What's on your key ring? Here's a list of ten good (and even a few awesome) loyalty programs.
First - (and not in any particular order) - Starbucks. I get a free drink for every 15 coffees that I buy. I think its a good deal - I buy a short coffee most days for $1.67 and then when I get my freebie, I use it towards a large mixed drink worth three or four dollars. I like it. It's not on my key ring, because I have the mobile app on my smart phone.
Second - maybe my most favorite key tag of all, relatively new to my collection of loyalty programs, and actually set to expire shortly - Ben & Jerry's. They run a V.I.T program - Very Important Taster club. I get 10% off my ice cream cones and a free taste of whatever new flavors they are offering. The key tag says it expires April 30th, 2013. Too bad - the program makes it worth my time to drive an extra ten minutes to get there. That, plus the best tasting butter pecan ice cream on the market!
Third - GNC Gold card. GNC has morphed their program over the years. It used to be that you had to show up in the first few days of the month to get the discount, now a person can show up at any time. There is a savings on many products and since I buy their multi-vitamins it does save me money, even though I have to pay an annual fee to be in the club. I am not sure if I will renew this next year however. I have an Amazon Prime account, and I find it simpler to order my GNC vitamins on the Internet - and save a half hour by not going to the mall. The shipping is free, even if the vitamins cost me a little more.
Fourth - Staples - I have been part of their rewards program for ages. I get all kinds of rebates and cash back when I return my empty ink cartridges. I have to say that they have a great rewards program in terms of the money I get back, but the worst quality key tags of any company - the ink wears off in months and that causes delays at the checkout counter. (Asides: Three memos to the Staples marketing staff - seriously - get a new key tag vendor. Most other tags on my ring don't wear out at all. Also, what is the scoop with the "buy a big pack of batteries in December and then get a 100% rebate" in January? Are you having cash flow problems - or just trying to goose your sales numbers in the 4th quarter to get a bigger year-end bonus? Either way, it smells funny. Lastly - if you want me to check-in with a mobile app in the store, don't put the QR code to do so at the checkout counter. Point it out BEFORE I do my shopping. Otherwise...love your store.)
Fifth - Panera - this program I like because I eat there a few times a week. Soup and salad usually. But in the last year or two, they seem to have dialed back on the number of free things they give away. Then there is the problem of them giving me a freebie or a discount on an item I don't like. If I don't use up the discount, I have to wait until it expires before they give me another, and that can take two months. Maybe a shorter expiration date would be helpful. They certainly can tell how frequently I patronize their stores. Frequent members should have discounts that expire more quickly. Lest we get annoyed having to look at that discount we don't want, on a regular basis. (I am in a Panera as I type this article…but finished it at a Starbucks, fwiw.)
Sixth - my biggest secret - this company just gives you a free chocolate once a month. You don't have to buy anything, you just show up at their store and show your card. It's Godiva, and it's damn good chocolate - and they have a store at the Tampa mall. Unfortunately for me the mall is an hour and fifteen minutes away , so I don't get there very often, but I always stop in when I'm up there.
Seventh - this is not on my key ring - but they send a coupon via email and it is often a BOGO (buy one, get one) for a Blizzard - it's DQ (Dairy Queen). My son and I both like them. I like the Butterfinger or Heath Bar mixed in with vanilla. Good stuff and a nice treat from the retailer. Sign up for free on the web and they will remember your birthday too.
Eighth - the newest item on my key ring is "The League" - by Sports Authority. SA has some of the craziest pricing. Everything is very expensive, so you really need to clip that 25% off coupon in the newspaper. However, when my kid needs cleats or something, there are not too many other places to go. So a little credit for each purchase is a nice thing.
Ninth - Fit 2 Run - this saves me about 10% on each sneaker purchase. Since I belong to a bike club, I also get another discount. I don't go too often, but I like their selection, and they have the running machines with the cameras mounted on the back so they can slow-mo my pace and check for pronation and other problems. When good quality running sneakers go for $100 a pair, 10% off is worth the effort.
Lastly - Best Buy - it's kind of a sleeper program, as I don't shop there too often, but I seem to get a $20 or $30 a year in rewards. It's mobile centric - comes via email and that is fine with me.
I estimate the combined value of the annual benefits I receive at about $750. It's adds up, and it's a bit of fun being in their programs.
Written by Craig Aberle
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