Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gears - Loyalty cards - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears….?
Loyalty cards.

Once upon a time, your friendly, local, hometown retailer would gain your trust and loyalty and build his or her business on that. Occasionally, they would put a flyer in the weekly newspaper that was conveniently mailed to your home (ahem… The Windham Eagle comes to mind) and you may be inclined to shop at that particular business that week because of a spectacular deal on canned sweet corn or Activia Yogurt. (For reasons I won’t divulge here, I suggest NEVER taking the “Activia Challenge”. Trust me.)

In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced economy, someone that got a Ph.D. in marketing must have written their dissertation on the efficacy of loyalty and/or rewards cards, because it appears as though I can’t go into any store nowadays without being asked if I’ve signed up for their specific rewards program. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’ve read a book or two on marketing. These rewards cards are obviously working, because every store seems to be using them. However, look at the common sense side of things. If you see me dash into the store and go straight to the candy aisle (stop judging me), and then head straight to the counter with my package of Sharing Size M&Ms which I have zero intentions of sharing, the chances are excellent that I don’t want to take the additional 72 seconds to fill out the requisite documents for your rewards card. I want to run to my car and devour my M&Ms before I go home to my wife who will judge me for eating M&Ms.
Next, let’s look at the shear number of stores that offer these rewards cards.

There are a number of pharmacies that offer them. A gaming store that operates more stores in the greater Portland area than should be allowed by the U.S. Constitution has its own rewards card. There are some hardware stores that offer them. Heaven forbid you drive out of state and need to go the grocery store. Then you need to sign up for a whole new card just for one visit. Heaven forbid you forget the loyalty card and get the wrong cashier… You’d think that you had just committed a mortal sin like Ferrari Parking. 

Don’t get me wrong… I get what they’re doing. It’s all target marketing. It’s actually really smart (I still don’t like it), collecting data about our purchases to possibly target their advertising towards a specific demographic. Why do they need to collect the data? Can’t they just call the NSA and ask them what we’ve been doing?

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