Louise Grevstad, 79, with her free ice cream outside of Safeway on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Louise Grevstad, 79, with her free ice cream outside of Safeway on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Edmonds woman screamed — and got her free Safeway ice cream

Louise Grevstad, 79, was shut out from deals because she doesn’t have a smartphone. She didn’t think it was fair. So she went to the media.

EDMONDS — Louise Grevstad had a beef with Safeway, so she called her local newspaper for help.

What’s up with that?

The Edmonds woman said the store’s reward system excluded her from getting a carton of free ice cream because she doesn’t have a smartphone.

“I feel like I am being discriminated against at my local Safeway store,” said Grevstad, 79. “I am speaking not only for myself but for any other low-income senior who can’t afford or use a smartphone. It behooves me to think they should be able to accommodate us.”

Readers often call the newspaper to vent. That’s the glory of community journalism. And reporters are behooved to respond.

“I deserve free ice cream, just like everybody else,” she said. “We are being shut out.”

A 1.5-quart tub of Signature Select ice cream that sells for $5.49 was free with 200 points that, in this case, could only be redeemed by a digital device.

“I was shopping and I had my little receipt with 241 points,” Grevstad said.

Louise Grevstad’s points that earned her a free ice cream on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Louise Grevstad’s points that earned her a free ice cream on Thursday, May 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Paper proof was no good. She said the cashier told her a smartphone was needed.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry, Louise, you can’t get that,’” she said. “That set me off on my tangent.”

Complaining to the manager didn’t help, she said.

It was more than just ice cream.

“To me it’s just flat wrong and disrespectful. It’s just not morally right,” she said. “I’ve been a customer there since the day the store was built. It is my go-to store. They are a nice bunch. I like the people there.”

In the month of May, the ice cream was a special free item in the retailer’s new “for U” loyalty program revamped in April to provide more value and ease.

Grevstad was told she could use her points for discounts on gas or other products without a smartphone.

She wanted the ice cream, not gas.

“I buy my gas at Costco,” she said. The Costco pump is a short drive away.

I called the manager at the store where she shops. He confirmed the new program doesn’t allow customers without smartphones or computers to automatically get certain freebies, but added the corporate office was working on it.

The Safeway website states: “A valid mobile phone number or email address is required for Safeway for U (TM) participation. You can get an email account for free through various email service providers.”

Good to know, but Grevstad also doesn’t use a computer.

Turns out she has plenty of company in her digital void.

According to Pew Research Center, only about 76% of people 65 and older use the internet, compared with 97% of those ages 18 to 49 and 89% ages 50 to 64.

Only 76% of seniors own a smartphone, Statista.com reports.

That means about one-fourth of seniors are in a digital void with Grevstad, and can’t get their free ice cream.

It is hard to fathom for those of us dependent on our phones for damn near everything we do in our daily existence.

The average American spends 4 hours and 37 minutes looking at their phone every day, Statista reports. That adds up to about one day every week, six days every month and 70 days every year.

Grevstad said she gets by just fine. She uses her landline or talks to people in person.

She worked as a patient advocate at a hospital.

“You do what’s right for your customers,” she said. “They should have the ability to provide that and call that a general write-off for customer courtesy. They could solve this problem if they truly cared.”

A response to my email to the Safeway public affairs office in Bellevue gave me hope: “While we primarily offer this pricing through our website or our banner store for U app on a smartphone, our stores also allow for individuals who may not have digital access to speak with the cashier or other customer service team member for the discount(s) to be applied at the register,” it read.

I’m no Jesse Jones, but figured I could be a Thelma to Louise.

I met her in front of Safeway. I expected some dowdy curmudgeon. What I got was a golden-age hipster. She wore a red leather biker jacket, faded blue jeans and a bouncy side ponytail with a red hair tie. Even with my hot pink iPhone, she was the cool one.

She grabbed a cart and off we went. She shops for her adult son, who is on disability and lives with her, so she picked up a few things on his list.

We tracked down the $5.49 Signature Select ice cream that set off her tangent.

A price tag underneath a carton of Safeway Signature Select ice cream shows how customers can obtain a free carton of ice cream on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A price tag underneath a carton of Safeway Signature Select ice cream shows how customers can obtain a free carton of ice cream on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Sure enough, a front end clerk said a smartphone was needed for the scan for the free ice cream. Just as before.

The manager who we’d both spoken with before was summoned. This time, he told the cashier to give the lady her ice cream for free. At the register, all it took was a simple punch code.

Grevstad got a carton of Caramel Caribou.

She is no longer left out in the cold.

“It’s a squeaky wheel thing,” she said.

Is there a person, place or thing making you wonder “What’s Up With That?” Contact reporter Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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