Why loyalty cards don't work

Why loyalty cards don't work

Loyalty cards don't work. Just give us back our wallet space.

I have a wallet full of loyalty cards. Every time I buy sushi, they sneak one into the bag. Every new place I get coffee from tries to get me to take a card – even though we both know that it would take approximately two years for me to buy the required 10 coffees just to get one free. And if I really wanted to, it would be super easy to just forge the purchases by grabbing a pen and ticking away – loyalty cards operate on an outdated honesty system.

But here’s the thing. At the coffee place where I frequent the most (McGregor Brothers Kitchen), I don’t have a card to rack up stamps on. They have a prepaid card and its so much better. I buy 10 coffees in advance, I get my 10 percent discount right up front. If someone else from the office pops down to grab a coffee and offers to pick one up for me, I just give them my prepaid card and there is no ‘I’ll pay you back’, or ‘Here is a handful of coins’ or any other payment method. And my order is written on the card so there is no mixup or crestfallen looks when they say ‘Sorry, I thought you said decaf??’

At my other favourite coffee haunt, Sierra Albert St, they give me a fully stamped coffee card (to be redeemed for a free coffee) when I spend over a certain amount at lunch. I can use this at any time I like in the future. One transaction and my custom is rewarded – no 10 stamp palaver required.

So why do retailers insist on putting the burden on the customer to drag round these silly cards, demanding their loyalty – just to eventually offer them a small discount or token? If they just gave it to the customer up front then the onus is switched round and there is a stronger incentive for the customer to return again and again. And if they don’t, it is their loss.

Soon, wallet cards will soon be a thing of the past as your phone will hold everything you need and you will arrive at your favourite cafe with your order ready and waiting for you. In the US, this is already a reality with some coffee franchises who use Square. Well, Starbucks anyway. Until we get this in New Zealand, retailers should just chuck in the loyalty cards and give us back some wallet space. Please.

Simone McCallum is the social media strategist at ASB. This post originally appeared on her blog.