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January 17th, 2017

“Rewards”

By G. E. Shuman

I only recently began realizing something very strange was happening to my key ring. It seems, lately, at least over the past year or two, that my key ring has begun to be filled with objects of an ‘other than keys’ variety. There are at least a half dozen things there that have nothing to do with starting my cars or unlocking the doors to my home. Those things are small, plastic tags that are constant remind-ers of businesses that I occasionally visit, but have no desire to be reminded of every time I start my car. They are key ‘tags’, I guess you would call them. The issuers of those tags refer to them as ‘re-wards’ cards. Check your key ring. I promise you, you have some of them.

In the past, before such cards were commonplace among key rings, businesses issued discount cards that looked very much like credit cards, except for the fact they provided no credit. They were plas-tic, credit card shaped things that fit snugly in your wallet, and provided one more opportunity, in addition to the credit cards there, for you to fumble through your personal stuff, while in a checkout line. All the time, you’re being glared at by a woman behind you with a shopping cart filled with diapers, two frozen pizzas, her husband’s motor oil, and her year old screaming child, so that you could get some real or perceived discount on the three dollar purchase you were attempting to make.

Evidently, or more obviously, ‘obviously,’ people like me, and, perhaps, people like you, became tired of such card fumbling, so one of the card issuing companies came up with a truly (from their point of view) brilliant idea. Some executive, or some caffeine-overdosed non-executive with a burning desire to impress his or her executive boss, must have said the following at an important, number-crunching meeting, “Hey. People don’t like fumbling through their wallets in the checkout line, all the time being glared at by a woman behind them with a shopping cart filled with diapers, two frozen pizzas, her husband’s motor oil, and her year old screaming child. Since most of our customers are smart enough to drive a car, while, at the same time still being willing enough to accept any discount scheme we throw at them, let’s put the card right on their key ring, by golly!” And, do you know what, by golly? It worked, and since that meeting, most of us have had a growing number of those ‘re-wards’ cards right on our own key rings. Now, in that checkout line, we only have to fumble for our keys.

The only thing that junior executive didn’t think of was that, in a pinch, people occasionally used to use a discount card or credit card to scrape ice from their windshield, (at least I did), and spring will be here before you could do it with one of those tiny tags. Also, the tags wouldn’t be much good at helping you get into the room you locked yourself out of. Not that any of us would use a card for that. The only thing they’re good for is what they were designed for, which is good, except I still hate to see all those tags on my key ring.

My biggest frustration with such discount programs came the other day, as I was informed that the email address attached to the discount system of a particular business was no longer ‘in’ their system. I no longer existed, and neither did the points toward a discount that I was earning, as far as they were concerned, even though I have been using the same email address for about 15 years now. Oh well, we all have to go sometime

Now, I want you to know, I do acknowledge that this next statement will make me sound like the crotchety old man that I am fast becoming, but please hear me out, and at least consider that I might have a solution to my perceived rewards card problem. I don’t suggest that you do this, but I think it will work, for me. What I am going to do is to simply take those increasingly-grungy, small, plastic cards off from my ring. This will make more room for my keys, and less room for a checkout person to take those keys out of my hesitant hands, and scan their company’s little card into some system. Somehow, I always feel a bit strange when that happens, and even stranger if I have to admit that I don’t have their particular rewards card. Shame, shame on me.

Yes, from that day forward, I may receive a disapproving look or sigh from the checkout person, but none from that woman with the diapers and the kid in the shopping cart, behind me. I will pay the full price at the checkout, it is true. I will consider that to be a good investment in personal stress management. That will be reward enough for me.

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