I don’t know when store “loyalty cards” became a thing, don’t remember using them 10 years ago every time I wanted to buy milk, a book, printer paper or sandals. Loyalty cards are those seemingly-useless cards branded with their store logos that you have to dig out of your purse before unloading your cart-load of groceries onto the belt, while also digging out your credit card, handing your reusable bags over while trying to convey the fact that you’d like ALL your groceries in the big reusable bags and not a bunch of plastic bags each containing one item (trying to do this without sounding entitled) and remembering to put the little plastic divider after your groceries so the impatient lady behind you won’t get pissed and sigh really loudly; she, by the way, has two items, but for some reason eschews the five items or less line… I have upwards of six loyalty cards arranged in a special card divider in my purse, not because I use them often, cherish my cards, or feel particularly loyal to my grocery store (which also has an annoying coin system) but because I hate experiencing that wave of panic when I can’t find my card and eight people are waiting behind me as I give over my name and phone number (which I’ll probably forget under pressure) to get into my account. According to articles like this one, stores implement loyalty cards because they gather invaluable information on “loyal” customers’ shopping habits swipe by swipe. Customers are rewarded with discounts. In my own experience, I find two of my loyalty cards actually deliver savings: Barnes and Noble and Famous Footwear. But Barnes and Noble charges a fee upfront to activate the card and I haven’t done the math, so my savings may be miniscule. Famous Footwear sends me $10 and $20 off coupons all the time; maybe because they’re not actually all that famous and they need the business. Target is my last loyalty card holdout. They can’t budge me. I had to take a stand sometime and based on their hard-sell I’m pretty sure the cashiers are getting a commission for pushing loyalty cards. As I said earlier, in addition to loyalty cards my local grocery store also has a coin system, the bane of my existence, where, after swiping my card, the cashier asks if I have a silver coin. If I give her a silver coin, at the end of the transaction she says “you won a silver coin” and gives me my coin back. I laugh every time, but I laugh alone because either the cashier doesn’t see the humor in the coin system or she’s sick of people pointing out how silly it is. If I don’t give her a coin, she doesn’t give me one in return. So I’ve taken to pretending I don’t have any coins. I’ve dropped into grocery stores I never shop at when traveling or to grab a water and when I explain that I don’t have a loyalty card, the cashier just swipes one she has hanging on a chain around her neck. It reminds me of playing store when I was little. Remember the colorful cash registers with their colorful plastic coins? Your friend would hand you a red coin marked 5 or 10, you’d pop open the drawer, rummage around and hand back a random coin. You’d both smile, nod your heads, say ‘thank you, have a nice day’ and pretend it made sense.