Tag Archives: shopping

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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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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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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My New Year’s Resolution for 2019: Expecting More

New Year's festivitiesWhen I attended university 35 years ago, majoring in business administration, the book “In Search of Excellence” written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. was often referenced as a case study in best practices.

As a student in the 1980s, the book resonated with me. I was particularly in awe of the innovative concept of seeking input from clients and front line employees for simple yet effective ideas for enhancing the quality of products and services. The concept’s success was further demonstrated in the documentary movie that was making the rounds at that time.

“In Search of Excellence” was probably the book that inspired me most to pursue a career in business. Even as a young man, I was moved when a business (a store, a restaurant or a service) valued quality and worked a little harder to achieve it. This was (and still is) an important value for me and it appealed to me to think that a business career could revolve around the theme of quality.

But when the business world constantly hungers for a competitive edge, management principles are ever-evolving and replaced by new theories and best practices. And as a consumer, I am saddened that quality has been caught in the crossfire.

Some products don’t seem to last as long as they used to, despite the call to be more mindful of our use of landfills. Some stores are ghost towns, where it is impossible to find assistance when I need to ask questions or to get a product from a high shelf. And when I am able to find assistance, on some occasions I am given wrong directions or wrong answers.

I have also noticed some products I buy often getting cheapened by cutting corners on workmanship or incorporating cheaper materials. It is very disappointing. Continue reading

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The Extreme Joy from a New Chair

As much as I love my living room set, the reality is that if my back is not feeling well, lying on my couch is not a good place for me due to a disc issue. If I am there vertically, it’s fine, but horizontally, it doesn’t support me in exactly the right spots. And if Ivy the Wonder Cat decides to join me and sit on my stomach while I am horizontal, it seems to throw my spinal alignment off.

I certainly don’t blame the sofa, I tested it thoroughly before buying it and it is quite comfortable, but when my back is aching, I end up on the floor, preferring the flat surface for prolonged periods of TV binge watching or movie watching. But on cold winters’ days, which seem to be 183 days of the year here, that floor can get chilly.

One day I was running errands when I saw a lady at a busy intersection waving a sign indicating that the nearest furniture store was having a moonlight madness sale. I thought to myself that it might not hurt to take a few minutes and see if there were any good deals.

I toured the store, checking out the seemingly endless selection of lounge chairs and it didn’t take long for me to narrow the search to a few favourite models of reasonably-priced recliners that felt like they supported me in all the right places.

One model in particular seemed to be stealing my heart. Not only was it supportive, but it also felt like I was lounging in a cloud. Five minutes later, after almost falling asleep, I knew that this was the one. If my back was not happy, it would have screamed at me by now. Continue reading

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The Irony of Black Friday Shopping

This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.

I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.

On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.

Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.

I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading

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When a Favourite Product is Discontinued

Back in the 1980’s, when I used to work in retail, there was a customer who used to come in to the pharmacy regularly who was well known among team members. She was a little eccentric and she had what you might call a unique sense of fashion, but she was still very sweet and we were always happy to help her.

But we really got to know what she was made of when her world came crashing down at the news that her favourite shade of lipstick was discontinued.

As I understand it, she had her colours done back in the day and was told that this particular shade of orangey-red lipstick was the perfect shade for her. She obviously took this very much to heart as it seemed that every subsequent visit was punctuated by a question about her non-negotiable shade of lipstick.

I don’t think we ever knew her name, but through her relentless search, she became known to us as the “Orange Lipstick Lady.”

At first, she bought up all the remaining lipsticks in that shade. Then in the months that followed, she asked our head cosmetician to order some for her until the distributor couldn’t supply us with any more.

When she had tapped out our supply chain, she still came in at regular intervals to check EVERY lipstick on our shelves to make sure that there wasn’t one that was missed.

I’ll never forget that lady. And I often think I have turned into her when a company discontinues my favourite product… which seems to be happening regularly lately. Continue reading

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