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CVS announced yesterday that its ExtraCare loyalty card holders earned more than $1.8 billion in savings and rewards during 2008.

The press release regarding the savings read, in part, as follows:

“By using an ExtraCare card, CVS/pharmacy shoppers earn ‘CVS/pharmacy dollars’ called Extra Bucks on nearly all purchases. Some Extra Bucks offers are instant coupons that print when you purchase specially advertised products, and quarterly Extra Bucks rewards are issued to cardholders in January, April, July and October. All cardholders earn 2% back on non-prescription purchases and $1 Extra Buck for every two prescriptions purchased. These rewards are issued to cardholders at the end of each quarter on the bottom of your receipt and by email to cardholders that have provided an email address at CVS.com … Cardholders have until February 15 to receive their personal savings out of more than $69 million in Extra Bucks currently being paid out to CVS/pharmacy shoppers. Extra Bucks rewards can be redeemed for up to 45 days following the date of print. With so many people looking for simple ways to save money, Extra Bucks make it easy to get everyday essentials, including health, beauty and household needs, without breaking the bank.

The release goes on:

"’Who couldn't use a few Extra Bucks?’ asked John Barron, Director of Relationship Marketing at CVS/pharmacy. ‘CVS/pharmacy shoppers have been using the ExtraCare program to save money year after year, and these everyday savings really add up. With more than $69 million in Extra Bucks being given to cardholders this month, we are reminding all of our customers not to toss out their receipts without first checking the bottom, or they might be throwing away free money’.”

KC's View:
I’m posting all this verbiage because I happen to be a CVS customer (one of its stores happens to be in the same building that house MNB World Headquarters), I’m part of the ExtraCare program, and I have to admit that I’m totally confused about how all this works.

Maybe I’m just a dolt. Maybe, like Denny Crane, I’m suffering from mad cow. Or maybe the program isn’t nearly as transparent and user friendly as it needs to be.

All I know about the ExtraCare program is that you don't need a card to get the points – you just need to give the cashier your phone number (which is a very nice feature, by the way). Then, the cashier gives me a receipt that, no matter how many items I have bought, seems to be about three feet long, and I generally throw it out because I’m just annoyed by it.

Never gotten an email from CVS. Never had anyone in the store point out how to get savings. And I had no idea that there was a deadline involved.

My point is this. (And I am not picking on CVS here. There probably are a lot of companies making the same mistakes.) These programs have to be easier to use, easier to understand, and less dependent on three foot receipts.

On the other hand, maybe I am a dolt.