Random Acts of Observation
Dr. Anonymous

Dr. Anonymous

You'll never know where you'll find the good doctor. Perhaps in line behind you at WalMart. Dining at the neighboring table. Returning a corked bottle of wine to the local supermarket. Stumbling out of the dentist's chair. But wherever the good doctor perambulates, rest assured that all five senses will be focused on the immediate experience and ready to assimilate any tainted data for another random act of observation...
Posted 12.14.05
Somewhere in North America


Keep one card, destroy all others

Enough already! I don't need any more membership cards thank you.

The proliferation of club and affinity cards has become intolerable and I have more of these than currency. I have lots of accumulated points on plastic and it's kind of like having money on paper. Or in space…

As a semi-frequent traveler who must stay in hotels, I have learned a thing or two along the way -- hotels do not treat all guests the same.

In fact, if you are not a card-carrying member of one their clubs, you are scum.

Every hotel chain offers their own version of a points card that suggests better treatment if you join. Access to a club lounge or floor, free newspapers, chocolates on the pillow, and a nightly turn down of the sheets are some examples.

Other perks can include priority reservation status for suites; free local telephone calls, and points earned for free overnight stays. So far so good right?

Unfortunately, by my calculation, you must stay three years in any given hotel to ever earn a free night or an upgrade.

Oh, and did I mention the mountain of correspondence one receives after you join the club?

A pile of junk mail and e-mail will arrive with nuisance calls for satisfaction surveys via hotel marketers to ruin your supper. If you are one of the privileged few with priority club status you therefore have been selectively chosen to help improve hotel service to the public.

How was the 300-thread count sheet experience sir? Did you enjoy the free water and crappy coffee?

You may have noticed that hotels are not the only purveyors of club cards. You cannot buy gas in good conscience without an Esso, Petrocan, Ultramar. or Shell card. Counter clerks give looks of bewilderment when you admit that you do not carry one of their cards.

They will immediately offer you one on site. It's very easy to join, they say -- that is if you have the time to stand at the counter and fill out the two-page application while angry patrons wait behind you.

I still don't have enough points for a free tub of windshield washer fluid but I am a privileged member and I have the card to prove it.

I'll concede that I once got a "regular" car wash using points. "Regular" employs cold water, uses no soap and comes with a shitty rinse.

I paid an extra $3.99 plus tax for an upgrade and used up two years worth of accumulated points.

They sucked additional cash from me, which is the purpose of all affinity cards. Each one is designed to get you to spend more money and to never have you shop elsewhere. Truly rewarding, indeed.

Credit card companies are the worst purveyors of plastic and privilege, as we all know. It's not enough to simply have a line of credit -- you must now have an affiliated card that offers reward points for every purchase.

Cards such as HBC, Club Z, and Club Idiot exist and I have been a member.

Grocery stores are the most common locale for points gathering.

Air Miles cards are essential at checkout, don't you know? You may get a free crock pot in a few years if you can remember to produce it before they ring up the till. You cannot get points unless you produce the card in advance of the cashier doing the addition.

I recently was subject to grumbling and a look that could kill via a Christine Aguilera wannabe cashier when I broke the golden rule of Air Miles card etiquette. I was nearly banned from buying frozen lasagna at M and M because I had forgotten my club card PIN Number.

No Nanaimo bars for you my friend…

All this to make a few points -- no pun intended.

If you sign up for any club card you will be placed on a mailing list, and that mailing list will be sold to direct marketers and e-mail spammers.

You have provided a number of companies with an efficient electronic method of collecting data such as your key coordinates and demographic profile, which includes spending habits and all manner of "other" useful information. They will know that you bought Kraft dinner four times a month for the past two years in their outlet at postal code XYZ as an example.

You will spend more trying to earn points for a toaster than the toaster costs itself.

My advice? Get the card that is the mostly widely accepted if you are going to get one at all. Destroy all others.