MONTVALE, N.J. -- A & P here will roll out this month an exclusive cobranded prepaid phone card program supplied by GTS Prepaid, Marlton, N.J.
America's Choice, A & P's private label, will be displayed on the $5, $10, and $20 cards, along with the supplier logo. The cards will be merchandised at checkstands across all 12 of A & P's banners, including Farmer Jack, Food Emporium, Super Fresh and Waldbaum's.
"We felt it was the best card from the customer's standpoint," said Ellen Evans, director of consumer marketing services for the retailer. "It's time and distance sensitive, so local and night calls give a customer more minutes for their money." She said the flexible rate structure instantly adjusts to the amount of time and distance a person talks, instead of a flat rate with exorbitant surcharges.
The GTS cards will be point-of-sale activated in A & P, inactive until they are swiped by a cashier at checkout. By putting the cards in full view at checkout counters instead of the courtesy desk, Randy Cherkas, president of GTS Prepaid said, "The POSA approach helps prevent theft and merchandises them where the customer can get them."
Evans told SN that selling live prepaid cards behind a desk is not beneficial, "because the customer wouldn't know we're selling them."
Four other supermarkets carry GTS phone cards, including Kings Super Markets, Parsippany, N.J., and Foodtown Cooperative, Woodbridge, N.J., which rolled the same POSA program in August. Units of Clemens Markets, Kulpsville, Pa., and some Shop Rites (Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J.) also carry the cards, but they keep them behind their courtesy desks and do not have the POSA system.
Cherkas said A & P, whose supply agreement with MCI Worldcom, Atlanta, expired, chose GTS after shopping around due to his company's marketing approach at store level, which he described as "aggressive and creative."
GTS's broker, Middletown, N.Y.-based Johnson and Associates, and its president, Victor Johnson, said that A & P wants the best value for their customers, and GTS provides it. Rates on the cards go as low as 4.9 cents per minute without hidden connection charges or surcharges, Cherkas said.
Ed Salkind, director of retail sales for GTS, added that a customer can call from a home phone or a payphone at the same rate. "A few years ago, the FCC mandated that the owners of payphones be compensated when customers dial 800 numbers," said Salkind. "Virtually every card out there automatically charges an extra 35-60 cents that goes towards payphone operators -- except GTS." Additionally, Cherkas added, "cards that have low rates with large connection fees are only good for people who use them for long-distance calls." This accounts for only about 20% to 30% of phone card calls, he said.
Aside from being one of A & P's criteria, Cherkas also pointed out that the 100, 200, and 400-minute cards do not expire, which benefits customers who save their phone cards for emergencies.
To promote the phone card, A&P will run an ad once a month in their in-store circulars. Salkind also said GTS will give away free samples to customers and to A & P employees. Additionally, an incentive program will be put in place by GTS where employees can win cash prizes by using the card. If their calls are routed to GTS's prize center and they are familiar with the products, Salkind added, "they will be able to intelligently answer questions about it."