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Ask Marilyn: Do You Hate Loyalty Cards? Doesn't Everyone?

Anonymous in Baltimore, Maryland, writes:

Marilyn: I avoid shopping at stores that require a loyalty card to purchase items at sale prices. This limits the number of stores I visit, but I'd rather not shop at stores that require my name and address, track my every purchase, and aim their advertising at me based on their perception of my shopping habits and tastes. Do you think I'm being reasonable?

Marilyn responds:

Not if, in fact, you don't need to give the company your name and address or phone number to get a loyalty card, and you may not. Stores love anonymous customers as much as they love customers with names. What they want are repeat customers, and that's the main reason those cards exist. The names, etc., are just a bonus.

For example, one drugstore chain offers new loyalty cards at the checkout counter. Each card is attached to a form requesting your name, address, email address, and so on. But the card works fine, regardless of whether you ever fill in the form. So you can discard it. But you should keep (and use) that same card for value that goes beyond buying items at sale prices. You may also receive cash off future purchases, discounts, useful coupons, and more, depending on what (and how much) you buy. (These offers appear on your receipt for future purchases.) That's why they're called "loyalty" cards. The company hopes you'll do more of your shopping at their stores, rather split your purchases among them and the competition.



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