Sometimes you can’t help but take your frustrations out on an innocent person who is just doing his or her job. However, he or she doesn’t realize how infuriating it is to be asked the same question over and over and over again.
This morning — in the wind and rain — I escaped from the house that had been hit with the worst case of stomach flu since 2006 (a Christmas I’ll never forget). I needed to make a quick trip to the grocery store for more bleach, more Gatorade and more Cheerios. I was in a foul mood, as foul as the stench in my bathrooms, and I wasn’t in the mood to be cordial or even civil for that matter. I needed a shower and two hours of uninterrupted sleep. I needed to change my clothes. I needed to go back to work. I needed a good cry, even though it wouldn’t have helped. But what I didn’t need was to be asked the standard question that annoys me to no end:
“Do you have your Kroger card?”
It’s a good thing my right fist was jammed into the bottom of my purse searching for the red Kroger Plus Card. It was obvious as I wheeled my cart to the register that I knew what I needed to present to the cashier. I’ve been shopping at this particular store for 16 years. I know the drill. They recognize my face. I’m in the store at least every other day and every other day I swipe my Kroger card. YES, I have my Kroger card!! I always have my Kroger card!! But it’s stuck in my wallet — stuck to the Petsmart card, which is stuck to the Books A Million card, which is stuck to the Gymboree card and the CVS Pharmacy card and the Sam’s Club card, and they’re jammed in the pocket with my library card, which is stuck to my PTA card…and sooner or later, my NRA card.
“Just give me a second!” I snapped. Now was that necessary? Probably not. But for the past week, I have been asked to present a card of some sort to get through the smallest transaction. It’s as if I have to show identification to live my life. Do you have your insurance card? Do you have your driver’s license with you? Do you have a business card? Do you have one of our super-saver cards? For $20 you can save 20% off your next purchase! Punch your card nine times and on the 10th visit, we’ll give you 50 cents off your $10 purchase.
When did the membership madness start? In the early 1990s. Loyalty programs are structured business models that reward, therefore encourage, consistent buying behavior — behavior that is potentially beneficial to a merchant, according to Wikipedia. In larger cities, though, independent coffee shops have set up experimental ‘disloyalty card’ programs, which thank customers for buying beverages anywhere but Starbucks. While these marketing efforts are intended to give the buyer some money back (or the illusion of money back), marketing gurus explain why cashiers are so insistent about offering those cards: Many salespeople get a commission for every person who signs up.
Still, the phrase “Can I see your card?” grates on my nerves like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. I’m a card-carrying mother of two kids with severe gastroenteritis. Want me to prove it to you?