Store loyalty cards are no bargain

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By Geoff Hamill

Saving money is fine by me, like I’m sure it is by most of you. But one thing I feel is not needed these days is those ridiculous little discount cards you have to carry around to buy things at most stores.

Almost every store has them, and if you don’t use them, you’re going to pay the price. To save money at some grocery stores, you need to be a “member,” and present your saver card. If not, then the sale price advertised on TV or in the newspaper isn’t for you. Thankfully our local grocers don’t use this practice.

I understand wanting customer loyalty, and that’s the claim most stores make. They think if we carry the cards and get “points” for our purchases, we’ll be loyal to them and buy everything at that one store. I just don’t think it works in most cases, and I know it doesn’t work with me. These cards aren’t earning any loyalty for the stores from the consumers, they are simply prying into our business, tracking information about us, and collecting information they don’t need in order to sell us something.

You earn points with your purchases alright, and you can save $5 off your next trip to the grocery store if you spend $300! Wow, what a bargain! At least if these stores are going to make the cards look like a favor to the consumer, they should give us a real benefit, not a penny off of a $10 purchase on something we’re probably not going to buy in the first place.

OK, by now you’re probaby wondering what has me so upset over something as simple as a little plastic card at a store.

It all started Monday as I went to a store to purchase batteries. The package of eight Duracell AA batteries was $4.99, according to the tag on the shelf. When I got to the counter, I was presented with an application for a card with the store, and was told if I didn’t get the card, I would have to pay the regular price, which was more than $10! That brings up another issue with these cards. If a store can sell me some batteries for $5 with their card, then they can sell them for the same price without the card, don’t you think?

I was in a hurry, and I didn’t have time to fool with it, but I also didn’t have time to go somewhere else to buy the batteries. After attempting to discuss my way out of the application with the clerk, who by the way was only doing her job, I scribbled my name across the application, (if you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that’s the only way I ever write my name) and then I handed it back to the clerk.

Nope. Still not complete. Now they needed a phone number. Well, that’s what I gave them. A phone number, but not mine. I’m sorry if I’m being difficult, but there’s no reason a store needs to contact me by phone. I know where they are located, and if I need something from them, I’ll stop by! It’s the old “dont’ call us, we’ll call you” thing, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to make me carry a card for savings, I just might not call you at all.

I hope I’m not overreacting here, but I’m just looking back on situations where I have provided information and taken a store’s card, only to get unwanted e-mails from the store almost daily. I’ve even received e-mails that clearly told me that I was receiving this message because I had responded to some other offer at a business that used the saver card. They told me they had shared my information with someone else!

That’s when I drew the line. If I don’t have your card, I don’t want it, and if I take it, you sure aren’t going to get any personal information out of me. In a lesson I learned from a late uncle, I will scribble my name, at best, or use a fictional name. I’ve seen him use names like Fred Flintstone and phone numbers like 867-5309. (Remember that song from the 1980s?).

If you want to give me a bargain, fine. But don’t give me another plastic card to keep up with!