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We continue to get emails regarding programs being used by Daymon Associates and Brookshire’s to encourage and reward employees who use private label products; essentially, the companies have created “Publishers Clearing House”-style contests that have their employees sign up to have their kitchens inspected at random times, with prizes being given out based on how many private label items they have in their closets and cabinets. It all seemed harmless to me…but not everyone has agreed.

One MNB user wrote:

You mention that the employee has to sign up to be eligible, thus negating the Storm Trooper invasion aspect of the program. Just like the “Employee Free Choice Act” is not a free choice when a union organizer asks you to sign a card or NOT, when your employer initiates a program for which you have to sign up to be eligible, don’t you think there’s just a tad of pressure to sign up to show you’re a loyal employee? I can see where a manufacturer, say Coca Cola, expects its employees to use its products over rivals, like Pepsi, but this is a grocery store that carries many, many brands, all of which are paying that employee’s wages as well as the idiots who thought up the program. To put the pressure on the employee to financially support the private label brands, at the expense of the national brands, is just not right. It’s like the national brands aren’t contributing to the bottom line of that company. It’s just plain wrong.

MNB user Craig Espelien wrote:

The concept that Daymon and Topco are using to see what their employees are buying is not new – but has not been done with private brands before. The idea that this is a bit like Big Brother watching is a bit off the charts (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist). If you think of it from Daymon’s perspective, the only way they make money is by selling private brands – and if their own employees are not supporting that business, then perhaps they (the employee) should seek another field. In a former life, I encouraged my employees and challenged the in-house broker we used to assess their own usage – and to remember where the paycheck comes from.

You would be surprised by the number of employees of some of the largest retailers who shop at a competitors store for the majority of their needs.

Another MNB user wrote:

Maybe I’m too old, or just too old fashioned, but even with an incentive I would not want my employer looking through my home for private label products. We actually use many private label products and would probably make out pretty well if we were ‘inspected’ because we would have many items in our home, but I would pass on that opportunity out of privacy concerns. One of your reader’s comments noted that employees would feel compelled to buy private label products so they would be viewed as ‘loyal’ employees and I absolutely agree with that assessment. I support my company by making my grocery purchases at our stores and while I purchase many private label products, I don’t appreciate the pressure to buy private label products and wouldn’t sign up for this program regardless of the incentive.

Just my opinion, but I give enough of myself to my employer at work and don’t need or want product inspections in my home. Last, is it any surprise that Daymon would be pushing this type of promotion within all of their customers? They get paid based on sales of private label products, so if they can talk their customers into playing the ‘Big Brother’ role with their employees to sell more private label products they reap the financial reward…

Another MNB user wrote:

Regardless of whether the two programs mentioned are voluntary or not, I believe it is a “slippery slope” scenario. The company I work for has been stressing to us the importance of shopping where we work. It has progressed from “friendly reminders” to now a demand for loyalty. While I agree in principle, the current reality of the economy dictates that I shop where I can afford. Unfortunately, the national chain I work for is not known in any circles as the low-price leader. As a single income family with 3 children, our budget is tight. I can save between $100-$150 a month by shopping at a competitor. The scuttlebutt here is that soon the company is going to be scouring sales via their loyalty card to determine which employees are shopping in our stores.

My loyalty, first and foremost, will always be to my family; I will do what is right for them. But now I am looking at spending the extra $100-$150 per month on groceries, and not having that money to spend on other necessary expenditures. Cuts will need to be made in order to save my job. As I said, it has not come to that, but the writing has clearly been written on the wall. It is just a matter of time.

Another MNB user wrote:

Why is the company wasting man hours and invasion concerns, when all they have to do is look at the reports from their loyalty (?) cards. A computer will tell you how many PL vs. Generic vs. Name Brands, I am buying, and even at what price points.

MNB user John Bastone observed:

Interesting that a retailer with a loyalty program would need to physically go to houses in order to tally up private label purchases, rather than simply looking within their own customer database. Consequently, the program as you described it would seem to encourage the hoarding of low-price point, shelf-stable products in a pantry, rather than consistent consumption of a wider variety of private label products. I think this is a lost opportunity to educate employees (and management) on the customer insights loyalty data can deliver, when coupled with a program that actually rewards loyalty to the Brookshire brand.

Well, to begin with, just checking on purchases at Brookshire’s is a lot less fun. It also is somehow scarier to have management sorting through employees’ receipts to see what they’ve been buying. But maybe that’s just me being a conspiracy theorist.

MNB user Patricia Berry wrote:

I am truly surprised by some of the reactions to the program by Brookshire and Daymon. First of all it is voluntary and if the people are willing to have their employers in their homes that is their choice. My only question to all of these folks that are so against this program is - do you not voluntarily support your companies products by purchasing them at the store? It seems to me that if an employer wants to pay me a salary and I work for a company that is an honest business that supplies a good product, I should not have to be incentivized to purchase that product. I should be loyal without being paid an incentive to do so. Maybe this lack of support by employees to their employers explains why U.S. businesses are failing.

Another MNB user wrote:

These guys need to lighten up a bit. I read it like you did; the employee registered to be visited by the company. What is wrong with a company trying to give money to their employees and rewarding them for something as simple as buying the brands they stand behind. Seems like a great way to build on what should be a natural “community” already.

MNB user Bill Stubbs, who happens to work at Bi-Lo, wrote:

Daymon is our Private Label provider as well. And they have helped us implement this same program. It has generated great excitement and high morale here! Our Teammates LOVE it and many have expressed disappointment that their names were not drawn at random so they could collect the rewards. This is NOT a punishment. We do not penalize them for having OTHER RETAILERS brands in their homes. We simply wanted to increase the awareness of our very high quality Private Brands, generate some excitement, and reward the behavior that we all want to see - Employees who support their company by purchasing products from us.

Rick Ellis, Sr. VP-CMO for Brookshire Grocery Company, offered the following thoughts:

Thanks for “getting it” concerning the store brands program we are doing right now. Our partners (employees) are excited about this promotion, especially the guy last week who won over $700 just for buying Food Club! There is no coercion, threats, or otherwise any pressure to buy these brands---strictly voluntary.

And Daymon’s Tim Davis chimed in about the MNB user who was so offended by the program that he said it “must have been invented by someone named Hitler, Castro, or Obama”:

You are absolutely correct Kevin in that our associates had to “sign up” to be entered in the Prize Patrol sweepstakes. And to be honest many did not want to be included, and that’s fine. Maybe they didn’t want to be home on a Saturday or maybe they just don’t want people to see what they buy. But most did. I can also tell you that I was one of the Prize Patrol members who had the pleasure and privilege of going into the associates’ homes to check their pantries and these folks were very excited about us being there – in every case it was a festive family affair that included the kids, parents and excitement on the whole block. One interesting observation I made from the homes I went to was that their private label items were not unopened new boxes and packages just sitting on the counter as if they had just been purchased. They were half empty and were being concerned and they were front and center in the cabinets and refrigerators. People are not buying more PB because we are in a recession. They are buying more PB because these products offer comparable quality to the national brands at a lower retail. That’s just simple value.

BTW – I take great offense from the reader who compared me and my company to Hitler. I respect everyone’s opinion but that reference was way out of line. What’s so bad about people endorsing and supporting the products represented by their companies – especially when they really see the great value?

You should take offense at the statement. It was an offensive statement on all sorts of levels.

KC's View: