Dear Loyalty Apps, Please Stop Logging Me Out!

In 2016, I published a blog post about the number of loyalty cards I was carrying and the challenge in keeping track of all of them. There had to be an easier way.

I still maintain that with impeccable client service and reasonable prices, we could probably skip loyalty programs.

But marketing wizards seem to have tapped into our basic human need to belong, and have turned clubs and memberships into an art form that seems to fill a void. Sometimes the exclusive rewards and personal offers are so well thought out that we overlook the consumer information that we have volunteered about ourselves to get to those benefits.

Shortly after that post appeared, I figured I had nothing to lose in trying to keep track of all of them with the smart phone apps that they were offering.

Initially, the issue I encountered was that my antiquity of a phone was sometimes too slow to produce the apps as soon as I needed them. To proceed with the experiment, I had to wait until my phone was retired and replaced.

When I bought a new phone, I jumped on the bandwagon in a big way and signed up for all of the apps to replace the imposing stack of loyalty cards I had accumulated.

My next task was to learn how to juggle products like a circus performer, while waiting in line to check out. I wanted to avoid the huffing, puffing and sighing from the shoppers behind me, as we all waited for an app to launch.

I became pretty good at holding different products under my armpits, between my legs, or in my teeth while needing both hands to swipe my way to the right app at the right time. I’m sure that there is some funny security footage out there to attest to my newly found skills.

But despite my best efforts, I have encountered times when certain apps won’t connect at all, despite the phone being brand new, fully updated, fully charged and I am in the city with an unobstructed view of a cell phone tower.

It has happened enough that backup planning has become an essential part of the process to avoid disappointment, whether that means bringing the card, taking a picture of the card or carrying a paper backup of event tickets rewarded through a card.

But truly, I shouldn’t have to.

What has been a greater test of my calm and cool exterior has been when an app logs me out of my account just before I use it. This has happened to me more times than I would care to discuss, eliciting a few choice four-letter words in the moment, and I’d like to tell the companies producing these apps that this is unacceptable.

It is bad enough that for certain cards we need a strong password with upper and lower characters, a number and a special non-alphanumeric character, with a minimum of 72 characters, that cannot be an actual word or phrase in any earthly language, and that cannot replicate any other password I have ever used in any app over the course of this lifetime.

OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but in a pinch, can I remember my password? No.

After the first few times it happened, I thought that it would be a good practice to open the app from home, just to test it and to make sure I wasn’t logged out before a major shopping excursion to sweep up bonus points. But in the time it took me to get from my house to the store, one app found some absurd logic to log me out just before I got to the checkout. Yes, I mumbled another choice four-letter word.

When faced with an untimely log out and an inability to remember the strong password, I stepped out of the checkout line to do a password reset, which solved the problem, and I was able to scoop up the pile of bonus points I was offered. But again, I should not have to.

Here’s the thing: they have my email address. Without one, you can’t sign up for a loyalty account or register for an app. Would it be too much trouble to send me an email to say “Hey Andre, we see that you’re enjoying our app. It looks like you haven’t used the login screen for the last 60 days. We want to be sure it’s still you. Would you mind logging out of your app and logging back in before (insert date here)?”

A warning like that would be fabulous!

If this is the game we have to play to save money on our favourite products or to have access to some interesting rewards, then I am willing to commit some energy to it.

To save my aging back from being misaligned due to a thick wallet full of plastic loyalty cards, I would wholeheartedly embrace the technology. I would also like to go paperless as much as possible, to avoid the need to haul a filing cabinet of back up papers with me.

It really is marvelous what technology can do. But I encourage and challenge companies to put some more resources into getting their technology working perfectly and to step up their game from a user-friendliness perspective and from a client service perspective.

When the smart phone apps are working seamlessly and flawlessly every time, that’s when my loyalty will be well-earned and well-deserved.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Why I Still Love Print Newspapers

This past week I did something I haven’t done in a long time, I read a newspaper!

Normally, I get news coverage from the car radio on the way to and from the office, and 4 or 5 times per week, I supplement that by checking out an online newspaper or two. And that is on top of the articles that I may check out when friends repost them on social media.

But it has been years since I sat down and read an actual print version newspaper.

There must have been something in the air during the more laid back, hot, hazy, humid summer days that put me in the mood to just relax and gently savour the world’s stories from a page that wasn’t glowing at me with bright ads blinking like Times Square … that and the fact that there was nothing on TV, so I had the time.

It could also be my slowly approaching retirement that has me rediscovering things that I enjoyed in the past but didn’t always have time for when I was busy building a career.

It didn’t take long for me to notice the huge difference in experience when reading a print version newspaper.

When I check out online news sources, it is perhaps to my own detriment that my reading is like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter.

I scan through the titles, I click on the ones that spark interest, I read a few sentences until I get the gist of it, and then it’s on to the next. I probably miss quite a bit that way because if the headline doesn’t catch my attention, I may skip an article altogether.

With a newspaper, because the whole article is open and in front of me, I am more likely to look beyond the titles and to preview a greater number of articles. And when I choose to read one, I will likely spend more time reading an article to the end. Continue reading

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My Attempts at Reducing Plastic Packaging

We’ve known for years that the plastics we discard now can potentially remain on this planet for generations to come. With that knowledge, I have been trying to do my part to reduce my plastic footprint by switching to fabric shopping bags (and remembering to bring them), by using reusable containers for my work lunches, and by finding substitutes (or additional uses) for single-use plastic bags.

And then, despite my best intentions and efforts, I have weeks where I feel defeated when unpacking my shopping and seeing so many products entombed in plastic bubbles, with no offer of alternatives.

Just looking at recent weeks’ shopping, I have seen item after item that probably could have been served up in a bin like at a bulk food store.

I understand that these sturdy packages prevent breakage or leakage in shipping, and at the retail level they help in reducing shoplifting. Also, for some personal products, plastic is considered necessary to keep products clean and sanitary. But in doing a 360 degree turn in many stores, all I see is plastic, plastic and more plastic. It’s discouraging.

We need to rethink retail. Maybe we need things behind counters and hire actual humans to sell them to us rather than putting things in big blobs of indestructible plastic. For taking products home, are there other more eco-friendly materials than plastic bags?

Also, when it comes to clothing or fabric products, could everyone in the manufacturing, shipping, storage and retail chain get by with one tag and a more mindful use of plastic fasteners? I recently bought a throw for the sofa, to protect it from Ivy the Wonder Cat’s claws, and spent 10 minutes removing a multitude of tags and a ridiculous number of tiny plastic fasteners. Continue reading

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Running: The Slow Road to Recovery

NOTE: This blog post is not intended as medical advice, nor do I represent myself as a medical professional. Please consult your doctor or health care professional if you feel pain, fatigue or discomfort when practicing any sport.

It is a blow to the ego to know that in 2014 I was able to run 21 kilometres as I prepared for a half-marathon, yet in the years that followed my distances kept getting shorter and shorter.

In those years, I was frustrated with myself when instead of shaving seconds from my personal bests, the durations of my runs were steadily getting longer. I often asked myself if this was what it meant to be over 50.

For someone who isn’t a jealous person by nature, I admit I felt envy in seeing my Facebook friends sharing their athletic accomplishments and their new personal bests.

For someone who was an active participant in a running club, I felt like I was letting down the team when I just couldn’t keep up… or even to make it out to a get together because I was too embarrassed to admit I had slowed down so much, compared to what I was able to do.

When someone would ask “How is the running going?” after years of saying I was sidelined due to injury, it felt like I was making excuses when my body just wouldn’t cooperate, no matter how many times I tried. Continue reading

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Why Car Sensors Make Me Jumpy

When I bought my car, it was with the intention of finding a new vehicle that wouldn’t be any trouble for my last couple of years of working and commuting.

My previous car was 7 years old, with just over 100,000 km on the odometer and starting to get to that point where it might need significant maintenance or even replacement. The problem is that with car issues, you’re never really sure when or where that will happen, often with little or no advance notice.

I didn’t want to be “that guy” stuck on the side of the highway, blocking traffic during rush hour traffic, annoying people and being on the receiving end of people showing me their middle fingers. For my own peace of mind, a newer car was the solution.

However, as much as I love the smooth ride and the peace of mind from knowing that the car is not likely to need fixing anytime soon, my car’s dashboard has seen the sight of my own middle finger (but not when I’m driving, of course).

The reason: the sensitive car sensors.

In the short time I have had the car, I have had the experience of several dashboard warning lights coming on, beeping loudly, to announce “issues”. Continue reading

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Why Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun

Much like most people, over the years, I have indeed used the expression “it’s like watching paint dry” to describe an event that might be considered boring. But based upon my recent experience, I might reconsider my use of the phrase. I just don’t agree with its accuracy anymore.

In this year’s round of spring cleaning and home projects, I decided to get some painting done.

As much as I love the whole ceremony of painting, in recent years, time and energy have been in short supply.

Plus, my body just doesn’t seem to respond well to weekend paint jobs without complaining in the days that follow. Between working muscles that don’t usually get used in that way and with arthritis starting to drop in unexpectedly, it was time for me to (reluctantly) look into hiring a painting company.

Upon finding a highly recommended team of painters, I decided to put their professional expertise to the best possible use. The first project was one set of walls I haven’t done since I moved in: the walls around the staircase.

I don’t know what the actual height of that area is but I do recall that the few times I tried to dust the lighting fixture or to try to grab the cobwebs in the corners, I felt like the Roadrunner’s archenemy, Wile E Coyote, trying device after device to extend my reach to get the job done.

When I was finally successful in completing the task, it was usually followed by a visit to the medicine cabinet for some internal and/or external approaches to pain relief.

I decided that for this paint job, the extent of my involvement would be to tidy up before, to remove my personal effects from the painting area, to set up the cat in another part of the house with food, water, litter and favourite toys, and then for me to sit and relax.

I admit that it felt like I was going against nature to be sitting, sipping coffee and clearing content off the PVR, while the painters were hard at work. I truly had to supress my natural impulses to pick up a brush and to help them.

But when the aroma of the ceiling paint starting wafting toward the living room, I knew I had made the right decision.

When they invited me to check in on the progress, my heart was pounding with joy to see the wall starting to get restored to its original beauty. That was when I knew I had made the right decision and that my investment in professional painters was money well spent.

A few hours later, it was time for the big reveal. I felt like I was on one of those HGTV shows, as all I could say was “Oh my God”, staring at the walls in disbelief, marveling at the beauty of their work.

When they had left, I parked myself on the top step of the staircase and sat there, literally, watching the paint dry.

As I breathed in the aroma of fresh paint and stared at the walls, I felt a range of emotions. Boredom was definitely not on the radar.

I felt a sense of accomplishment. The task which got consistently pushed down the to-do list over the years was finally done, even though I didn’t do it myself.

I felt amazement that the bumps and scuffs left behind by 33 years of home owners and renters were completely erased as the walls were restored to their unblemished beauty.

I felt gratitude in thinking that whenever I decide to put the house up for sale, this monstrous task won’t need to be done again.

I felt relief in thinking of the physical pain I spared myself by having a team of experienced painters (who probably know better how to avoid the strains I would have experienced) take care of the walls and ceilings in areas I could not easily reach.

I felt pure joy in seeing how one coat of “Cloud White” paint in one highly visible area makes the whole house look better and fresher.

After this wonderful experience, I also felt encouragement that I have found a painting company I can trust for future painting jobs.

While some people might think that watching paint dry might be boring, I think they need to look a little harder to find the joy, the satisfaction and the gratitude that comes with freshly painted walls.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Goldilocks and the White Socks

Regular readers of my blog are probably familiar with my adventures in shopping that involve a lot of research, testing, comparison and disappointment that often sound like a story about Goldilocks.

When some products are too big, others are too small, and over the course of multiple shopping trips, I hope to find the one that is just right.

One such situation these days is my hunt for white socks. All I am looking for is plain, white, mostly cotton, athletic-style socks for very casual situations. Sounds simple, right?

For some reason, manufacturers and buyers for stores don’t seem to be on the same wave length. Plain white socks are hard to find.

For years I was able to find them here in Canada at a well-known store (that shall remain nameless). One day, I bought a pack of three pairs that left me with the impression that they had changed. The answer came a few washings later when the elastics completely gave out and the socks were falling repeatedly. This didn’t happen before. Someone must have changed the “recipe”.

I switched to another brand that was available at that time, which lasted a few years until they discontinued the men’s small size and carried only “one size fits all”. Continue reading

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