Do you remember the episode of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” when George Costanza’s wallet explodes from the multitude of items he had filed away in it? Some days, I feel that could be me just from the quantity of reward and loyalty cards I have accumulated over the years.
Just this past week, I was in a rush to leave the house to go see a movie and found myself deep diving through the kitchen counter pile of flyers, lists, receipts and other miscellaneous orphaned items, to look for my movie loyalty card. Fortunately I found it in time, despite the needle in the haystack factor.
I have loyalty cards for airlines, hotels, department stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. I have cards to earn me free coffee, free pet food and free dry cleaning, to name a few.
As you can see by the stack of cards in the picture, I am a member of a multitude of loyalty programs, but frankly I am not as loyal to them as they may think. I confess, I have been seeing other stores behind their back.
Out of all of those cards, only two of them are always in my wallet. Maybe five get rotated in and out of the wallet regularly (…when I remember to). The rest, I try to keep as organized as possible by placing them all in a business card keeper (…when I remember to).
Talk about a house of cards, if you add these to the stack of used gift cards I have (but that still contain little balances like $0.35, $1.04, etc.), I could have enough to possibly build myself a nice 3 bedroom ranch style bungalow with a shed.
I have thought about perhaps leaving them in the car, so that when I drive up to a given store, it would be next to impossible to say I forgot the card. But because some of the cards say to protect them like cash, leaving my hundreds and thousands of points in the car is a stressful prospect, especially after all of the work I put in to earn them.
It takes time to stay on top of all the points, register for offers, check emails and print coupons for bonus points (and then to observe the terms, conditions, minimum spending, one-day-only, one-week-only deals). If I had more time, I’d be all over it. I’m sorry to say that right now, my schedule is strained to accept the extra homework.
I have been told that smart phone apps exist to manage the cards, which would be very handy, but handing my phone to a complete stranger for the sake of gathering three points is a paradigm shift and a price I am just not ready for yet. Maybe I have watched too much “CSI Cyber”.
While I am very grateful for the bonuses that businesses offer as a reward for my loyalty, I often get a chuckle when I see the offers personalized just for me. If a computer has been tracking my spending for many years, it should have figured out by now that I am gluten-free, I generally don’t eat processed food, I don’t have hair, and more importantly, I am a man. The bonus point offers for products for thick lustrous hair and feminine hygiene products don’t get used much around here, no matter how many bonus points I could get for them.
I commend the stores for the time, effort and imagination that goes into setting up these programs. Reward bonuses are indeed a great way to make shopping dollars go farther whether for fixed or limited incomes or when income does not keep pace with the cost of living.
And I will admit, when the planets line up and products I am looking for are on sale with bonus points, it really is a banner day. It is like getting the royal flush of loyalty cards.
I am delighted that they make these offers in the first place, and the weeks when the computer gets it right, not only is it a thrill, it is a bit of a thriller in a creepy sort of way when they seem to know the contents of my grocery list before I have even written it.
But somewhere in the middle, I appreciate the balance that certain companies strike by rewarding loyalty with points but no complicated conditions, no strings attached and no extra homework.
I also appreciate companies who choose not to have reward programs and instead work hard at basic retail experience values of keeping the customer wanting more, whether that be through low prices, impeccable service, quality products or clean, well-appointed stores… or all of the above.
There is no wallet in existence that can hold the quantity of cards I own, otherwise I risk the fate of George Costanza and having my wallet explode at the least opportune moment. I really enjoy the fact that there are so many options out there, catering to all shoppers whether they are fans of the loyalty programs or not.
To the retail sector, bravo! I will actively jump back on the points bandwagon when time permits. But in the meantime, please don’t offer me another loyalty card to add to my collection… it would be “point-less”!
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