Archive for April, 2011

Loyalty Cards

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Other than potential wallet bulge, I like loyalty cards. Subway used to have the “Sub Club” card where you buy eight subs and get the next one free. Back in the day at the one near my high school, they started out with a “stamps” system where you literally licked and applied little yellow stamps to the card. Then they moved to a punchcard, where the cutout was a unique shape of a double-horned unicorn1. Then I think they moved to an all-digital system.

Changes in a system like that aren’t random, they had problems. Stamps are clearly flawed. They could rub off a persons card in their wallet. An employee could steal a whole roll of stamps and sell them to their friends. The cutout system was better, but there is some possibility a person could find another double-horned unicorn cardpuncher and have free subs for life. Also employees could quadruple stamp their friends.

Clearly the digital system is best. People have cards, the computer calculates how many loyalty points they get, employee slides card during purchase and applies points to card. But of course it isn’t that simple. How do people get these cards? What happens if they lose it? Let’s clear all that up with instructions on the best way to handle a digital loyalty card system.

The Best Way

To get a card, the employee simply hands you one during checkout2. There is no form to fill out or other hoops to jump through. Each card has a unique number, and this purchases points are immediately associated with that card.

That card will be fully functional, as-is, forever.

So what about when the card is lost? That’s where registration comes in. On the back of the card there are instructions to register it. Simply text message the number on the front of the card to 1-800-REG-CARD. Done. Now that card is associated with the phone number that text came from. If you lose it, you can text “LOST” to 1-800-REG-CARD and it will text you back a unique code. Give that code to the cashier, she swipes a new card, and that becomes your replacement card instantly3.

To incentivize you doing this, you earn a few points for registering the card.

I’d suggest never using the phone number to do something obtrusive like text message people promotions. However I’m sure there is some interesting demographic data that can be gleaned from a huge amount of opt-in phone numbers tied to your unique number-based system.


Tim Sabat, Sara Cope, and I discussed this over beers. Credit where credit is due.


1 I believe a double-horned unicorn is actually just called a bicorn.

2 This is the only possible pain point. The employee may still need to ask “Are you a member of our loyalty program?” which is a turn-off. It will somehow need to be made clear the no-signup-necessary awesomeness of this system.

3 Information about how to get a replacement card will be 1) available at checkout 2) available online 3) known by employees and 4) possibly on the card itself. Even though you’ve lost it you might know someone else with one or remember the instructions since they are so easy.


Friday, April 8th, 2011

Let’s say you saw the coolest thing ever on the internet. So of course you are going to put it on your blog. You found about this thing on another blog called Adventurous Comet. You could just write about the coolest thing ever and link to it and never mention Adventurous Comet. There is no law about that. But you want to give credit where credit is due! So somewhere in your blog post you put:

via Adventurous Comet

You’ll probably link that to their blog post about it, in addition to a direct link to to coolest thing ever. That’s just good practice.

Now tomorrow you see another coolest thing ever on the internet. This time you found out about it on Smockk, but Smockk credits BMX Tips in their article with a “via” link. Do you credit Smockk? Do you credit BMX Tips? Do you credit both? There are easily arguments for all three of those choices.

“Both” feels like the most honest and most credit-where-credit-is-due, but leads to some ridiculous situations when it’s not just two sites, but a whole chain of sites crediting on another back to an original source. I see this kind of thing on Tumblr a lot:

via Shart
   via Double Dragster
     via One Blonde Nugget
       via Hot Girl in the Corner
         via Fruitsmoke
           via Old Man in the Bathtub

That’s at the ridiculous level. That’s noise. It gets much worse than that, like when it’s not even clear what the original source is.

I think just linking to the place you first read it is also very honest and the cleanest way to go. If people want to follow the chain, they can do it from there.