Sunday, March 10, 2013

THE ASSAULT OF CARDS, COUPONS, POINTS, PUNCHES, AND STAMPTS

 
As I was paying for my yogurt at the new TCBY store in town, the cashier asked if didn’t want their customer loyalty card.  “Buy 10, get the 11th one free,” she said, pushing the card in my face.

Only a fool wouldn’t want something for nothing. Right?   So I took the card and shoved it into my already bulging wallet (bulging with loyalty cards – not cash).

               
From TCBY, I went to CVS to buy a new lipstick, the current one worn down to metal.  A sign over the Revlon lipsticks read:  Buy one, get the second at 50% off.  I handed two lipsticks -- pink blush -- to the cashier.

"Your CVS customer loyalty card," she said.
 
I dumped my stack of loyalty cards on the counter -- alas, no CVS. “I don’t have one,” I apologized.     

“Then you can’t have the special,” the cashier scolded. 

“But that offer comes from Revlon, not CVS.”   

“No loyalty card, no special. Perhaps you would like to enroll in our program.”  

“No, I’m going to Walgreen’s.  They don’t card you!”

At Walgreen’s, I found my lipsticks (same special offered) and handed them to the cashier.   

“Your Walgreen’s Balance Reward Card, please,” she said.

 “Since when?” 

“Since October 25, 2012.  You do want to sign up for our card, don’t you?”  I didn’t answer.  “With your Balance Rewards card you not only qualify for in-store specials but you earn spaving points.”

“What’s ‘spaving’?” 

“Every time you spend, you save.”

Only a fool wouldn’t want something for nothing, right?  So I gave the cashier my name, address, home and cell numbers, e-mail address, the whereabouts of my first born child and was rewarded with a Walgreen’s “Balance” card -- and an information sheet.  When I got home, I read the contract (with the help of a high-powered magnifying glass) and learned that:

1.  Not all Walgreen purchases are created equal.  To learn which items are designated point-givers on any given week, one would have to read all their newspaper ads or walk the store aisles, checking the shelves.  

2.  Designated “point” products are only eligible for points (rewards) when purchased on  designated days of the week… and …

3.   The purchase of designated products on designated days of the week only earn reward points if the customer spends a designated minimum amount.  
Customer (not Company) "loyalty" doesn't end there.  Once-earned balance points are  zapped by Walgreen’s if the customer doesn't “spend” his/her points within 36 months or if their account is inactive for six months.  Furthermore, it is up to the customer to keep track of their account activity.  At least the airlines send a monthly statement!  To what use is Walgreen's putting all that personal information I gave them?  
      
As for their promise to "spave" me money (= the more I spend, the more I save), I decided to check that out for myself. 

To accumulate 5,000 points and earn a $5.00 credit, I would have to spend approximately $50.00 at Walgreen’s  (remember: spending is limited to designated products. )  Doing so would earn me (not save me) about 10%, but as I browsed through the week’s designated point-givers, I saw nothing I needed, nothing I wanted, and nothing I couldn’t buy elsewhere for less money.   

I made a rational decision.  I reached for the scissors....

 

After my Walgreen's Off-Balance card had been eliminated, thirty more "rewards" cards suffered the same fate.  It was time to get honest with myself, I thought, eying the mess of crumpled coupons at the bottom of my purse.     

                        
I was an unmitigated coupon failure. I either forgot to use them while they were active, I remembered to use them after they had expired, or I redeemed them on a Wednesday when the coupon clearly stated it was only good on Thursday between the hours of two and five o’clock.   

I threw the coupons into the waste basket and promised myself that no coupon would  ever touch my fingertips again.  That would eliminate 50% of my supermarket angst.  The other 50% was beyond my control --  that of the Coupon Commandos.

Have you noticed that they always do their grocery shopping at the busiest time of day?  That's no accident.   They’re hoping the cashiers will be too busy to notice that a third of their sixty coupons have expired, another third is for brands other than those in the cart, or that they’ve taken dozens more cans, boxes, or bottles than the coupons allow for (thereby stripping the shelves like locusts and leaving nothing behind for anyone else).

My cashier, unfortnately, catches and challenges a Coupon Commando Crook.  She pages the manager (who's out on break), while I wait...and wait...and wait (as does everyone else in line). That's why I find the title of Joanie Deever and Heather Wheeler's book on coupon strategies particularly galling  --

"Pick Another Checkout Lane, honey"  


What management needs to do is create a designated lane for Coupon Commandos, and let them wait for each other!    

One of the more ghoulish coupons is the offer from the Chapel of the Highlands, a burial service provider in Millbrae, California. To get a 20% cremation discount you need to present your coupon “prior” to your (or you loved one’s) demise -- and before the “deadline” on the coupon (no pun intended). 


But why should I whine about coupon madness when the ones who are really being screwed are the manufacturers themselves? Losses from the illegal duplication of their coupon offers have cost them upwards of tens of millions of dollars.

A case in point: the Desperado Housewives of Phoenix, Arizona, who counterfeited legitimate coupons and sold them on E-Bay or their own websites.  When police raided their homes, they found $25 million in counterfeit coupons

My pledge for 2013 is no more cards, coupons, or points. Their loyalty comes at too high a price; instead, I'll pledge my loyalty to those establishments that offer me quality merchandise at consistently competetive prices.

But if you’re still into cards and coupons, here's some advice:   

1.      Never pay for a coupon.  If you have to pay, you’re not only not getting a deal, but it’s more than likely you’re being scammed, and the real deal is available elsewhere for free.

2.      Avoid what’s called “bait and switch.” That’s when someone offers you an on-line coupon code, but you first have to provide personal information.

3.   Go straight to the source.  Sign up for e-mails from the stores you frequent and get your coupons from them directly.


                                              Whiningly yours,   Carol






2 comments:

  1. Seems that your time away has sharpened your already razor-edge humor. Outstanding post! I have a key chain full of nothing but frequent buyer cards that have been made specifically for key chain use. There are no keys on that key chain, by the way. But I think I'll have another look to see what has value... if any!

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  2. So glad you're back, Carol. I've missed your whines. I have a whole separate ID case that I carry to hold all my punch cards, loyalty cards, gift certificates, etc. because they made my wallet too fat!

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