Wyn Drabble: Red card these reward schemes


I've had it with reward schemes, loyalty cards, call them what you will. In fact, I've had it with all plastic: credit cards, air miles cards, discount cards, coffee club cards, buy-two-get-one-free cards, loyalty this, loyalty that, blah, blah, blah. Sick of them all.

The crunch came at a petrol station last week. The attendant asked me for my card to earn some "points". I gave her a card, Wrong one. I found another. Still wrong.

Frustrated, I emptied my wallet of rewards cards and spread them across the counter.

"Pick one," I offered.

"No, you haven't got the right one. They've introduced a new one now."

Meanwhile, of course, there were other customers queued behind me, all, no doubt, clutching their rewards cards ready to swipe. I hope they had the new updated one.

"But it must be one of these! How about this one?"

"No that one's for 5 per cent off lingerie if purchased during a lunar eclipse."

There are plenty of problems with rewards schemes. The first is that the rewards are pretty trivial anyway.

You have to spend an awful lot of money if you want to be rewarded with the likes of a teaspoon. Or a biro.

It's a bit like buying a brand new Peugeot to get a free toast rack.

To put it another way:

SPECIAL. Today only. Teaspoons only $999.99 each. Toast racks (wide or narrow slot) only $39,999.99.

What's more, to qualify for your teaspoon or toast rack, you often have to negotiate a website that is far from user-friendly and once you've found your way through the online labyrinth and entered your details your email spam filter will be working overtime for the rest of time, if not longer.

Another problem is that the cards clutter up your wallet. There are so many of them that the wallet positively bulges. Call me old-fashioned but I still like my wallet to be slim enough to fit into my pocket.

Driver's licence, a credit card and a few bank notes is all I want in my wallet. Not even loose change. That stays in the car ashtray or down the back of the couch.

Then there's the big problem of passwords. I know that not all cards have passwords but enough do to cause problems. For safety reasons you are supposed to have a different password for each card but how many of us are really capable of doing that anymore?

Attendant: Sorry, sir, that has been declined. Wrong password.

Customer: I was certain that one was the woodland creature. Or maybe it was my mother's maiden name? No, I remember now. I think it was a communicable disease. May I have one more try?

One password fits all - that's my new motto.

A much simpler system might be to have little rewards at each point of purchase (POP). You buy your petrol and they give you a bite-sized Whizzo choc-caramel bar. Or a pair of tweezers. Or a whistle. It would be a bit like Christmas crackers but without the pizzazz.

When I was driving through Italy some decades ago, they used to give little confectionery gifts at freeway toll booths. They weren't rewards so much as change.

Their currency was so silly (you could pay thousands for the most trivial item) that there were never enough stupid little coins to give you change so you were given the equivalent in lollies.

It may not have been a very fair system but it certainly helped to keep dental hygiene standards low.

Travelling with young children would have introduced even more fun to the procedure:

Child 1: It's not fair. She got the green lolly last time. Why do I always get the yellow one?

Child 2: You suck!

Child 1: Are we nearly there yet?

Child 2: You still suck. So does Italy.

So why don't all you big businesses simplify our lives? Do away with all the cumulative

rewards kerfuffle and all the wallet-stuffing plastic cards. Just give us little gifts at POP. It would be loads more fun.

Or here's another thought: you could just make the goods cheaper in the first place.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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