I was recently informed by a major drugstore chain — let's call it Floorbrown's — that some of my points were expiring. These points were accumulated by buying things and could be exchanged in the future for other things. I thought the points were eternal. I'd hoped to pass them on in my will. Nope: If I did not buy something more and get more points, I would lose 80 points from my balance of 4,080, and that would put me a thousand points away from my first Reward.
Well, of course I ran 10 blocks in a dead sprint, grabbed the first thing off the shelf I saw and slammed it down on the counter, panting with exertion. There. Ring it up. I made it.
Anything else besides the Maxipads, sir?
No! Ring it up! Quickly! The deadline is descending like the blade of a well-oiled guillotine! I grabbed his lapels. "Eighty points are at stake," I hissed.
Let's back up for a bit. Perhaps you still collect those punch cards that some shops use. Buy 37 bowls of soup, and the 38th is on us! (Restrictions apply. Cannot be redeemed for anything but tepid celery broth. Offer not valid between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Tax not included. Spoon-usage surcharge may apply.) You stick them in your purse or wallet, and after you get about 6/10ths of the way to something free, the card mysteriously relocates to a drawer in the kitchen.
So you start a new card, which you find two years later with three pathetic punches. Or you find a batch of cards with so many punches you think: "Technically, I probably own the store now."
You combine the punches, and lo, the free item appears. I'll bet that you could bring five years' worth of unredeemed, incomplete cards to a coffee joint and they'd honor them. The punch is a sacred compact.
Not points! Points die. Points just go away. Why? Are they made of milk? Do they curdle and smell after a while? Perhaps there are discussions at the highest level of Floorbrown's Inc. on the problem of accumulating unused points.
"Here's the year-end report, boss. Profits would have been up this year, but the cost of storing and maintaining the customers' points was simply too huge."
What? That's ridiculous, the boss replies. You could fit the entire database for 42 million customers on a flash drive the size of a piece of Trident gum.
"Wellllll, you could, but we were storing the information securely. We had teams of scribes drawing hash marks on sheets of gilded vellum, which were delivered by Sherpas to a Tibetan monastery. For security purposes they used ink that faded after four months, so we had to repeat the procedure. Of course, there was the cost of the backups, which we placed in a cask drilled into the Antarctic permafrost."
Anyway. I was 20 points away from a measly $5 GIFT CARD and they moved the goalposts. But that's nothing compared with a clothing store I'll call, oh, Freddy Bower, because it sounds like Eddie Bauer. They sent me a card for a few bucks off, but it expired.
They can't sell pants in my size or shirts that don't look like I'm entering a lumberjack impersonator contest on Mount Everest, and it's my fault I don't get to the store promptly. I'm sorry I didn't buy six down jackets a month so I could get enough points for one sock.
I could have driven my car to Floorbrown's, but I was low on gas. Here's why: Grocery store purchases from Cub defer the price of a gallon. All I do is insert my REWARDS card and I am REWARDED. But the card doesn't work anymore. Don't know why, unless there's an enormous magnet embedded in my right buttock — and I think I'd know that. Now I have to go into the store if I want to use it, and the entire point of Modern Life is not having to go into the store. It's still annoying that the pumps don't have a hose for milk and a slot that shoots jerky and cigarettes into a bag.
So I'm running on empty because I am simply too lazy to walk into the store, and too cheap to pay $1.99 for gas without an additional 3 cents knocked off because I bought six pizzas for the price of three last week. But at least I have 7,302 airline points! Wonderful bounty. You get 15,000 MeGo or UsFlii or SkyFlee miles, and you get the opportunity to pay half the price of a Business Extended UltraClass Premium Upgrade, which entitles you to peek into the airline's airport lounge for 15 seconds, after which you are given one peanut. And these points have the longevity of an ice cube in a pizza oven.
Early 2016 resolution: Unsubscribe from all loyalty programs. Just use a credit card that gives you points. If the merchant is confused when you ask them to punch a hole in your credit card, just explain: After 10 you get a new one!