I like to save money where I can. As such, I sign up for email lists and rewards cards that promise discounts and freebies. I believe that I am now special with the card, that I am part of an elite audience who is favored.
It used to be that such programs were few and far-between, but these days it seems like everybody has some sort of club – stores, restaurants, service providers – everybody. Being a part of such a club means you get emails about sales and discounts. I like that idea – in theory. In practice, that just results in that much more email that I must deal with. True, it may be email that clues me in on member only sales or coupons, but at the end of the day it is still yet another thing that enters the giant pile of things that need my attention.
And then there are the membership cards. I have dozens of them collected between my wallet and a drawer. I used to save the little key ring cards as well just in case I lost the card itself, but I finally came to the conclusion that losing the card was not so catastrophic an event that it necessitated the box of key cards cluttering the junk drawer.
The most obvious problem with all of this membership stuff is maintenance. I cannot carry all the various cards in my wallet – there are too many. My wallet already looks like it is in its ninth month of pregnancy and is showing the fatigue that over-stuffing causes. As such, I leave the majority of my trusty reward cards at home. This means that I have to be cognizant of where I am going to stop before I leave the house to ensure I have the right cards with me. This may seem simple to folks who methodically shop, but that is not the way I always shop. Some days I decide while out and about to detour to a store that I had not planned on stopping at before leaving the house that morning. This causes an internal problem for me - I do not want to go all the way home to get the card, but I do not want to miss my discount. Now, tis’ true that you can sometimes provide your phone number or email and they can find your card, such requests always makes me feel like a goober. I find myself being torn between wanting the membership benefits and not wanting to look like a desperate shopper pinching every last penny.
But let’s face it – that is what I am – a desperate shopper pinching every penny. That is why I got the card to begin with. I want the best deals so that I keep more of my money even if it is only a savings of a few percent. Retailers know this mentality, that have this down pat – folks want to believe they are saving money – hence sales ads, coupons, and membership benefits and rewards.
When I take the time to really think about it though – like right now, I must ask myself if encouraging companies to email me and track all my purchases is worth the benefits and rewards I receive. Somewhere in a super-computer there is a profile of my shopping habits that would allow a data analyst to predict what I would buy, when I would buy it, and at what price. I have become to these companies a profile of what I buy – a piece of the grand retail strategy that is consumer buying behavior. This makes me feel less special.
I do not know whether I should reflect longer and look harder at this whole benefits and rewards thing, or just be a cog in the wheel of the retail industry for my percent-off savings and colorful membership cards. I don’t know if I want to really look behind the Mighty Oz’s curtain at the mechanics of the magic. I suspect that should I do so I would find that some of the benefits are not quite as magical as shoppers may believe. I so want to believe that I am special because I have a card, but perhaps it is time to acknowledge that I have sold off something to be a member – and I may have gotten gypped in the deal .
Day one thousand three hundred and forty-five of the new forty – obla di obla da