Buy stuff. Get points! Buy more stuff!
So I recently tried taking my wallet from the jacket pocket where I keep it hidden from predators like pickpockets or my kid and, moving it into the well-worn back pocket of my jeans, but I ran into trouble: It wouldn't fit. It was too wide. (The wallet, not the jeans, wise guy!)
Normally, being too fat is a good problem for a wallet. It means too much cash is packed in there, waiting to be spent on fun things like Pat Benatar cassettes or peanut butter Easter eggs. Sadly, it was not greenbacks but paybacks that caused me to give up trying to shove things into my pants. (The back pocket! Jeez, you really are a smart-aleck this week ... ) Paybacks in the form of rewards cards.
It seems like every Northland business we frequent has some sort of customer loyalty program. You join the club and get points for every purchase you make. It's a cool idea ... in theory. The trouble is that the checkout line usually backs up to Nashwauk as the clerk tries to manually enter microscopic numbers off the back of my cards when they don't scan anymore because they've rubbed off from being wedged into my wallet tighter than summer tourists ogling seagulls in Canal Park.
A few of these programs use the term "reward" loosely, by the way. Five punches on the card gets you a free giant soda, for example, which would be good if you had a hankering for 10 gallons of Mr. Pibb. Or the department store that emailed us a 10 percent off coupon with an expiration date of five minutes after we got the email. (Unfortunately, we're still waiting for parts for our teleportation device.)
Then there are the exclusive dining clubs that many restaurants have started up. They're so exclusive, in fact, that the staff has no idea what you're talking about when you mention it. And when you finally wrestle out that particular piece of plastic, the waiter delivers an attitude quicker than the appetizer. "We discontinued that six years ago," he sniffs. "When was the last time you were here, anyway?"
Today, as it turns out.
The only loyalty program we've found that is truly worthy of the moniker is SA Rewards from SuperAmerica. You get points the second you walk in the door. Purchasing snacks? Get points. Need milk or gas? Get points AND a discount! Visiting the restroom? Double points!! OK, I made that last one up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's implemented very soon. A few months back, we finally cashed in our mammoth amount of points for gift cards loaded up with free money to be used at SA. And the best part? They gave us even MORE points when we were done. For purchasing gift cards. That were obtained by using points in the first place.
SuperAmerica, ladies and gentlemen. For the win.
Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater and invites you to follow him and his theater company on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater, like them on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater and visit their website at RubberChickenTheater.com. He would like to recognize the contributions of his wife, Sue, to this week’s column. They make an excellent team: She comes up with all the good ideas, he takes all the credit.