The new feature was announced earlier this week, and customers have begun noticing it rolled out in stores, prompting an outcry from those who aren't signed up to the retailer's Everyday Rewards program.
One disgruntled shopper shared a photo of a shelf label that highlights how customers are now separated into different status groups when it comes to certain prices. The image shows packets of Cobs Salted Caramel Popcorn priced at two for $6 for Everyday Rewards members, and $4 each for non-members.
The loyalty program is free to join and customers can access the members-only specials by scanning their Everyday Rewards card at the checkout. Members also get $10 off their shop when they earn 2,000 points.
Woolies shoppers slam change
Many shoppers are unhappy with the move, with one vowing to "take my money elsewhere", while another said that such subscription programs sneaking into supermarkets is "a form of rot".
Others complained that having multiple prices would cause confusion. "I got tricked by this a couple of times," one Reddit user vented, referring to a previous iteration of the offer. "I didn't have a rewards card then, and the non-member price was so small, I didn't know I was going be charged more until I got to the register."
Everyday Rewards changes inevitable
Consumer expert Professor Gary Mortimer says the move is a no-brainer for Woolies, as it will attract more Aussies looking for ways to spend less amid the cost-of-living crisis. "The challenge of supermarket shopping is that we know most consumers will shop across two or three different brands of grocery supermarket to save money," he explained to Yahoo News.
"But having a program that's stickier than others works better for a retailer. If you're able to create a program that creates a level of exclusivity and better value for your members, they're more likely to shop with you and stick with you."
Shoppers refuse to sign up over privacy concerns
Responding to the photo on Reddit, some outraged shoppers cited privacy concerns as the reason they don't want to join the loyalty scheme. "They are trying to get as many consumers signed up as members as possible. That way, they can own your data on what you shop, how you shop and when you shop," one shopper wrote.
"They want to know everything down to your blood composition so they can work out what to sell you, and how to sell it to you in order to bypass your better judgement," another commented.
However, Professor Gary Mortimer says shoppers needn't be worried. "Those customers who are up in arms about supermarkets holding their data have possibly been living in a cave for the last 30 years," he told Yahoo News. "Ever since Flybuys launched in 1994, every time you scan your rewards card with whichever retailer, you understand that they're going to capture who you are and what you just bought."
Members welcome change
Several customers echoed Professor Mortimer's sentiment. "Receiving emails with specials when MY groceries are on sale is the best system they implemented," wrote one Reddit user, while another replied, "Who cares if they collect data on what I shop? OMG, they know I eat beef mince and tasty cheese!"
An Everyday Rewards spokesperson explained to Yahoo that member pricing will be a big focus moving forward. "Our Everyday Rewards Member Price offers are a new way for us to deliver even more value to our customers, through our Everyday Rewards program. We plan to continually evolve our Member Pricing program with more Member Pricing offers to be introduced in the coming weeks."
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.