By MIA FREEDMAN
No thanks, I do not want to join your loyalty program. No, I’m not a member of your discount club. No, I don’t currently collect points for your frequent buyer scheme. No, I’m not on your VIP list and I don’t want to be alerted when new stock comes in. No, I haven’t got a fly buys card. No. No thanks. No. I just want to pay you and take my new stuff home.
SHOPS, WHY IS THIS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND?
Remember when the extent of the conversation you had with a sales assistant was “Cash or charge?” The End.
Come back, those days. I miss you.
This week, I braved Westfield to do some Christmas shopping and returned home a shriveled husk. Utterly exhausted.
Not from looking for a parking spot for 30 minutes. Not from crowd surfing on escalators or stressing that my credit card was about to spontaneously combust.
Not even from staggering desperately around all four levels of the car park, pressing the unlock button on my key in the desperate hope that my lost car might flash its lights in response.
All of that is just how shopping rolls. Having done all that for decades, I’m extremely match fit. My retail endurance is high.
However there’s a new type of retail exhaustion and it’s caused by the relentless harassment of sales assistants to join their stupid loyalty programs. Wait, maybe they’re not deliberately harassing me. Maybe they’re just trying to be helpful but when you can’t even buy a bottle of shampoo anymore without someone asking, “Have you joined our Customer Discount Program?” and then immediately launching into a spiel about how it will change your life and save you so much money and all you need to do is fill out this form with your details blah blah blah, something has gone seriously wrong with the retail experience.
NO, I DO NOT HAVE ONE OF YOUR DISCOUNT CARDS AND I DO NOT WISH TO GIVE YOU MY NAME AND PHONE NUMBER BECAUSE I JUST WANT TO BUY THIS BOTTLE OF GODDAMN SHAMPOO AND NEVER EVER COME BACK.
My wallet overflows with loyalty cards because for years, I thought they were a good idea. Loyal? Yeah I’m loyal. Rewards? Sure! Discount program? Who doesn’t want a discount!
But recently, when I couldn’t close my wallet anymore, the madness became clear.
Around the same time, Channel 9 Finance Editor, Ross Greenwood called me about a news story he was putting together. He had also noticed the sharp rise in loyalty programs and that women in particular are suckers for them. “They weigh down wallets, take up mental space and deliver very little,” he says. “But I discovered some women are staunchly attached to these things. There’s genuine emotion when they describe their favourites.”
You’re right, Ross. Of the 19 cards I counted in my wallet, I could only part with 11. One of the remaining eight is for a chicken shop. Meanwhile, my husband has none. Ask a nearby bloke to turn out his wallet and count his loyalty cards. Go on, do it now. It won’t take long because he probably won’t have any.
“As for the stores: don’t get me started,” Ross continues. “They can spot a sucker sooner than most. And if a small piece of plastic and the promise of free stuff or a discount makes you feel special, that only means you’ll spend more money. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Goddammit he’s right. In one store this week, the salesperson actually said this to me:
Her: “Are you part of our loyalty program?”
(I actually was but I’ve lost the card and I’m sick of giving out my details to strangers in front of other strangers).
Me: “No. And I don’t -“
Her: “For every $100 you spend, you save $5. And you’ve already spent $90 so if you spend another $10, you get $5 off!”
It’s really not smart to bamboozle frazzled shoppers with such bogus financial logic, particularly when we’ve lost circulation in our left arm from dragging around shopping bags. We don’t want to do maths. We just want to pay you. Why is our money no longer enough? Why do you also need our address?
I’m so sick of giving my private details to sales assistants. Sometimes I try giving fake ones, just to get it over quickly and avoid a lengthy discussion about the benefits of getting another bit of useless plastic for my wallet. And because they say things like “it only takes 2 seconds and you’ll automatically get a $10 free voucher.” Except it never does and you never do.
There really is no escape. Even at the supermarket at 9pm while trying to buy some emergency dog food recently, came the inevitable, “Do you have a Woolworths card?”. No I don’t. BECAUSE I AM GOING TO HAVE TO BUILD A SECOND STORY ON MY WALLET. And also? It’s dog food.
Interestingly, Ross Greenwood points out that “even if you don’t have a loyalty card, they’ll probably give you the freebies if you spend enough and ask firmly.”
Next time I go shopping, I’m taking Ross Greenwood. And a smaller wallet.
Do you have any loyalty cards? Are they useful, or just a waste of precious wallet space?