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The joys of bonus cards

August 18, 2002|by Jo Ellen Barnhart

I must have some fascination with Las Vegas. Perhaps it's more about cards and card dealers.

I believe that as I lay back gently on the big psychological sofa of life, I think I have actually found the true meaning of it all.

Bonus cards.

Bonus cards make the world go around. Bonus cards take you to new places you've never been before. Often bonus cards take you back to places you really did not want to visit in the first place, but the bonus card has this mystical power. Something straight out of Harry Potter.

I'm waiting for the Giffendorfer Bonus Card. That one will carry some clout.

If you don't know much about bonus cards, I'll explain. They are simple, seemly harmless little cards that can either hang from your key chain or become part of the gang that lives in your wallet.

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They are willfully and completely habit forming (try to get through the line at the check out one time without reaching for it), but up until this point in time are not regulated, as they should be, by the Food and Drug Administration.

Consider how many bonus cards you carry: one for the drug store, at least six for grocery stores, one for a major sporting goods store, one for a shoe store, one for the educational store and one for the bonus card store itself, where you can get more bonus cards.

They are designed to, "save you big money." Stores that pass out these babies want you to "rack up the savings," "save like never before," and "live long and prosper."

Of course, what the cards are actually used for is to gather even more information about your buying habits (just how many times a week do you have to get the salsa con queso and chips, huh?).

Those little cards tell the big supermarket computer everything you purchased this time and in a nanosecond the computer analyzes the purchases to offer you, what? More coupons that can save you more with your bonus card! Do you see the vicious cycle?

In the words of George Jetson, "Jane stop this crazy thing."

The sweet little bonus card has a devious sidekick: coupons. Oh yes, those little clippings that cling together to form a jumbled wad of waxed paper in my husband's hand.

I'll admit, careful coupon clipping can be somewhat advantageous at the checkout line, but in the hands of a novice, coupons simply become forgotten in the pants pocket destined for the rinse cycle in the washing machine.

Some people love coupons and bonus cards. They parade proudly into the store and present neat stacks of alphabetically or by numerically arranged slips with the handy bonus card on top to the cashier.

Or they can be like my spouse who drops a pile of rumpled pieces of paper on top of a can of chili hoping the clerk catches them before the bag boy loads everything in the cart.

I have one question for the retail brain trust: why not save everyone a lot of time and money and just charge the low price to begin with?

Can we just ditch these things and cut to the bottom line?

But, where would the fun be in that? I guess we'd all just have to go back to playing regular card games like Canasta and Go Fish.

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