How big do the retail and food service folks think my wallet is?

I don't mean in terms of space for cash to pay for their products---I mean in terms of space for the stacks of cards they keep giving me as a "reward" for being a return customer.

They're all over---on your key chain, in your wallet, jammed in a coat pocket---those cards that you must present to get scanned or kerchunked, to edge you closer to a free whatchya-ma-call- it.


I have cards in my wallet, worn and with the printing almost rubbed off, some with holes punched in them, that now only serve as mementos of visits to Rio Wraps, etc. gone by.

I almost never remember for which businesses I have cards.

They always sound like a good idea at the time. First, they're free. Second, the arrangement has a nice little "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" aspect to it: keep buying our stuff, and eventually you'll get something for free.

Sounds good, right?

Trouble is, I never reach those businesses' threshold for the free stuff.

I'm tantalizingly close at Rio Wraps, and our local video joint. I'm maybe a hole punch or two away from a free burrito, and a free video rental. Maybe I'll achieve both on the same day, and enjoy a free burrito while watching my free movie.

It's a nice idea that these places have, but all these cards do is pile up in your wallet and make it bulge--and not with money.

I think my problem with these arrangements is that the threshold for the free item(s) is a little too steep.

Usually you need no fewer than 10 punches to achieve the free item, and that's simply too many visits for my liking---especially when I'm inevitably going to forget to present my card for punching on at least one occasion.

But at least those cards are flimsy and thin. Not so with the plastic, credit card-like ones that REALLY add paunch to your wallet.

Those don't get punched, of course---they get swiped. Or, they don't get anything, because even the clerks will tell you that you don't really need to present it, because all the info they need is on their computer.

For "convenience," they make mini versions that can be impaled onto your key chain. We have almost as many of those mini cards on our key chain as we have keys. It's like you're a custodian for the retail world.

I know the trick is to get you to come back to their establishment. Fine. But maybe we can go paperless and cardless? Maybe at the checkout we can take 30 seconds to input my info into the computer database, and going forward the cashier can simply ask for a phone number to determine whether I'm a preferred, returning sucker, er, customer?

One day, I'm going to make them all pay. One day, I'm going to get my free Slurpee at 7-Eleven, that free burrito at Rio Wraps, the free video rental, gobs of money off my purchase at CVS and Kroger and God knows where else, and do it all on the same day, and the economy won't know what to do.

Oh, by the way, for every ten visits to this blog, you're eligible for a free yogurt parfait.

Do you have one of my cards?


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