Safeway has a deal where you can earn miles on United based on the amount of money you spend on groceries. For every $250 you spend (cumulative, not per purchase) you earn 150 points. Recently, I noticed that my running total (shown on every receipt) was negative. Something to the effect that I had $ -178 to go until my next mileage award. That really bent my brain — what does that really mean? If I spent $178 more, I’d be at zero? Or I’d be past the award (at $250, or in this case $ -250?). or what? Later on, I made another purchase of about $1.00 and saw that the amount remaining was $ – 179.

I know in my Math Contest days I could have figured this out, perhaps, negative of a deficit, absolute value of something else, etc. etc. But I just don’t have the energy to figure it out. I turned to my usual source of inspiration and resolution, customer support. I sent an email, and I received this in reply:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the negative United miles on your receipt. Due to the system taking 24 hours to update any time you make more than one purchase in a day the receipt will show negative. I have researched the transactions and called United and you have received the correct miles and they have posted to United. The negative on the receipt is just the dollars being caught up to the miles.

If you would like to discuss this further, please either reply to this email or call our toll free number at 1-877-723-3929 and one of our associates will be happy to assist you. Please be sure to reference contact ID 3373030 so that we can process your call.

We appreciate your business and look forward to seeing you soon. Thank you for shopping at Safeway.


Carol Gorslin
Customer Service Representative

Unfortunately, this only confused me further. I mean, I’m glad they reassured me everything is all right with my miles but “the dollars being caught up to the miles” seems like the lingo that must have been going around places like Enron and Worldcom. Yikes.


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