Treated like loyalty

Recently–and I know you’re not going to believe this–I had a bad customer service experience with the phone company. During the course of this, I had to wait on hold to speak to: The Loyalty Department. This is really what it was called.

I did get the problem resolved, but it made me realize that to your basic big company today, the word “loyalty” has come to mean “trying to force customers to stick with our product or store.”

That’s the idea behind supermarket loyalty cards: you flash your card every time, and you not only get the sale prices, but they tally all your spending at that store for special discounts down the line.

The usual critique of this practice is the privacy angle. As the sort of person who posts his family’s dinners on the web, I can’t say I honestly care who is tracking my supermarket spending. But I still hate loyalty cards, because they complicate what was a simple process. First, you have to make room for them in your wallet, and who among us can say that he has *extra* wallet space? Second, you have to fish around for the card, just to get the same sale price you used to get just because the universe loves you and wants you to save a dollar on milk. I’m ready to proceed to the part where they implant the loyalty chip in my head and scan it automatically as I approach the checkout.

So I was delighted to learn about a little tip that has made my shopping life easier. A couple weeks ago, I lost my QFC Advantage card, and around the same time I read somewhere (sadly, I forget where) that at the self-checkout lanes, you can use Safeway and QFC cards interchangeably. Sure enough–I haven’t bothered getting a new QFC card, because my Safeway card works fine. Presumably, every time I use it, it takes a photo of me, pastes “DISLOYAL” over it, and emails it to Kroger HQ.

This is no help at the regular checkout lanes–the swipe machine doesn’t accept the other store’s card. But you can punch in your phone number, or the made-up phone number you used when you got the card.

My wallet has never looked svelter.

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