addictive experience, colored it a popular American past-time, and called it a “game.”


There’s the tickets: a folding, a tearing, a folding, a tearing, a peeling, tearing, tearing, tearing, and in the end, so many little pieces of trash. My three-year-old with a glue stick could create a secure game piece that’s easier to open. (That's not true. He'd have to be some kind of creative genius. But I bet your marketing people could.) When we finally get the tiny ticket apart, we separate all the little pieces magically contained therein:

-      Coupons. (25 cents off of whipped cream? How about coupons for the stuff we really need? Free milk! Free bread! I guess those would qualify as “prizes.”)


-      Bonus Monopoly Tickets. (The opportunity to go through this ticket-opening process two more times?)


-      Online game codes. (Oooh, thousands of prizes from online codes! Wait, two more losing tickets is considered a prize? I feel like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, after he joined Little Orphan Annie’s idealistic posse, only to find her coded secret message was just a marketing scheme: “Drink more Ovaltine?!”)

-      Actual Monopoly pieces. (To be licked and pressed down. I miss the old lick-and-stick postage stamps. I’m sure we all did. Thanks for bringing this back.)


There’s the board. Oh the board. It’s not a square track, like the traditional game, just pages and pages of small print and groceries. In our overwhelmed state of mind, when we first opened the board, my husband exclaimed, “There are letters, it must be alphabetical!” Nope. Perhaps Mapquest could create a special “Albertsons Monopoly” link, to help locate where all these little pieces go.


There’s the prizes, those elusive prizes. We have three game boards, each with 26 almost-monopolies. Each potential monopoly is missing that one winning piece that’s probably at the bottom of someone’s grocery sack, destined for a dumpster. I wonder, as any sore loser does, for all the 15,658,995 prizes available (including “2 Bonus Game Tickets” as the most popular “prize” available), how many of these prizes are actually claimed?


Nobody enjoys grocery shopping. I think my kids and I do a pretty good job of making it a good time. But seriously, it’s a chore of necessity, not luxury. So when the kids are finally in bed at the end of the day, and the house is clean, and the family’s ready for tomorrow (right, it’s an ideal not a system), the last thing I can handle is the rocket science of Albertson’s Monopoly game.  


I wish I could walk away. But the same gene that makes me categorize my grocery lists by Albertsons aisle, and hyper-organize my coupons, prevents me from willingly leaving a task undone. I might lose, and it might kill me, but I will play this damn Monopoly game until it’s over.


My therapist is working with me not to rant, without positive affirmation (see first five paragraphs) and constructive criticism, so please consider these suggestions for next year’s Monopoly game:


-      Play for a shorter season (or a longer season punctuated by more winning, something besides more playing tickets).


-      Increase the odds of winning (something besides more playing tickets).


-      Adjust the ratio of large, awesome prizes, and small, accessible prizes. (I would be THRILLED to win a free gallon of milk.)


-      Design simpler board games.


-      Create tickets with easier access, such as a pull tab.


Also, if you’ve made it this far in my letter, here’s the gold nugget that could be a game-changer for grocery stores in America, led by the Midwest rising star of Albertsons Market: create the perfect shopping list. In the same display where we pick up your weekly ads, have a simple, check-marked shopping list, with all the grocery staples, listed with aisle number. (Please don’t ask the same marketing company that designs your labyrinth Monopoly board to create this shopping list.) Mothers across America would bless you. And so would your cashiers, for getting those mothers and their whiny children through your store faster.


Thanks for hearing me out.

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