Monday, December 8, 2014

Join The Club

So this last weekend I detailed my encounter I had with the lady at the cash register at Target, who spent a huge amount of energy attempting to sign me up for her store's debit card (bad), credit card (worse), or just get me on their email list so they could send me notifications anytime they wanted (let's not even talk about it). 

Oh, she also wanted me to download the smartphone app as well, so I could spend my happy hours in her store walking around scanning those square app codes into my phone for additional deals as well.

Because obviously I have no other life, right?

This encounter represents a huge trend in retail marketing today, which is to offer customers some kind of "Club" card.  Once you give them your most personal information -- email, phone number, possibly even bank account information, you receive coupons, specials and other discounts not available to the general public. It's all, supposedly, for the greater good of saving you money when you come into the store.

But here's the thing:  It's not designed to save you money.  it's designed to give these companies access to your life, and give them a way to encourage you to spend even more time shopping there. They know that the time-honored way to get you to give them more money than before (above and beyond their "savings") is to:

 1) force your loyalty by giving you a Club card that makes you feel like you should shop there in order to get the best deal.

2) get you, the consumer, to give said corporation enough access to your life, via your personal email, your phone number, smartphone texts and apps, that they can bombard you with advertising, specials and other goodies all designed to bring you in to shop even more than you are now.

The corporation is not doing you a favor -- they are doing themselves one.  Think about it ... they are not in the business of weakening their bottom line, so obviously there's a profit motive in all this "club" membership.  The fact is, having "club" members makes money for them, above and beyond what they'd normally make.  And it comes from YOU, the Club member. It's as simple as that.

Of course in my mind, there's also the "Homestead Law," which states that the more time you spend at home making and growing your own goods, the less time (and inclination) you will have to be out shopping and buying all the things you are quite capable of making/growing yourself. That will save you more in a year than a whole truckload of purchases on your "club card," believe me.

You also have to ask yourself if you are comfortable giving a corporation like Target permission to track your sales purchases, to have access to your bank account (their new debit card ties directly into your own bank account) access to your email, and access to your phone.  Would you give that information to anyone else you do not know?  Do you want them to have that kind of personal information about you on file?

Back in our old town, the chain supermarket where I shopped did this:  After I paid with my debit card, the register would spit out a bunch of coupons, specifically aimed at me.  Some things were for items I used, but most were things that I had not yet purchased, but an algorithm in a computer somewhere back at the Home Office indicated I might buy them, if encouraged to do so.

I found this interesting, but what was even more interesting was that after I began paying with cash only, the coupons for non-purchased items stopped.  There was no way for the company to track my sales history if I did not use a card to pay for things, and so the advertising in the form of coupons just stopped.  

I found that I liked the anonymity of shopping just as Customer X, with no purchase tracking and no history for them to collect on me.  And so I will continue to be Customer X at most stores, with nary a Club card to be found in my purse.

 If I ever do carry a club, it will be a billy club -- the kind I can use to smack people over the head with who badger me to join their Savings Club.   Yes, I am Customer X and I am free. Welcome to MY club.  Whack!


  1. Haha! Customer X is a badass! That is so interesting about the coupons drying up when you pay with cash! I've been trying a new app called Milk. You load your rewards card number into this app, and then it allows you to see all available coupons and load them on to your loyalty card. I've never been a coupon clipper (I've always attributed this to laziness), but I figured why not and downloaded the app. Today I looked through 150 coupons. Of the 150 discounted items, I don't buy one! Then I realized these are things at the heart of the market, aka all the useless crap. Cake mixes, frozen pretzels, and dish soap that's not even antibacterial. If coupons served the noble purpose they are said to, you know-"saving our hard working customers a break!", they would discount produce! Much of which is thrown out/composted anyway! After all, Americans need more produce and less cake mix. I found that pretty interesting. It's such a crock. Interesting post! Though I am a slave to the Kroger loyalty card. Saves me about a dollar per gallon on gas. I earn lots of rewards buying all my full price produce! Haha.

    1. I think if its something like gas rewards that it's totally worth it to be in a club, or if they are the only store in town and have a full-on, two-tier price system, like many grocery stores do. For those things, avoiding the club would be cutting off your nose to spite your face, right? But you are absolutely correct in that if these places really just wanted to help their customers, they'd knock down the price on fresh produce, milk, and other staples...not new, peanut-and-jelly flavored pop tarts and other crap!