Giant and Safeway register receipts are once again collectors' items for shoppers who want to increase the number of computers in schools.
The grocery chains have decided to repeat their giveaway programs that provided thousands of area schools with computers and computer equipment last spring in exchange for accumulated register tapes. Both chains have been accepting receipts since Sept. 2.
Giant's formerly blue-tinted tapes are now pink, while Safeway's gold ones are being replaced with plain white receipts that have "Computers for Classrooms" printed on the top.
Giant plans to accept the tapes through March 2, while Safeway will run its program through March 16.
Few changes have been made to the programs, which award equipment on the basis of total purchases made at the stores.
Perhaps the most notable change for Safeway customers in Maryland is that receipts can easily be exchanged for either Apple or IBM computers. Last year, Baltimore-area Safeways only distributed IBM computers, though customers of Virginia stores could get Apple computers.
"We figured, let's do both this year because a lot of the schools are tied to the Apple system," said Jim Roberts, public relations manager for Safeway's Eastern Division.
Giant's Apples for the Students program is still primarily focused upon providing schools with Apple computers. However, Mark Roeder, public affairs coordinator for Giant, said this year special arrangements may be made for schools that request IBM equipment.
"If there are schools that prefer IBMs, or already have IBM equipment ... we will be able to contact IBM and we will try to work out arrangements with IBM so [the schools] can get the appropriate equipment," he said.
Though the programs are starting a bit earlier this year, both will end earlier as well.
"We decided to get it started right at back-to-school time," said Roeder, who added that September is when school and school-related activities are fresh in everyone's mind.
Safeway's experience last year helped it get its program ready in time for the Labor Day weekend, according to Roberts.
"Last year it took us a while to put the IBM program together," he said. Safeway's program started in November last year. Giant's began mid-October.
Last year, Safeway's Eastern division, which includes stores in Baltimore County through Virginia, spent $1.5 million on computers and equipment for 1,262 schools.
Giant spent $7 million, and awarded equipment to 2,300 schools in Maryland and Virginia.
"Based on the high level of participation by the schools and the amount of equipment we were able to award, we felt that the program was very successful," said Roeder.
"We're hoping this year to award even more computers," he said.
Though Roeder stressed the intrinsic value of the giveaway as well as Giant's commitment to the community, he said that the program also increases customer loyalty.
"Obviously it's very important to put additional equipment in the schools ... but we also want to put Giant in the mind of not only today's customers, but also tomorrow's customers. Hopefully, the children that are using Giant computers in school today will be the same people shopping in Giant tomorrow."
But Safeway's Roberts denied that the program affected the chain's customer base.
"I don't know that it has increased our sales to any noticeable extent," he said. "Believe it or not, companies do things because it's the right thing to do, or because it's a good thing to do."