When I was a kid a local convenience store offered a reward program that was a sheet that you got stamps to place on it (one stamp for every dollar spent). They said that the reward for a completed sheet would be announced later and started giving them out. Some friends and I started going to the store every night to buy a pop and a bag of chips, mainly to get a sticker on our sheet. I felt like I’d hit the jackpot when a man ahead of me one day looked at a long string of stamps he’d been given with disdain and offered them to me.
My mother found out about the sheet (and the nightly snack purchases) and told me what she thought of the whole thing (my mother is like Judge Judy, except she directs all her contempt at her children instead of white trash). Eventually the day of vindication occurred and they posted the prizes for complete stamps. The best of the bunch was half-price on a loaf of bread. I threw out my completed sheet.
Roger Williams wrote a great (supposedly) true story about his experiences gambling. One of his throw-away comments that I found quite interesting is that he was thankful he lost his first time at the casino, as it gave him a suspicion of gambling (and expectation that he’d lose), even after he’d had subsequent visits where he came out ahead. I think buying stock right before the high of the tech boom was probably good for me as an investor (it has me half expecting drops in value of 75%). This introduction to “reward points” made me suspicious of “Air Miles” and everything that has been offered to me since.
I’ll take lower prices or cash back at the end of the year thanks very much.
I found in most contexts, when a store offers you some sort of credit (up to and including prizes), you’re often the worse off for accepting it. Reward points, and other such loyalty programs, are designed to encourage us to spend more than we otherwise would at that location. Some people beat stores at their own game. Its damn hard to do.
The WORST game they play is when store credit expires. Either you buy a gift certificate or take some sort of foolish points or something, changing currency that can be used everywhere with no expiration date, for something that can only be spent at THAT STORE within a specific period of time. Bizarrely, we sometimes do the exchange on a 1-to-1 basis. I bought an aunt a gift certificate to a spa once and was horrified when they handed me the certificate and it had a 6 month expiry date on it. I asked them why it expired in 6 months, and their only explanation was “we found everyone would rush in to use it before the deadline when it expired after a year”. The solution of REMOVING the expiry date didn’t even occur to them.
A friend of mine has been filling out surveys, and usually does quite well at it. She recently got into a situation where a company gives her points that are expiring soon, and they don’t offer anything she wants. They’re going to lose a customer over it: why would she fill out surveys for them in the future? Its bad for the customer, and bad for them. It doesn’t even cost them anything to show her an ever increasing balance of “points”, and she may have kept filling out surveys hoping good prizes would show up later which makes it especially stupid on their part.
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