a peek inside the fishbowl

31 Jul, 2005

For Consenting Adults*

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

* by Mark

I’ve always been annoyed by rewards programs offered by various businesses and retailers. Mainly, I just have never liked the hassle of signing up for something and then always having to have my card with me or feeling obligated to shop only at that store. For that reason, I just say no to rewards programs. At our local Blockbuster store. We rent an average number of movies and every time I go in I get asked the same question.

“Has anyone told you about the Blockbuster Rewards program?”

Now considering that they have my rental history right in front of them it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that at some point in the last 40 times I’ve been in that “YES” someone has told me about the Rewards program. It should be abundantly clear that I’m not interested in it otherwise wouldn’t I already be a member after all this time ? Unfortunately when I answer (as I do every single time) “Yes, and I’m not interested” it seems to fall on deaf ears. Actually “deaf ears” is probably the wrong term. Even someone who is deaf could see from my head shaking and hands up in the universal “please stop there” pose that I’m not interested.

There is one person at the Blockbuster store I go to who cannot and will not believe that I am not interested in becoming a member of the rewards program. This is how my conversation goes with him EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Brick Wall: Has anyone told you about the Blockbuster Rewards program ?
Me: Yes, and I’m not interested.
Brick Wall: Ok, but the reason I bring it up is I see you’ve rented a lot of movies and I can save you a lot of money right now. You can get this movie here for free and save $2 on this movie.
Me: No thanks really, I’m not interested.
*Brick Wall stares at me not quite knowing how to process this response*

Then as he keys in my information for my latest rental it provides him the opportunity to make small talk with me which is really all about why being a member would be a good idea all the while I shake my head and continue repeating “I’m really not interested….really…no really”.

Here’s the most amazing part though. After, I’ve paid and I’m leaving and he has to hand me the movies past the theft detector HE STARTS LAUNCHING INTO HIS SCHPIEL ALL OVER AGAIN.

Does he really think at this point that I’m going to come back and say….

“Ok, maybe I am interested. Where do I sign ?”

Last time it happened, Andrea was with me so she got a first hand account of the event. We got to talking about it and I realized that Brick Wall just CANNOT believe that I would not take advantage of this offer. I’m certain he bores everyone he knows with stories of the guy that comes in and is so stupid that he won’t take the Rewards program. I’m certain that he uses analogies like “If I offered this guy a drink of water after he crossed the Gobi desert, I swear to God, he wouldn’t take it”.

I’m pretty convinced though that this poor Blockbuster employee doesn’t know or understand the real reason that Blockbuster wants me to sign up for their rewards program. After all, if I was such a good customer, why not just give me the free movie rental. Why make me sign up to get rewarded ?

The truth is it’s all about consent. When the Canadian government brought in much needed privacy laws it changed the way that companies could collect and use your personal information. The loophole is the rewards program. Join the rewards program and you HAVE to consent to the use of your information. No consent. No reward. The fun part is that you pay Blockbuster $10 for the privilege of using your personal information. It gives them the right to provide your personal viewing habits and personal information to third party members for “direct marketing” purposes.

That in a nutshell is what the rewards programs are all about. Not to reward you for being a good customer but to deceive you into agreeing to the use of your private information. Most of the people who sign up probably don’t care about getting the extra mail that’s being provided by those mysterious “third party vendors”. But you know, if you’re the sort of person that is not interested in a rewards program, doesn’t it stands to reason you likely wouldn’t want a ton of other offers coming to you by phone/mail/email.

So to the guy at Blockbuster. Please I beg of you, stop offering me the rewards program. To the cashier at Loblaws, stop circling the points on my receipt that I missed out on and to every other place that I shop that asks if I have THE CARD. Stop. Please stop.


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  • Sam Mangrum: Hi Andrea, I just finished reading your article "Reno post #25: Tile city" and I wanted to say thanks. I found so much value in what you had to say
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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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