I don’t know about how they do things in your neck of the woods, but here in the Northwest every store has started trying to get you to sign up for their rewards cards. I guess it’s a smart marketing tool to build customer loyalty, but why do they have to give you all those plastic cards or things to hang off your key chain? I have about six of those things to every key on my key chain, and it takes me a very long time to find the right one at the cash register, and then both I and the cashier have to contort ourselves to get the scanner to read it while piles of people stack up in the line behind me.

Some stores give you immediate discounts. At Safeway you can see your $100 grocery bill whittled down to $96 right before your eyes, which I find very satisfying. But Fred Meyer’s sends you discount coupons in the mail. This is a win-win for them, but a pain in the neck for me. To use the coupons, I have to go back to Fred’s and shcp, so I end up buying impulse items like Pepperidge Farms Mint Milano cookies. Also, chances are good I’ll lose the coupons when they get buried in all those wads of plastic in my purse and expire before I excavate them.

I can’t go into any store at all without being given a sales pitch about why I need to join the store’s rewards program.

“Ma’am, would you like to sign up for our triple star rewards program where you’ll earn triple points today?”

“I’m just here to buy a washer for my faucet.”

“That’s okay, you’ll be able to save 10% off your purchase today and earn points you can redeem later.”

“But I never come in here. And B, how much is 10% off of 39 cents?”

“Well, it may not seem like much, but it really adds up, especially in these hard economic times.”

“Okay, go ahead and sign me up.”

“Oh, good. This will only take a few minutes once the computer comes back up….”

I signed up for Macy’s rewards and get 20% discount cards all the time in the mail. It was pretty exciting until I went to try and use one.

“I’m so sorry, but this discount doesn’t apply to these items,” the clerk said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“It’s right there on the back of the card,” she said.

I looked at the card and saw something that I thought was part of the design – little squiggly lines. “Here, use my glasses,” she said. I put her glasses on and could tell the lines were writing, but couldn’t make out the words. “Here, use this magnifying glass.” With it I could see that there was a very long list of items that did not qualify for the discount – namely every regular priced, sale, or clearance item of every brand name in the store. “Is there anything I can actually purchase to get the discount?” I asked. “Not that I know of,” she said brightly. “Will that be cash or credit?”

I think this whole loyalty thing would work better if everyone wasn’t doing it. I have cards at Albertsons, Safeway, and Fred Meyer. I just go to the store that’s on my way without a thought about their rewards. I’ve signed up for Nordstrom, Macy’s, and American Eagle rewards, among others, but I buy different things in these stores. I don’t buy anything for myself in a couple of them, only stuff for my daughter. Toting these rewards cards around has not increased my loyalty, and it ticks me off that I’m probably paying MORE than I did before because these stores are making all those plastic cards and sending coupons in the mail and I’m footing the bill for it.

I just hoping they get rid of them and lower prices across the board before I have to bump up to a larger purse to accommodate my colossal key chain.