Loblaws has sent $25 gift cards to some customers who never expected to get one.
That’s because they refused a request to send ID to qualify for a card, which the retailer offered as compensation for its role in a national bread price-fixing scandal.
“I was actually kind of shocked,” said Cynthia Mellaney of Sudbury, Ont., who received her gift card in the mail this week. “I’m like, ‘Hey-yeah, I actually won.'”
Due to privacy concerns, she refused the company’s request in March that she send a copy of her driver’s licence or utility bill in order to get a card.
CBC News has corresponded with seven people across Canada who say they declined to send ID months ago but received a $25 gift card in the mail this week.
“I’m surprised,” said Karen Ross in Halifax. “I seriously just opened it and I went, ‘Wow.'”
Loblaws’s about-face follows numerous complaints about the ID demand, which prompted an investigation by Canada’s privacy commissioner.
The retailer has said it asked a “small percentage” of applicants for identification to weed out fraudulent claims. However, it said some people who refused to comply are now getting their card because Loblaws has been able to verify their identity independently.
“In a small numbers of cases [we] were able to validate their information through additional measures, including other publicly available sources,” spokesperson Kevin Groh said in an email to CBC News.
He said some other people received a card despite not complying with the ID request because they either didn’t possess the necessary identification or faced difficulty sending it.
‘Kind of ironic’
Loblaws started offering $25 gift cards in January after admitting its role in a bread price-fixing scandal currently under investigation by Canada’s Competition Bureau. After applying online, many Loblaws customers received their card in the mail.
But others were told they needed to send a copy of their ID either electronically or by mail to qualify.
This sparked complaints from people who were incensed that they’d been asked to hand over sensitive personal data to a company that admitted to fixing the price of bread for more than a decade.
“It’s kind of ironic. They committed fraud and now they’re trying to weed us out for fraud,” Mellaney told CBC News when she received the ID request back in March.
She and other affected customers filed a complaint with Canada’s privacy commissioner.
Mellaney suspects the privacy commissioner’s investigation motivated Loblaws to send gift cards to people who’d rejected the ID request.
“I think that probably Loblaws got their hand slapped.”
The office of the privacy commissioner declined to comment, except to say its investigation is ongoing.
Karen Ross in Halifax suggests Loblaws is doling out cards now to people like her to make amends for a previous decision that caused so much controversy.
“They’re just backpedalling,” she said. “Admit you’re wrong and move on.”
What about me?
Many other people who rejected the ID request report they haven’t received a $25 gift card in the mail — at least not yet.
Cassandra Pollock of Calgary says she’ll be upset if she doesn’t get one. “You can Google me and you can find me on the internet.”
Pollock declined to send ID due to privacy concerns, but says when she got the request, she contacted Loblaws and offered to come to a store and show her identification in person.
“I am willing to provide information in another way that I feel safe doing so, and I offered options, but I got no reply.”
In an email sent to some upset customers in March, Loblaws said “various triggers” could have prompted the ID request such as “large numbers of registrations from a single address, multiple requests under a single or similar name [and] irregularities in a registration.”
Ross said she submitted an honest application, so when she received the ID demand, she stopped shopping at Loblaws stores.
“I was kind of insulted,” she said. “I was treated like I was the enemy.”
She says although she finally got her $25 gift card, she doesn’t plan to return to Loblaws — except to cash in her card.
“I’m going to spend the $25, but that’s it. I’m done.”