News

Can You Really Use the White House’s Phone Number Instead of a Rewards Card?

We tried it at CVS, Walgreens, and other DC spots.
Photograph by Alexander Ramjing via iStock.

Ever roll up to the grocery or drug store without your rewards card? Or don’t even feel like signing up for one in the first place? Never fear, the White House is here. Earlier on Thursday, we came across a post on the Washington, DC, subreddit that points out that two public facing administration numbers, 202-456-1111 (the White House public comment line) and 202-456-1414 (the White House switchboard), worked at the original poster’s respective Harris Teeter. So, we decided to see if that was just a fluke or our new favorite lazy day hack.

We dispersed ourselves amongst the city’s chief rewards-card-having-establishments and found some curious results. We had some limits, though: each had to be in the Washington, DC, metro area and had to have an open rewards program, leaving Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (which now uses Amazon Prime accounts to gain access to discounted goods) off our list. Members of the reporting team visited CVS, Walgreens, Safeway, and Harris Teeter.

And if you’re ever scrambling for an account number, you’re in luck. The numbers worked at each of the locations we visited in the surrounding Golden Triangle, Dupont Circle, and Navy Yard neighborhoods. That’s a lot of Extra Bucks. We were able to score discounts on all sorts of snacks, including some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, a small Kit Kat, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit mix, a Lärabar, almond milk, and Vitamin Water. Essentially everything we’d need for an apocalypse-related go-bag.

How could this have happened? The answer is quite simple. It’s more than likely an individual (or several) registered both numbers at chains around the DMV area. Once the number is saved in the system one place, it’s in the computers for good. Maybe keep that in mind next time you’re visiting the in-laws who won’t stop talking about politics during Thanksgiving.

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Additional reporting by Helen Carefoot, Emma Sarappo, and Lila Thulin.

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Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.