Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why isn't there just one loyalty card?

I was cleaning out my wallet, which I try to keep pretty slim as it is, and realized that I was carrying around a bunch of loyalty cards; primarily loyalty cards for the different supermarkets that I frequent.  All of those cards now reside in one of the crap holders in my truck, but I will admit that I sometimes forget to bring the appropriate card into the store and, in those cases, usually wind up borrowing someone else's card that's in line behind me.

Now some of you will tell me that I can look up my loyalty card number by phone number.  I respond by telling you that I have absolutely no idea what phone number I used on most of my supermarket cards.  Specifically, I got my Safeway card when they first came out back in 1996.  Although I have tried many times to change the phone number on that card, I have been unsuccessful.  Can you imagine that?  Totally unsuccessful in changing the number for 9 years -- pretty piss-poor customer service for a loyalty program.

Others of you will tell me that they have small versions of the cards that I can hang on my keychain.  I respond by saying that I try to keep my keychain as streamlined as my wallet; I am not a janitor so I do not feel the need to have a massive janitor-sized keyring, especially if most of what is adding to the bulk is a bunch of silly plastic cards with barcodes or mag stripes on them.

Maybe what I could do is photocopy all of the barcodes onto one business card sized piece of card stock, laminate that, and keep it in my wallet.  I would imagine that some of the numbers from other stores might be in different store databases, but in the case of supermarkets, I just want the virtual coupon discount, so who cares?  Actually, I take that back; I guess I do get United mileage for my spending at Safeway and although I have lost my love for United, I guess I'll still take the miles if it doesn't require a lot of extra effort on my part.

There was an article that I found on Fast Company about customer loyalty programs.  Here's an interesting point from the article:

 "A loyalty card . . . is a piece of plastic. Most loyalty programs are plastic. They do nothing more than replace traditional paper coupons with electronic coupons. Why would that generate loyalty?"

Excellent point!  That's why I had so many of these stupid cards in my wallet -- to ensure that I received the discounts associated with them.  If I were really loyal, I would only shop at Safeway and not worry about even having an Albertson's card.

More from the article:

"If a company could turn 5% more of its customers into loyalists, with hooks into their amygdalas, profits would increase 25-100% a customer . . ."

See what Safeway should really be focused on is getting me to just dump all the rest of the supermarket cards and not worry about having a laminated card with every supermarket barcode on it.  But what's the cost to Safeway and is it worth the price?  I don't really know that even if I were head-over-heels about their loyalty program that I would buzz it to everyone (ok, I would probably talk about it a lot on this blog, but I think I can make this as a general statement).  From the article:

The only problem is that sometimes the price of loyalty is just too high . . . loyal customers tend to cost more because companies often give them more services as well as greater discounts.  

Maybe there is no good answer and I should just go fire up the laminator and the copier or just continue to hope that there is always someone in line behind me at the supermarket who will give me their card.  I would challenge you to look through your wallet and slim out your loyalty cards; if for no other reason, do it because it's not good for your wallet to be so full that you are off-balance when you sit with it in your pocket.


Anonymous said...

I'm in the loyalty building business, and we're going to be working with a VERY VERY large supermarket chain - your complaint is noted.

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