Sunday, 18 May 2014

Stop asking me to join your club. Call me Groucho.

My very own interpretative sketch of the situation.

When out and about doing my shopping I am often asked by staff at the retail outlets I visit (almost always young and eager) if I want to join the rewards program, or club. Because right now, no matter what shop, there is always a rewards program or club. Always.

They offer me discounts.  Or vouchers if I spend a certain amount.  Or early access to special offers.  Or a free gift if I've bought enough from their store.

Question: If you've had to buy a ton of stuff to get the free thing is it really free? I'm looking at you Smiggle.

Sometimes it's free to join, sometimes it's not.

Sometimes you get more benefits from joining the free one and the ones you have to pay for wouldn't even offer you a tissue if you sneezed.

Mostly I hold strong, and tell the eager person (who may or may not be on a bonus system for signing people up) that I don't really shop there that often.  Sometimes this is even true.

In any case, once you give in and hand over your details, you'll soon find more regular unwanted emails clogging up your inbox.  And you'll forget your card the every time you're at the shop so you'll never accumulate any points or stars or whatevers.

So I now just say no thanks.  To everyone.  Even the most eager, bonus induced keen bean, who is begging me to become a loyal member at the chemist near my Mum's house in Brisbane that I visit once a year.

Look, I'm not saying I haven't benefited from Loyalty programs.  Occasionally the reward scheme for frequent patronage of a certain shop does pay off and you reap the rewards.

I've had free shoes from Shoes and Sox.  A free Hoyts movie ticket.  And most underwhelming of all, a slap band from Smiggle. (Incidentally that slap band was the cause of more arguments between my children than any other item I've ever brought home.  No idea why.  It went in the bin.)

And I do like a Witchery voucher and the old faithful CR spend and save.

Other times I've said yes and really wondered why I bothered because no rewards have been forthcoming.

And I've lost track of the amount of times I've said no.  Bakers Delight, Adairs, Rebel Sport, Kikki K (although I think I said yes in the end), every chemist I walk in to.  And the list goes on.

I just can't be dealing with the increased email traffic, the questionable rewards, the continuous looking for the right card and the confusion in general.

EVERY retailer in the world is doing it.  Who's idea was the loyalty program anyway?  Frequent Flyers?

Enough.  Stop it.  Now.

This is the end of the blog post.  Unless you want to keep reading and hear a story.

It's a story of the time when I was the eager incentivised 18 year old staff member, encouraged by a major retailer to get unsuspecting people into debt.  Just to earn $5.

Back in the day, I worked for Myer.  I worked in the department that issued and took payment for Myercards and Laybys.

At the time (1989-1991) Myer used to offer people a credit facility called a 90 day plan.  They could purchase an item of decent value ($50-$300), and take it home, paying only a third of the price as deposit and then pay two equal instalments to clear the debt.  Way more popular than the lay-by due to instant gratification.

I think this credit facility's real name is Hire Purchase and I also think Myer had to scrap it after a while as too many people took out 50 of them at different stores and made off with the goods.  But I could be wrong.

It seemed a fairly sensible system and many a cash strapped youngster managed to pay off their new stereo or fancy jeans and jacket.  They had be 18 and pass a credit test first.

Now we uni students working in the department were incentivised to convince these small, new-to-debt fledglings to get a Myercard instead.  Which had the potential to be a lot more profitable for Myer (ongoing interest) and with a limit of at least $500 and high interest rates, a lot more troublesome for the user if they were a bit clueless.

Nonetheless for a $5 gift voucher every time I converted someone, and no care whatsoever for the future of the customers I was serving mean I often scored $30 a week above my pay.  In 1989 when I was barely 18, that was a LOT.

I feel terrible about it now.  But at the time it NEVER occurred to me the far reaching implications of what I was doing.  I, like the eager sellers of loyalty plans at every store I enter, are only doing what their boss has told them to do.

The difference being, these days I just end up with more crap in my inbox and another loyalty card in my wallet, but those I convinced to get a credit card, potentially ended up with a terrible credit rating and a large debt.

Shame on me yes?