!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
(and no, I’m not talking about American Express) 
​When was the last time you were paying for your purchase at a supermarket, a pharmacy or some other retail business when you weren’t asked the question, “Do you have our shoppers’ club card?” Sometimes it may be called a rewards card, but it’s just the same thing with a different name. You probably can’t remember when because it was almost certainly a long time ago. In the past five years or so rewards cards have become just about as common as a pitcher adjusting his “package” in the middle of close up on a nationally televised game. But whether you call it a “loyalty” card, a “rewards” card or a “club” card is about as important as whether you call it “puss” or an “infectious fluid”. It’s still the same frikin’ thing! If I took every loyalty card I was asked to sign up for, I’d need a truck, and a pretty big one, to carry them all around with me.

​The whole rationale behind these cards is that if you’re a member of the “in” club, you get special bargains, but if you’re not, well….then you get fucked over and pay a higher price. Do you remember when Sam’s Club and COSTCO first opened up? People were beating the doors down and begging to pay ten bucks for a membership card so that they could buy quantities of products that a family of fifteen couldn’t possibly consume in five lifetimes. What little they saved with a “volume” discount was almost certainly offset by the increase in their annual trash removal bill which covered the cost of disposing of all of the crap that went unused! But that didn’t stop the mobs which flocked to their stores because 97.31 percent of all Americans are cursed by the bargain gene which compels us to search for bargains and even buy things for which we have no need or use. It’s no different than a drug or alcohol addiction, but unlike drugs and alcohol, there’s no addiction center where you can admit yourself to take the cure.

Over the past five or so years there has been an alarming increase in the spread of “rewards” and “loyalty” cards beyond the credit cards that are often accompanied by rewards programs. The basic premise of these cards, which are store or company specific, is the premise that if you’ll shop their store more often than you shop their competitors, they’ll give you a “special” price break, and by “special” they mean a discount offered only to “members” of their special club or program. Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it, but I see it from a totally different perspective which is that if you gave everyone that same “special” discount, not just your rewards or loyalty program members, maybe you’d get a lot more people buying from you! Memo to top management: I don’t want to join your bullshit rewards program (which also qualifies me for even more spam e-mail that I don’t want!), and if I don’t get the same special pricing that your so called “loyalty members” get, then I’m shopping elsewhere! Period, end of memo!   

This past weekend I was shopping in a Rite Aid drug store for a potassium supplement. (You know what I’ve always said….you can never have too much potassium in your diet! That also goes for sugar and salt too!) Not only did they have what I was looking for, but they were having a “twofer” sale….buy one at the regular “low” price of $8.50 and get a second one free. Wow! I’m no dummy and a real whiz at math, and it didn’t take me all that long to figure out that I could save $8.50 on two bottles. (I’m telling you….my mind is like a human calculator!) I always recognize a good deal when I see it, so off I went to the register to pay and get on the road home. 

But before the clerk even had a chance to really look at me or say hello, I heard coming from her lips, “Do you have our rewards card?” I don’t know why, but I immediately got this picture in my head of a big dog sitting up on his hind legs begging for a treat. You know…. “rewards”. 

I could immediately tell that she was setting me up to be pulled into her evil web if I didn’t have their card, so I responded more than a little proudly, “No, I don’t,” and knowing what would come out of her talking hole next, I immediately added, “and, no, I don’t want one either.” 

I’m guessing they get a small commission for every new loyalty card customer the sign up, and I think she may have been a tad offended because there was a noticeable flinch, and without saying another word she then rang up my purchase and announced rather smugly, “That’ll be seventeen dollars.” She was very petite, probably no more than four foot ten, and I think she elevated the volume of her voice with the hope it might make her appear taller than she really was. 

Say what? Seventeen dollars! What happened to buy one, get one free? So, I leaned in a bit, and looking down at her, I posed the question. “What happened to two for one? That’s what the sign said,” I added quite emphatically.

Not surprisingly, she had a really good comeback which I was already anticipating. “The two for one is only for our rewards card holders,” she said with more than a touch of arrogance and a real emphasis on the word “only”. Ouch! Round one to the clerk. “

“Okay,” I responded looking down at her and right into her eyes. “Then keep it,” and I pushed the two bottles toward her and abruptly turned and headed for the door. Game, set and match to Lou. That’s seventeen bucks of mine you won’t be seeing today, you little shit

Why should I have to join a club, learn a secret handshake and go to monthly meetings in order to buy two lousy bottles of a dietary supplement at the “special” rewards card sale price? Not! 

So let’s take a look at yet another exclusive club, one that I happen to actually be a member of. And when I say “exclusive”, I mean really exclusive because there can’t be much more than 150 million people who, like me, carry an Amazon Chase Visa card. The only reason I have it is that when I ordered something from Amazon recently I was told that I’d get a ten percent discount on that purchase plus an all paid vacation (six days and one night!) to North Korea. All I had to pay for was my airfare, hotel and food….and….I could even take the missus with me! I guess I’m just a sucker for a good deal.

Now I’ll get to the good part. Last month I received a bill from Chase Bank for my Amazon Visa card for $113.13. The charges were all valid so I paid it in full….or at least I thought I did….until I received this month’s bill for thirteen cents. (Yes, you read it right….thirteen cents!) Apparently when I paid the bill on line I typed in the $113 but not the thirteen cents. (Bad Lou!) One of my first thoughts was, “That’s probably gonna” generate a late fee and maybe even some other penalty charges.” The bill happened to be due the day I opened it….once again my bad, not theirs. And so, I reached for my cell phone and called their customer service. It took a while to get to a human, and when I did, I explained my situation while he patiently listened. I also explained to him that I couldn’t pay the thirteen sense on line because my bank doesn’t allow on-line payments of less than one dollar. 

His response was swift. “No problem, Mr. Shapiro. Give me your checking account number, and we’ll take it out on our end.” My response was equally swift. “That’s going to happen right after the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl!” In other words, NEVER! Well, I didn’t actually say that, but I was thinking it. But what I did say was a simple but easily understood, “No,” as in NEVER! One of my basic rules is that I never let debtors, or for that matter anyone, into my checking account. Period, end of discussion.

So I came back with another question. Since it’s only a measly thirteen cents that we’re talking about, would it break the bank (Chase Bank) if they let the thirteen cents slide until the next billing cycle when there would be more than ninety nine cents on the bill? No, he didn’t think they could do that. So I responded with, “You don’t think so, or the bank doesn’t think so?” But he didn’t budge. Nope, they couldn’t do it. I then countered with, “Can’t or won’t”, and then I quickly followed with a snippy, “Are you really going to rip my heart out (and without sterile gloves!) for a lousy thirteen cents? Okay,” I continued, “let me talk to one of your supervisors. 

“Mr. Shapiro, may I put you on hold for a minute, and I’ll see if I can work something out?” He made it seem as if it was his idea and that he needed to put me on hold while he thought about it!

So a minute or so later he came back on the line with a very cheery, “Mr. Shapiro, great news!” (What happened? I thought to myself….did Chase Bank go under? Now that would be great news!) “How about if we just let the thirteen cents go until next month’s bill….but of course without any late fee or penalties? Would that be okay with you?”

Man, what a great idea! Why didn’t I think of it?”

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