Did you shop at a major retailer this holiday season? If so, this dialogue will probably ring a bell for you:
You are at the cash stand...
Sales associate: Good day. Did you find everything all right?
You: Yes, I did, thank you.
Sales associate: May I have your phone number please?
You: (???) Uh...sure, its xxx.
Sales associate: And your e-mail address?
Sales associate: So that we can put you on our list to receive our latest updates and coupons.
You: No thanks!
Sales associate: All right. (Starts ringing items. At this point sales associate points out small-purchase items at the cash stand in an effort to raise the items per transaction). Would you be interested in (random useless item)? It's only 99 cents.
You: No thank you.
Sales associate: Would you like to save x percent and earn x amount of points by opening our _____ perks/rewards/club card?
You: Is it a credit card?
Sales associate(if honest): Yes, it is a credit card; (if unscrupulous, or directed by an unscrupulous manager): It's just a store card.
You: A store card is a credit card, right?
Evasive Sales associate: It's an in-store rewards card(hands you the application and a pen).
Suddenly buying those tennis shoes or coffee mugs seems like more trouble than it was worth. When did shopping become so laborious and filled with potential financial pitfalls and land mines? In retailers' push to maximize profits they are doing a great job of alienating customers and creating lots of bad will. Maximizing profits can be done hand-in-hand with creating and maintaining good will. Small business owners usually have that down pat.
This all comes at a great point in time for me, however. I am dedicated to getting my financial house in order this year. I won't be swayed by impulse buys or "store rewards cards". I'll think twice about shopping at an establishment that's less than ethical. I'll make more of an effort to shop the small, individual businesses so that they can continue to thrive. Maybe the sales are better at the mall. But if you leave there with 5 extra $.99 tchotchkes, a new credit card with 29.99% interest and a bent side mirror did you really save that much?