Shopper's X-rated Woolworths stunt: 'Mr F**k you'

Lawyer Tyrone Barugh is fed up with Woolies - so he's trolling the supermarket in the best way.

Lawyer Tyrone Barugh pictured (left) and a Woolworths Rewards card being used at checkout (right).
Lawyer Tyrone Barugh strongly believes signing up to Woolworths Rewards isn't in a customer's best interest. Source: X/Woolworths

There's no denying the public's opinion of Woolworths has taken a hit of late. And some of us are fighting back in small but creative ways – with one increasingly renowned legal troll taking aim at the supermarket's popular Rewards program.

As the cost of living crisis rolls on, he has found comfort in a small yet mighty X-rated protest in his registration to the Woolworths Rewards scheme, claiming it's his way of pushing back against the negative consequences of the program, which he argues the supermarket giant is practically able to "force" people to join because of its market dominance.

Kiwi lawyer Tyrone Barugh, who is also permitted to practice law in New South Wales according to his law firm's website, has signed up to the supermarket's loyalty scheme under the name 'Mr F**k You', meaning all of the marketing correspondence and his digital Rewards card all bear the profane moniker.

The small act of consumer disobedience is about calling out price discrimination, a lack of transparency, and overwhelming customer surveillance, he told Yahoo News Australia.

"Supermarket loyalty cards seem plainly bad for consumers. They reduce price transparency, facilitate price discrimination, can result in consumer lock in, and can raise the barriers to entry for competitors," he said.

The cheeky pseudonym not only honours his strong feelings about the loyalty scheme but also gives the emails a "much more authentically Australian" touch, which he admittedly enjoys.

A email header reads, 'F**k, onion deals that will give you tears of joy'.
Tyrone Barugh signed up to Woolworths Rewards using the name 'Mr F**k you'. Source: X

Barugh is strongly against Woolworths Rewards, as well as other supermarket loyalty schemes, as he believes they're not designed with customers' best interest in mind and instead track their spending habits and brand preferences which supermarkets capitalise on.

"They're privacy-intrusive because they facilitate the identification and tracking of individual consumers," he told Yahoo, saying this information is then disclosed to marketing partners. With this being the case, Barugh decided he would sign up for the loyalty scheme under a different name to create a wedge between himself and the tracking technology.

"So if Woolworths is going to start tracking my preferences, I'd rather them attribute their sophisticated model of my preferences and buying habits to a 'Mr F**k You' than to me," the lawyer said.

"The typical consumer isn't going to read the Woolworths privacy policy or the Everyday Rewards membership terms. And even if they did, there's an imbalance of power and very little ability for consumers to push back."

A digital Woolworths Rewards card pictured.
Not very polite, really. Source: Supplied

Barugh claims despite the obvious downfalls of the Rewards schemes for shoppers, they have little choice but to sign up or otherwise face higher prices as a non-member. This is because Woolworths often offer one price to those registered with Woolworths Rewards and a different one to those who have not.

"You're practically forced to sign up unless you can afford to pay a penalty price for your groceries," he said.

"They [also] facilitate price discrimination insofar as some customers are targeted for deals. But price discrimination also occurs if a consumer is well off enough to opt out of the rewards scheme," he added.

A Sydney shopper recently called out this price discrepancy in March after he spotted supermarket shelf labels displaying differing prices for the same item, with a 1L of Dove body wash listed at $8.50 for members, yet non-members had to pay almost double the price for it. The shopper called it "black and white price gouging".

Barugh believes loyalty schemes are a lose-lose situation for customers but admits his protest is a small

"[I'm] surprised that 'Mr. F**k You' still has a valid Everyday Rewards card," he laughed.

It's not just consumers pushing back either. In a submission to the Senate inquiry investigating the supermarket duopoly in Australia, Queensland Fruit and Vegetables Growers (QFVG) said the supermarkets' control of data gave them the ability to negotiate lower prices with growers and created an unfair market. "The power imbalance sits within the data," the groups CEO Rachel Chambers said.

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