John Grindrod: Rewards programs, often a smidge better than nothing


By John Grindrod - Guest Columnist



As I stand in front of the counter fumbling with my keychain, I often wonder what on earth I’m doing attaching all those plastic fobs for grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, always fumbling for the right one to have scanned. Yes, we’re all definitely living in a rewards-program world, I suppose, the 21st-century version of the rewards programs of my coming-of-age decade, the 1960s.

For those of you who share my demographic, you surely can’t forget those green and those yellow stamps that are our earliest memories of reward programs favored by our moms. As for the former, they were, of course, S & H Green Stamps. The company was an American institution for over fifty years and once touted its rewards catalog as one of the country’s largest, the bane of many a postman’s existence.

After purchases in grocery stores, department stores and gas stations, customers would receive sheets of stamps, with more stamps given for larger amounts spent. The stamps were then moistened and put in booklets, which would then be redeemed for items selected in the aforementioned big old catalog. Often, our moms based their decisions as to where to shop on where the best deals on those stamps could be had.

The yellow stamps with red letters were Top Value Stamps, and the idea was the same as S & H. An interesting aspect of the Top Value catalogs was that Norman Rockwell did several covers, which, I’m guessing may just make the catalogs collectibles.

I also remember Marathon stations giving away dishes and glassware for fill ups. As a matter of fact, I’m the proud possessor to this day of six Apollo Mission glasses AND the juicer! While financial circumstances haven’t grown too desperate yet, I’ll be selling them for top dollar should a money emergency arise. Oh, and I also have one lone BC glass with those distinctive dimples on the glass’s perimeter down by the base, also given away by the old full-service filling station. Back in those days, nobody was pumping their own.

As for today’s version of rewards programs, to be honest, as a whole, I find them pretty underwhelming, thus proving irrefutably yet again that the old days were indeed better. At my preferred gas station, I dutifully present the fob upon each fill up and see the rewards points accumulate. However, I’m a points hoarder because every time I go to redeem some points, I’m astounded by how many points will be deducted for, say, a bottle of water and a Three Musketeer! To be honest, I’d rather another space mission glass anyway.

When it comes to dining out-and on work days, that’s an almost everyday event- there’s a certain sub shop I frequent, and their current rewards program awards four tokens for every dollar spent. It takes 200 tokens to earn a two-dollar reward. Wow, do you mean I “only” have to spend fifty bucks to get two bucks, a total that surely won’t even cover the cost of a sandwich, rather, just a delicious 1 1/8 ounce bag of Doritos? Such a deal!

As for all those Jennifer Gardner “What’s in your wallet?” commercials that extol the virtues of all those airline miles, well, I just don’t fly enough for that to even be an enticement to add another credit card to my wallet.

As for the two rewards programs that I actually do find, well, rewarding, that’s easy. I do like the credit-card cash-back/statement-credit program. I use a card frequently for business, and points do accumulate fast enough that will on a pretty regular basis knock twenty bucks or so off my next month’s statement total.

As for the other, since I do stay frequently in hotels while working, especially in my favorite chain which, in my opinion, gives the most bang for my lodging buck, the Drury Inn and Suites, I do accumulate enough points to earn free stays that I can use on vacation, such as that nice Drury that overlooks San Antonio’s River Walk I used a couple of years ago. Now, when you get a free hotel stay, we’re talking about a reward that’s over a hundred bucks — in other words, a true reward.

According to the article on the website PYMNTS.com, “Ubiquity and the Holy Grail of Rewards Redemption,” approximately 1/3 of consumers never redeem their rewards points in any given program, so, for them, I suppose it doesn’t matter one way or another how well crafted a rewards program is. They just like fumbling through all those plastic fobs on their key rings and holding the line up at the cash register.

But, for the rest of us who are looking for some small reason here and there to believe that we’re getting something for our consumer loyalty, our plea is a simple one. Mr. Corporate Guy and Gal, please work a little harder on these programs so we, the consumers, don’t feel as if we’re spending a mountain of cash and getting a mole hill of a reward!

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By John Grindrod

Guest Columnist

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at grinder@wcoil.com.

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