HEB is THE grocery store in Texas. Pro-tip: It’s pronounced by saying the actual letters, H–E–B. It is not pronounced Heb, like Jeb, and most importantly, it’s not pronounced Hebe, like the ethnic slur. H, E & B are the initials of founder, Howard Edward Butt. (Cue giggling children.)
The HEB Buddy Buck machine is essentially a slot-machine game for kids, designed with the intent to build brand interaction/loyalty with kids since they will want to go to HEB to get their gambling fix. The “Buddy Buck” currency used to play the game also serves as a handy bribe for parents to use to get kids to behave while at the store.
The Buddy Buck experience is a combination of the Press Your Luck ‘no Whammies’ button and the Showcase Showdown wheel on The Price Is Right. But instead of winning a place in the Showcase Round, you ‘win’ a worthless yellow sticker with a number printed on it indicating how many points you have earned.
The idea is that you collect the stickers inside a little Buddy Buck booklet which you can exchange for a variety of prizes depending on how many points you have. The current offerings are HEBuddy Sunglasses for 300 points and an HEBuddy Swim Ring for 500 points. We have accumulated approximately 10,000,000 points and now own 25% share of HEB.
There is no ‘cost’ to play, except of course, the cost of your time, sanity, and the ice cream that will surely melt in your cart while your kid waits in line to play. The currency used to start the wheel of chance spinning are called Buddy Bucks.
Here’s how you play:
Step 1: On the drive to the store, inform your children that you are in a big hurry, and there won’t be time to play the Buddy Buck machine today.
Step 2: Yell, “FINE, but you only get to play ONE buck, and only if there is NO line.”
Step 3: After complaining to an employee in the produce department about how the strawberries are moldy, they compensate you for your inconvenience with a couple Buddy Bucks for the kids. You’re the only one who seems to understand that this didn’t solve your problem.
Step 4: While checking out, your children passive-aggressively wonder aloud, “do you think she’ll give us any Buddy Bucks?” so that the check out person has no choice but to pause what they were doing and hand over some Buddy Bucks as she glances back at the other ten people waiting in line behind you.
Step 5: You spend the rest of the check out time weighing the risk/reward of sending the kids to play the Buddy Buck machine alone vs. making them wait for you to finish checking out. Sure, there’s a 2% chance they may be kidnapped, but there’s a 100% chance you won’t have to wait in line for the %$@# Buddy Buck machine.
Step 6: After feeling the weight of judgment from the other shoppers, you make your children wait and all go to the Buddy Buck machine together.
Step 7: Arrange your shopping cart with all the others in the waiting line so to minimize the fire hazard you are creating by blocking the entire store exit.
Step 8: Loudly tell your children that, “we’re only going to play one time so the others behind us can play too,” so that the parent of the kid in front of you, who has enough Buddy Bucks to make it rain, might take the hint.
Step 9: Wonder if the Buddy Buck machine is actually paid for by Phillip Morris since it’s placed directly in front of the wall of cigarette cases.
Step 10: Wait for what feels like a hundred attempts for the machine to finally accept your kid’s Buddy Buck so that the wheel starts spinning.
Step 11: Watch your child focus on the spinning wheel so intently that you almost believe that they have the power to control the point system with their mind. Break their concentration by shouting, “just hit the button already! We’re late for karate!”
Step 12: Look for signs of injury after your child forcefully hits the stop button twenty times in rapid succession and hope that the Buddy Buck machine doesn’t need its “Buddy’s Feeling Sick Today” sign after you leave.
Step 13: Evaluate your sticker winnings.
- 1s and 2s result in stomping and moaning and get dropped on the floor, or are stuck to shopping cart handles, car windows, or unsuspecting moms’ boobs and butts.
- 5s make it to the car, but are abandoned in the cup holder as trash, unless a sibling tries to take it, and then the child will act like it is the Hope Diamond and they were simply using the cup holder as a safe deposit box for their Buddy Buck Treasure.
- 10s & 20s get taken home and left on the counter and will eventually be stuck inside their prize booklet after a parent’s third threat to throw them away.
- 50s are put in a place of honor, like a straight A report card. You’ll likely hear your child tell tales about, “the time I got two 50s in a row,” to other children the next time they are waiting in the Buddy Buck Machine line.
- Instant Winners mean that your child ‘wins’ a $.04 HEB promotional item and you win the opportunity to have all your frozen items defrost as you wait in line at the customer service desk while waiting for your child’s prize. If you have more than one child with you, the Instant Winner sticker also wins you the chance to hear your other children complain about how “they never win anything.”
Our Instant Winner prizes include a collection of HEBuddy pencils, HEBuddy straws, HEBuddy stickers, HEBuddy tattoos, HEBuddy crayons, HEBuddy sunglasses, HEBuddy clay, HEBuddy plates, an HEBuddy blanket and a short-lived HEB pool ball, which rolled half way across Texas when my son dropped it in the HEB parking lot on a windy day.
In addition to accumulating enough Buddy Buck stickers to own 25% share of HEB, I also have enough spare Buddy Bucks to be the richest woman in the “Nation of Texas” when we secede from the union and Buddy Bucks become our official currency.
We try to keep our HEB Buddy Bucks and stickers all organized in a designated manila folder in our bill filing area, yet not a day goes by without a little yellow HEB sticker popping up in some random area of our house, car, or yard.
With all this complaining, you’re probably asking yourselves, “why don’t you just go to another store if HEBuddy is such a pain in the HEButt?”
It’s simple. HEB also offers free wine samples that come out of a deluxe slurpee machine set up next to the bread aisle. It’s like a Buddy Buck Machine for moms.
Now if they could just move the Buddy Buck Machine next to the wine machine…..
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