The other day, I was stuck in line behind this elegantly dressed middle-aged lady, at the supermarket. I apologise for being a bit presumptuous or even prejudiced here, but she didn't seem the type to be shopping for groceries at a mid-range supermarket during the weekday. She seemed like the kind who would be more comfortable sending out her butler to get foodstuff for their chef to cook. In other words, she seemed posh.
Anyway, I was stuck behind her and after playing Peeping-Tom with the lavish selection of items she had placed on the conveyor belt, I waited for her to pay. Now, I have a bone to pick with people who don't follow the 10 items or less rule at the checkout. I mean, the notice is right there and it's there for a reason. And you have a place reserved in hell for not sticking to that rule. Anyway, I digress. Coming back to this lady, keeping my fingers crossed that she would pay for this with a credit card and be done, I watched her pull out a Chanel clutch from her 'could-easily-hide-a-puppy' Louis Vuitton bag.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, the cashier chose that moment to ask her if she had the supermarket's premium loyalty card. I heard the person standing right behind me protest loudly and resisting the urge to ask the person to keep his abundantly-garlicky-trap shut, I merely sighed. Of course, the sigh just turned into wide-eyed desperation when she then pulled out another smaller wallet (branded, nonetheless) and unfolded it, with all the gusto of a magician showing off his craft. A not-so-silent gasp escaped my parted lips as loyalty cards of varying shapes, sizes and colours tumbled out onto the cashier's desk and the lady said, 'I'm sure I have your card in here somewhere. I just need to find it'.
Amused? I was too. However, this was soon followed by a wave of embarrassment and sort of inexplicable guilt. Because, I too am the proud owner of a fat wallet. No, it isn’t bloated with the money that I should be ‘hypothetically’ making. In fact, it is stretching at the seams because of the same reason as the lady’s in the instance above.
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Because, just like many of you, I too am affected by a severe case of ‘LOYALITIS’.
Loyalitis is a case that affects 1 in 4 adults, and is defined by certain characteristic traits.
- A false sense of pride in hoarding as many loyalty or reward cards as one possibly can
- An inability to say NO, when the smiling customer service agent (usually a pretty or handsome species of the opposite gender) explains the benefits and perks (*smirks) of their ‘unique’ Loyalty or Reward program in a soft, dusky and slightly heavy voice, while their perfume dulls your senses and makes you take irrational decisions
- A comforting voice in the back of your head, (usually planted with Mission-Impossible-style-precision by the afore-mentioned agent or one of their minions while you were busy admiring them) that throws phrases like , ‘Yes, that makes total sense’. ‘Yes, we’re going to keep coming back here to buy more stuff’. ‘Yes, it’s such a bargain, you should sign up’.
- A feeling of ‘What if?’ such as ‘What if I win that Mini Cooper that they assure ONE customer will win every month, from a draw that is totally staged?’, or ‘What if I do use it enough and gain enough points to either get an upgrade, a gift or some move from my dull starter-Blue tier to a Platinum level?'
[tweetbox design="default" float="none"]So extreme has been my case of Loyalitis, that I now stand an honorary member of the Loyalty Card Hoarders' Hall of Fame.[/tweetbox]
In fact, I have managed to hoard so many loyalty and reward cards that, I am in dire danger of needing to carry another wallet just for these. This, despite the fact that I only use a maximum of two or three of them on any given day. As expected, the irony is that I often end up going to a completely new place or one with no loyalty program at all, to do the bulk of my shopping.
The extraordinary thing about loyalty cards is the fact that they’re fairly ubiquitous in nature. Almost omnipresent, if you will. They’re everywhere these days - in retail stores, e-shops, travel, hospitality. The list is practically endless. I mean, who knows, one day we might even find the following scenarios:
- Health-care loyalty programs that offer you free tests or treatments when you collect a certain number of points, after running ’n’ number of tests. Think about that. Illness is good. And of course, hypochondriacs rejoice.
- Divorce attorneys or even Criminal Lawyers, offering free service for repeat divorcees or offenders. Imagine the amount of money that Ross Geller (from FRIENDS ) would’ve saved. I mean, that guy had his divorce lawyer on speed dial, quite literally.
- Maybe someday, even airlines will offer new reward programs, where the oxygen masks fall in the order of their Reward Tier. Ok, that’s a bit extreme. Knowing the airline industry, they’ll probably make you pay for it.
Talking about which, apart from the loyalty cards from retail stores, the bulk of my ‘cards’ are from different Airlines. Also known as ‘Frequent Traveller Membership cards’, they’re pretty awesome. They come in a variety of shades and colours, each with their own insignia. I’ve got to say this - they do make you feel special. Of course, the problem is that while you’re standing at the check-in counter flashing your ‘Blue’ (or base level) card, there comes some obnoxious looking twit flashing his Diamond-encrusted Platinum level card. And like the sea parted for Moses, we’re all shepherded away to one side for this person, who probably has single-handedly contributed 10% to the world’s carbon footprint.
Yes, I know. I sound jealous. And partly envious too. It’s because despite having so many loyalty cards from various Airlines around the world, I’m always a couple of trips short of being upgraded to the next level. Because, I am what you call a budget travel. I don’t have the luxury of flying the same Airlines over and over, till the cabin attendants, ground staff and pilots know me on first name basis. Sad, I know. But also true.
If there was a title for ‘King of Un-used Reward Points’, I’d probably take the crown hands down. Part of the reason, would be the scenario that I mentioned above. I’m loyal. But only to the person who gives me the best deal, because money is always a major criteria. The other condition is what is lovingly called, the Terms and Conditions.
The first course of action is to find these darn T&Cs. More often than not, you need someone like Sherlock Holmes to find it, because they're so deeply embedded within an essay of random sentences. And when you do eventually find them, you then have to meet their said criteria. And these are sometimes as random as things like, “You’ll need to hop alternatively on each leg, while simultaneously chanting the multiplication table of the number 13”. [Ok, I exaggerate. But do I, really?]
So, with all this in mind, I’ve decided to make my contribution to the next Guy Fawkes bonfire night, by snipping and burning away all those loyalty cards that I am no longer ‘loyal’ to.
And as a part of my 'de-loyalisation' program, every time I visit a new store and one of the employees asks if I’d like to sign up for their loyalty program or card, I shall give them the look. Yes, that look as if they just asked me if I’d like to give up my son for adoption. Coincidentally, this look is also reserved for those strange men who ask you to cough up your personal details so that you can sign up for a credit card right there at the supermarket or department store.
But now, I must rush. After having 30 coffees from my favourite coffee joint, each priced at approximately $5, they have now offered me a free upgrade on my next purchase of another $5 coffee. Oh, did I tell you that to redeem this I need to be wearing green pants and do cart-wheels around the coffee-house? The things we do for redemption. Of our points, of course.
PS. I know it was a long post. If you made it to the end of this post, here - take one of my 'Loyal Readers Card'. The more you comment, like and share, the more chances you have of getting an autographed copy of my book, if I ever finish it :P
This post is a BlogAdda Spicy Saturday Pick