We’re all familiar with those point program that retailers employ so they can make you buy more stuff you don’t really need.
Here is how it usually works:
When you are checking out of a store, the cashier asks you if you want to join their Rewards program. It is free and the more you buy, the more you save. They will keep track of everything that you purchase and then send you a check at a certain time. Most of the time, the check is in the form of an in-store coupon. The obvious theory is that you will come back into the store – sooner than later – to redeem your cash and, hopefully, buy more than the face value of the check. This is the best scenario because you purchase more things from them, spend additional money (add-on sales) and help them with their inventory turnover. If the retailer is really smart, they will double the face value on stuff they really want to move.
The second best scenario for them is that you don’t come into the store and the liability that they had in the form of the margin-reducing check expires.
When it comes to sending the “best customers” who are on the rewards program Best Buy, for example will send you a check when you ask for it after your accumulated points reach a certain threshhold – say $10. You receive a check / coupon with an expiration date to get you into the store. The points that are not used for that check are saved in your account until you buy more stuff and accumulate points to get you to the next level.
This set-up is good. The retailer gives you a reason to come back and the points that were not used are saved.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, however, has decided to create a program that puts the advantage on them and forces you to lose your points – the point you earned by spending money with them.
What they do is this:
You accumulate points on their Score Card Rewards Program. Then, they will send you a check, just like Best Buy, when you pass a certain threshhold. In my case, they sent me a $30 check with an expiration date of 2/26/11. So I have roughly 40 days to come in and use the certificate or lose the value. No problem.
But where their program takes a turn is they also include a buckslip telling me that any point balance under 300 will be “reset to zero” in just 10 days from the day I received their note. (see below for image)
Now here is where Dick’s plays dirty.
Along with this fancy buckslip, they provide me with a statement showing my points. It shows my points before the $30 redemption (which, by the way, was at their doing, not mine. Unlike Best Buy, I don’t have control over when my points turn into dollars). It then shows my balance which just coincidentally is now under the 300 point threshold.
So now, I have 10 days to get into their store and buy something that will put my points back over the magical 300 mark so I don’t lose my points. And by the way, the purchase I would make using my $30 redemption check will NOT accrue me new points.
Do you think it is a coincidence that my remaining balance is now 155? A balance of 155 means that I feel I have accrued too much to let expire. That also means that I have to buy something a little more expensive than an impluse item in order to get my points over the 300 mark.
And about the expiration dates? My check expires in 40 days and my points expire in 10. What do they want me to do? They want me to come into the store within 10 days to buy something knowing full well that as long as I am there, I will feel the need to buy something with my $30 redemption check.
So this little point game will end up costing me a lot more than I want to and sooner.
The bottom line is that Dick’s has taken the control away from the customer. They decide when to send the customer their check, they decide when the customer has to come into the store and they force the customer to use the points they earned or lose them.
That, my friends, is stealing from your customer.