In 2014, we had some interesting news in manufactured spending. We’ve seen deals that died like CVS going cash only for Vanilla Reloads. Then they strengthened the checking of identities of bulk cash equivalent sales and changed the policy to $2,000 per day.
I wanted to write more about the systems implementation behind the scenes that as consumers we may not realize, except for the very astute Free-quent Flyer when he saw Walmart was deploying new code into the point of sale systems.
CVS & Vanilla Reload
Let’s talk about Vanilla Reloads quickly. In March we heard that “as of March 31” Vanilla Reloads at CVS will go cash only.
— Tim Pressman (@Ringsthecaddy) March 29, 2014
However, there have been a few reported incidents of Vanilla Reloads working the day of March 31 like from View From The Wing. As I had predicted, it wasn’t nationwide on March 31.
If we look at the latest change sent from CVS corporate to the field on the $2,000 daily limit. They said effective October 27 it would be at the lower limit. However, as Milenomics pointed out, it was before the 27th and the change already went into effect.
Both incidents from CVS have very similar language, but different execution. Behind the scenes, CVS started deploying the Vanilla Reload cash only software update starting on March 31. Hence, Gary was able to buy on that day. When CVS lowered the limits, they started before October 27 with the completion on October 27, as seen by Milenomics. Both updates were phased in. I’d like to reiterate that there are thousands of CVS point of sales machines and having bad code pushed into all the POS would be bad business. Thus, the prudent and wise choice is to phase in slowly and iron out the bugs in case any arise. We don’t know how CVS programs the prepaid products in terms of reporting, tax implications, profit sharing, etc etc. We do know the system had a capability to enforce a cash only policy per SKU (stock keeping unit) as we knew from MoneyPaks. So it was peculiar that it took them more than a day to enforce the cash only policy on Vanilla Reloads.
A reader on the forum, InstinctX, alerted us to this phenomenal deal where Staples messed up with entering a transaction coupon and applied 20% off every thing, including gift cards and the purchase fee. I have never seen a coupon like that, but this ties into the point of sale system and how the coupon was entered. We know there have been mistake coupons where it would work on Apple products that are typically excluded.
If I were a betting man, I bet there is a data entry department who coordinates with the marketing team and entered the 20% off coupon. They quickly entered it into the system and was fired off nationwide. No one checked the coupon for exceptions. From that fiasco, I can guarantee operationally, they will now test the coupon before sending it to the field.
Data entries like that mean the user must consciously keep in mind exclusions like the fine print of Apple products. If they’re not entered, then the coupon will work.
Let’s talk about Macy’s. Below is an old Friends and Family coupon:
Every coupon they ever publish have a million exceptions. If I were to take a guess, whoever enters that coupon always has a base of those exceptions by default. Thus, they won’t have any problems when they issue a coupon. If Staples starts with a list of exceptions as a “base” to build coupons like Macy’s you will definitely see many of their coupons work as promised.
You Won’t See Many Changes
Most of the upgrades at the point of sale you will never see or notice as they are back end. For the customer facing software, as FQF pointed out, we will see only if you’re a very frequent customer. I can’t comment on the changes at Walmart because I haven’t seen the changes myself. I have noticed they have started changing out the PIN pads. Some are now color, digital displays. Because of that, I believe they have rolled out new code and awaiting for nationwide PIN pad upgrades for the EMV chip compatibility.
Most upgrades really are enhancements, not the loyalty program “enhancements.” It could be adding functionality like allowing an associate to override the price instead of having a manager on duty.