“Have you signed up for our new rewards card yet?” asked the man behind the till at my neighbourbood gas station.
I rolled my eyes. “No.”
“You should. If you sign in online this week, you’ll get 300 bonus points.”
“Sure, give it to me,” I said. I was in a rush – buying milk for my daughter on the way to her before-school care program – and not in the mood to protest.
I still haven’t logged on for those bonus points. Every time I’m in the store and the same cashier asks for my card, I blush.
I stop at this gas station all the time, so it makes sense for me to use it. The reason I don’t is that when it comes to my money, I’m loyal to no one – except myself. I frequent this business because it’s a block from my house, and because I like the staff there. They’re a friendly group of guys, one of whom often floats me a free coffee and another who frequently tells me he loves me (that’s a bit disconcerting, I know. But I’m mostly sure he’s joking). My business there has nothing to do with the brand name on the door.
Other loyalty cards have been similarly thrust upon me, including one from a major book retailer. It does not encourage me to spend money there either. Instead, I spend my time looking at books there, while I use the Calgary Public Library’s mobile site to reserve them online. (I am extremely loyal to the CPL, mostly because they only charge me $12 a year.)
Rewards programs don’t make me feel special and cared for, and they certainly don’t buy my loyalty or my love. I’m not alone, if you take a look at this blog. It quotes stats, from something called a Loyalty Expo (not the best conference to go to if you plan to cheat on your spouse, I’m guessing), that say only 27 per cent of those surveyed feel valued as customers because of rewards programs.
If a retailer desires costumer loyalty, it should offer the best price possible on all its goods and services. I am loyal to companies that save me money in the moment, not in the not-so-soon future when I might have enough points to buy something I may or may not need.
Also, ditch the card. Alberta-based Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s points program is one of the few that influences my purchasing decisions, although not that much. My loyalty has way more to do with the fact that they sell my favourite soap on the planet. This retailer keeps my information in its system (every store has me on file) and I only receive e-mails very occasionally. Best of all, there’s no card attached. Because all those loyalty and rewards cards usually just end up at the bottom of my junk drawer.