Never - repeat NEVER - leave home without your Albert Heijn bonus card.

Okay, let me just be blunt and say it up front: the Dutch have a reputation for being, er, cheap. I could try to be polite, and say they aren’t exactly known for spending their money freely, but Dutch people even refer to themselves as “tight,” so there is no point in beating around the bush.

This manifests itself in the preponderence of loyalty cards and freebies, a marketing motivation which the Dutch consumer seems all to inclined to respond to. For example, the Dutch ritualistically ahdere to the presentation of their Albert Heijn Bonus card at the supermarket check out.  Similar to the Tesco Club Card, Sainsbury’s Nectar Card, or Stop & Shop Card, you accumulate points for being a loyal grocery shopper.

When my partner first arrived in The Netherlands, he was not yet clued up to the sanctity of the Albert Heijn Bonus card and was often met by incredulous stares at the check out when he failed to present it. The Dutch person behind him in the queue would then jump on the opportunity to apply his shopping points to their bonus card (if a person is stupid enough not to have a Bonus card, surely someone else deserves to get the points). Even when we got the card, we often found ourselves not quick enough in extracting it from our wallets, prompting the customer behind us to try to foist their card on the cashier to steal our points.

Other examples of the Dutch obsession with a “free lunch” abound. Once I was at a bar with my Dutch friend and he ordered two of a certain type of beer only because it was advertised as coming with a free game (admittedly the game was quite cool). Another time I was in the HEMA cafeteria and picked up a flyer on the counter and tried to make out what was written on it in Dutch. An old man standing next to me pointed to the backside, which had 10 blank squares, and began to excitedly explain that if you buy 10 coffees you get 2 coffees free. He then pulled out his coffee loyalty card, proudly revealing 4 stamps. Maybe I should have offered to give him the stamp for my coffee… it would have made his day.


About Home Strange Home

I first left the US in 1999, when I was 18 years old. Since then, I’ve spent 13 years living abroad - 3 in Canada, 7 in Europe, and 3 in Africa. Now I've finally returned to the US on a one-way plane ticket. I arrived home in late January 2014 and set foot in the US for the first time in nearly 2.5 years. In Home Strange Home, I blog about the ups and downs of my re-acculturation experience.
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3 Responses to Freebies

  1. Connie Lee says:

    If you replaced “Dutch” with “Hong Kongese” in this article, it would still ring true. Hong Kong is the land of freebies, contests, promotions, and deals, and it’s even more intense because there’s so much competition.

  2. Marjol says:

    Actually presenting The bonuskaart is not just about collecting points (which are airmiles btw, not just random points!!!) but for al the items on sale marked “bonus”. You only get the bonus-discount or 1 for free or whatever the deal is, if you present your card. Thats why people lend their card to other shoppers! Not for the points, but because they wont stand for someone paying 5 euros more than they should 😉

    Love your blog! Stumbled upon it because I wanted to start my own with the same title but decided to google it first…smart move 😉

    I am Dutch, which explains my explanation on how to shop smart at AH 😉

    • africagrows says:

      Thanks for the explanation; actually we were wondering about precisely this. Because my partner told the cashier that he would like to cash in his accumulated Albert Heijn Bonus points for a voucher or discount, and the cashier said it’s not possible. That is the way it works in the UK – the more you shop, the more points you accumulate, and eventually you are mailed a coupon, for example for £4.50, which you can use toward your next purchase (or it can be done electronically, and the cashier just tells you that you have accumulated a £4.50 discount which you can use at any time). But the Albert Heijn cashier explained that the purpose of the card is to entitle you to the discount offers you mentioned. We still don’t really get it – if the card is only good for discounts on certain items, it seems like a lot of trouble to go through for a deal that the supermarket could just offer to everyone without bothering with the card. In any case, we still keep on presenting the card…

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