Okay Average Joes Black Friday signals the beginning of arbitrage season when retailers begin to offer up incredible arbitrage deals for their consumer base who are vigilant enough and prepared to pounce on a deal when it presents itself.
Black Friday 2017 was no different for me and I found one deal well worth jumping on and I want to share my experience with you. If you follow me on Facebook I put out several alerts when I started to see this deal unfold so that you to could jump in.
Let me Explain
Hy-Vee grocery stores are one of my favorite, if not favorite, grocery store. The stores are well proportioned with fresh foods, ready to eat meals, dry goods, gasoline stations, pharmacies, Starbucks or Caribou Coffee’s, and their own Market Grill; a combination full service restaurant along with their smaller Market Café’s, a counter service that offers Chinese, sushi, pizza, and salad bars. For someone who travels the Midwest as much as I do, the Hy-Vee’s are a welcome sight.
I have had previous arbitrage success with Hy-Vee’s and had been watching their sale ads for any upcoming promotions. Beginning in November, they posted posters throughout their Hy-Vee Market Grills that they would sell Hy-Vee- Market gift cards in $50.00 denominations and as a bonus would offer the recipient a $10.00 Hy-Vee Market gift card. So, for $50.00 you would walk away with $60.00 in gift cards, or a 20% return on your investment.
This holiday gift card bonus technique is very common among food merchants and as of this writing, I have seen these offers at Panera’s, Olive Garden, Carrabba’s, and just about everywhere else that sells food. The difference with Hy-Vee is in what you can do with your initial $50.00 gift cards once you get them.
Testing the Waters / Cash Equivalency
Hy-Vee separates itself from other vendors with what you can do with their Hy-Vee Market gift card once you purchase it. I confirmed with the store managers that the $50.00 gift cards could be used for other purchases and were not locked into just the restaurant; these other options included buying groceries, gasoline and items within the store to include liquor. The $10.00 bonus card, however, was locked into being used just at the restaurants.
I always test out the market before I commit myself to any large purchases and began buying the $50.00 gift cards from the Hy-Vee Market Grills. I then began to look for ways to transfer those gift card dollars into cash equivalents in order to move them on and reload my cash reserves in order to keep purchasing more cards. I used some gift cards at the Hy-Vee gasoline stations. That was an easy 1 to 1 transfer of money with no loss or penalty.
However, I was buying enough cards that I needed other ways to exchange gift card money for real cash equivalents so I began browsing the Hy-Vee gift card options. Many stores, including Hy-Vee are now limiting or even preventing the purchase of gift cards with credit cards as vendors and the credit card companies crack down on manufactured spending. But, I was able to purchase the following gift cards using my $50.00 Hy-Vee gift cards:
- Uber Cards – I transferred the $50.00 Hy-Vee gift cards to the Uber gift cards and then downloaded those funds into my Uber account. I used these funds for Uber rights to and from the airport allowing me to again transfer cash for a 1 to 1 ratio at no penalty to me.
- Disney Cards – I purchased these gift cards and then called the Disney Vacation Club and paid down my annual dues on my Disney Vacation Club. I was again able to transfer from card to card at a 1 to 1 ratio with no loss of funds.
- Target Cards – I purchased these gift cards to use for other purchases and was able to transfer the finds on a 1 to 1 basis with no penalty.
With this knowledge, I know felt comfortable to plan a large scale purchase. I just needed my opportunity.
Black Friday 2017
Arbitrage is about knowing when and where to strike. You cannot strike at every opportunity and not every opportunity is worthy of your attack. But, during my testing phase as mentioned above, one of the waitress handed me a Hy-Vee flyer; the Hy-Vee Flyer announced that Hy-Vee would on Black Friday offer $20.00 worth of gift cards for every $50.00 of gift cards purchased. My eyes widened at that one.
That is the equivalent of a 40% return on your money.
On Black Friday I told my family I had to go to Hy-Vee. They were a bit perplexed. Why shop at Hy-Vee on Black Friday? I then explained my plan and they nodded their heads in befuddled amusement and went back to planning other shopping.
Because of other Black Friday offers and pursuits, I had to spread my time accordingly and was not able to make it to Hy-Vee till later in the evening. I knew my transaction was going to take a while, so I got a table and ordered my dinner; a delicious steak and salad. I then hit the waitress up with my first big order.
“I would like to get a $1,000.00 of gift cards please,” I asked politely, pointing to the Hy-Vee flyer in hand.
“A $1,000.00 worth?” the waitress asked back, making sure she heard the number right.
“Yes, a $1,000.00 please,” as I bit into another piece of fine sirloin steak.
The waitress murmured she had to inform her manager. She could not make the transaction herself. But, 25 minutes later she returned with $1,400.00 Hy-Vee gift cards broken down as follows: 20 cards in $50.00 denominations along with 40 $10.00 bonus cards for a total of $400.00. A total of $1,400.00.
I thanked her, then asked for another $1,000.00 gift cards.
“Another $1,000.00?” she queried as she did a double take, her eyes wide with astonishment.
“Please, another $1,000.00.” I replied being very polite and smiling handing a second credit card over. I wanted to break the transaction up between an American Express Delta Rewards card and a Disney Chase Card.
Well, now the alarms went off. The Manager came over to speak with me for a few minutes making sure I was a real, genuine person. I was asked for my identification. A few more questions. The basic stuff. It happens from time to time when purchasing cards in large numbers.
And remember, if you are to engage in such large scale purchases of this sort, which is basically manufactured spending, you need to prepare for such. Always be friendly, personable, and agreeable. Sometimes, the vendors will not make the transactions. There is no law that says they have to.
Vendors have become very suspicious of this behavior due to criminals and individuals who report their cards stolen (when they are not) and dispute the transactions. Remember, we need the vendors MORE than they need us. Always use common sense if you engage in manufactured spending of any kind.
Another 30 minutes passed and the manager returned with my additional $1,400.00 in gift cards; 20 $50.00 Hy-Vee Market Grill cards and 40 $10.00 Hy-Vee Market Grill card bonuses.
I know had $2,800.00 in gift cards in a brown paper bag.
Now, For A Little Gravy
I had $2,800.00 in gift cards in paper bag. But, I was not done just yet.
You see, Hy-Vee had come out with a special sales flyer for Thanksgiving. And, as I sat at my table eating my delicious steak dinner, I read over their Thanksgiving flyer and saw another opportunity. Hy-Vee (the Grocery side of the business) was offering $15.00 in gift cards for every $100.00 in select gift cards being sold. I almost choked on my steak!
I finished my transaction, I tipped my waitress 50% and I tipped the store manager a $20.00 for his troubles. Again, I believe that being nice and kind in the arbitrage business is of the utmost importance!
I went and found the “select” gift cards that the ad mentioned. The Manager on duty walked by, said hello, and I asked if I could buy the balance of his Target cards. He said no problem. I just smiled from ear to ear.
I picked up the last American Express card in a $100.00 denomination and six Target Birthday cards in $100.00 denominations. I then picked an aisle and moved in to transfer my $50.00 Hy-Vee gift cards into the Target and American Express gift cards (the American Express card did require a $5.95 activation fee).
Now, the store manager was summoned. I explained what I was doing, he smiled, and said “okay.” I then purchased those seven gift cards, receiving, seven $15.00 Hy-Vee gift cards as my bonus or an extra $105.00.
Funny thing, I had set my brown paper bag with all my other gift cards on the counter, when the very nice clerk who was ringing me up, reached over and shook the bag, and asked, “What’s this?”
“Left-over from the Market Grill,” I replied smiling. $2,100.00 in left-overs to be exact.
The Final Tally/Black Friday 2017
Here is my final tally for my Black Friday Hy-Vee arbitrage/manufactured spending run-
- Forty $50.00 Hy-Vee Market Grill gift cards, or, $2,000.00 spent.
- Eighty $10.00 Hy-Vee Market Grill bonus cards, or, $800.00 earned.
- Seven $15.00 Hy-Vee gift card bonus cards, or $105.00 earned.
Of the Forty $50.00 Hy-Vee Market gift cards, these will be recycled into cash equivalents over the next few days- this includes buying gasoline from Hy-Vee, groceries, and other cards that I can use for other purposes to include cash recycling.
I will keep and use the eighty $10.00 Hy-Vee Market Grill bonus cards which have a cash value of $800.00. Basically, I get to eat a Hy-Vee 1 night a week or have lunch twice a week for free. For a year!
I will keep and use the seven $15.00 Hy-Vee gift card bonus cards and convert those into items needed for the family.
A Little Extra Gravy
In addition, the credit card’s I used will “reward” me for my grocery store purchases. This includes the following:
- Chase’s Disney Rewards Card offers a 2% back on purchases from grocery stores, so, that afforded me an opportunity to pick up an extra $20.00 in Disney Rewards dollars. These are earmarked for a return to Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii.
- American Express’s Delta rewards card offers 1x miles, so I picked up an extra 1,000 Delta frequent flyer miles.
Overall, not a bad Black Friday haul.
Did you find any deals? I would love to know.
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I believe that I live a very rewarding and extraordinary life. So, I believe that it is very important to give back when and where I can. One of my favorite charities, and one that I contribute to on a monthly basis is, Amazon Promise. Led by the amazing Patty Webster.
I encourage everyone to give back something whenever and wherever you can.