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.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,