Too Good to be True

S&H Green Stamps

My skepticism toward customer reward programs began with S&H Green Stamps. Along with colds, oatmeal, and Allen Nielson’s cooties, they burdened my childhood.

The stamps were given as a reward for purchasing groceries and gas. They came in gummed sheets that had to be glued into booklets, which were redeemed through S&H’s catalog or at its redemption centers.

Mom collected her S&H stamps in a shoebox. When it was full, she dumped stamps and booklets on the kitchen table and told her children and any strays to start licking. We argued about whose pages were the least misaligned and stacked our filled booklets in a moist tower. Speaking with difficulty because of our gummed tongues, we tried to convince Mom to trade the stamps for toys; but she held out for an iron or maybe pillow cases.

After I left home, I collected stamps of my own, but used a damp sponge to glue them — going to college evidently improved my problem-solving skills. I remember wandering around the redemption center in Reno as a newlywed, clutching my booklets, looking for Christmas presents to send to my family. But I didn’t have enough stamps for anything anyone would want. That was the year I gave my 10-year-old brother an imitation leather shaving kit.

He never sent a thank-you note.

coupon

Today, I experience similar frustrations with coupons. I diligently rip coupons from newspaper advertisements and magazines because I’ve read that people save hundreds of dollars a year with them. Not me.

First, I have trouble keeping track of the validity dates. I invariably present a coupon to the checker before its time or after its passing. Then, embarrassed by my inability to read numbers, I buy the product anyway.

I also have difficulty finding the products specified, even when I put on my glasses and bend double to examine the bottom shelves. If I do find something that matches a coupon, I’m so thrilled I buy it — even though I don’t need it and never have. Last week I came home with Triple Awesome Grape Kool-Aid.

voucher

Airline frequent-flier miles also make me crazy with blackout dates and limited seat availability: “Actually, ma’am, you can only use those miles on Tuesdays during the months of February and July of alternate years on flights to Detroit or Helena, and we have only three seats available on each flight so you’d better book soon. Thank you for flying with us.”

I was once included in a class action suit against an airline now defunct. If I could confirm my flights over a five-year period with either ticket stubs or a completed form detailing my flight dates, itinerary, and fare, I would be eligible for free flights.

After arduous hours of researching my credit card and bank statements, I submitted my evidence, dreaming of a free flight to Tahiti or at least Topeka. Eight months later, I received $100 worth of vouchers in $10 denominations that had to be used within a year. Only one voucher could be used per trip. Excluding blackout dates. Pending availability of seats.

Here’s an idea for all corporations wishing to reward my loyalty: could you forget the rewards and lower your prices instead?

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62 thoughts on “Too Good to be True

  1. I remember the taste of those green stamps, and I remember that our tongues would be greenish after all the licking.
    I’m with you on coupons. That’s why I like costco. they just give you the discount without your needing to cut and remember to carry a coupon.

    Don’t get me started on frequent flier miles! Talk about misleading advertising.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew the frequent flier miles would strike a chord with you, Shelley, as your green tongue did with me; I had forgotten that particular joy of licking the stamps. I haven’t forgotten the Vietnam challenge, it’s in the back of my mind, trying to come out with a clear idea about how to approach it.

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  2. I feel with you. I shredded all coupons and point-collecting-cards years ago. I never missed them for a single second. I instead invested in an organic box delivered to my door every week. A benefit I think that is greater than all the violent advertisement campaigns…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those advertising campaigns do seem a bit violent in their approach, Read on; at least they assault my senses! Like you, I participate in a program called Bountiful Baskets and every other week I get a basket of fruit and a basket of vegetables for much less money than I’d pay in stores.

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  3. Green stamps, blue and gold stamps, a saucer in a box of detergent, a plate at the service station: I saved them all. I agree with you Janet, and smile at our shared experiences trying to use coupons. But, I still clip Michael’s Craft Store 40% coupons “for one item not on sale”. After I’d paid for a counter-full of various project items the clerk said “you saved $8.70 today”. I thought, “I would have saved $38.55 if I’d stayed home”. A local thrift store has “Senior Citizens 30% off on Tuesdays”. Now that’s a deal ! I’m on my way……

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    • If I still lived in Carson City, Mary, I’d be driving to Reno to go with you. A good 1/4 of my egg collection was found at flea markets and in thrift stores in your company and with your encouragement. Also,thanks for making me laugh with your response to the statement that you saved $8.70. I can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to fly free on an airline, but I have a bunch of points. I did take my daughter on a vacation once. We didn’t care when we flew and we were willing to stay “between 14 and 18 days” We flew from Hartford to Cincinnati to Seattle. On the return, we left Seattle at midnight, flew to Dallas, then to three southern mini-airports on our way to Atlanta where we had a 4-hour layover to hartford. We got home about 9:00 pm.

    We had some pretty good luck with Green Stamps in the early days of our marriage but that was because i used a rental car company that gave them.

    Coupons, I think I covered that. Me and coupons just don’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Seriously! You must have gotten the $10 coupons from the same defunct airline that I got them from! What a joke. The s&h green stamps scenario was also similar…I, however, must have been a tad “brighter than you”, because I learned quickly that licking the damn things was a waste of valuable saliva and figured out that a sponge worked much better, thank you very much!!! (And I was the learning disabled teacher!!!) Another well-written piece that had my belly laughing and my heart full of joy….<3

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    • I always like it when I can make you laugh, Lucie, since your blog does the same for me. I admit you must have been a tad brighter. It amazes me that my siblings and I, all of whom became successful adults, sat at the table getting gummed tongue with nary a thought of a sponge or even a moist washcloth. Maybe we were hungry.

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  6. Aunt Beulah, I hope you will get an Aldi store near you soon! As you say, reward cards and coupons only put up the prices. And don’t get me started about online offers that only try to sell you more stuff instead of saving you money!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are in total agreement, Maddy, but I’m afraid there will never be an Aldi store near me. In my remote corner of the world, I have two choices for shopping: Walmart and City Market, both of which clutter our local newspaper with the coupons I have given up trying to master.

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  7. I gave up years ago! I have learned–they never lose money on us. So, if a deal is offered–there’s always a catch. Either they’ve raised the price or figured out another way to bamboozle us. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Or another little marketing twist: they’ve cut the size of the carton as much as possible without being too obvious, but continue to charge the same amount for it. You’re right, Kay, when I think about it, I sigh.

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  8. Green stamps… what about blue chip stamps and gold bond stamps, and black and brown stamps? When I was about 7 years old, I was very bad. I glued enough green stamps on the medicine cabinet to cover the entire mirror. Mom asked who did it. I never admitted it. Pretty sure she knew anyway. Obviously her tactics worked since I still remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gluing green stamps of the medicine cabinet was such a creative act, Marjorie, and is very funny in the retelling. Isn’t it also amusing that we used to think we fooled our parents by either being silent or vehemently denying our actions? I remember denying I had scooped up a generous amount of chocolate frosting with my finger so I could sample it. My mother said not a word, but marched me into the bathroom where my startled reflection revealed chocolate smeared across my cheek. Not my finest moment.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Aunt Beulah,
    Had a laugh reading your story, I continue to keep my grocery bill receipt each week hoping whoever is in charge of sourcing the freebies or discount offers on the back, will come back from their 5 year holiday and make some changes. It hasn’t changed in 5 years, Domino’s Pizza only valid on Tuesdays, some Health Resort miles away from nowhere you would need a camel to get there, Putt Putt Golf that went broke and closed up shop around 4 years ago, the list just never changes. Oh yes and 4% off our fuel which is only valid if you buy your fuel from the company that also owns the supermarket this would be the only one worth chasing. I agree with you Aunt Beulah, forget all that rot and just give us genuine discounts each time we do our grocery shop.
    Hugs from Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember green stamps. My mom collected for a while but soon felt it was a waste of time and moved on to coupons. Even with those, she was quite selective. I do the coupon jig but like my mom, am selective. The grocery store I go to provides coupons on the flip side of the long recept. No need to clip from magazines or the internet. I know they’ll work for the store, of course, no doubts. And there isn’t any jumping through hoops to get the discount. They even give out coupons for their gas pumps, which in this day and age is a double blessing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glynis, I’m glad to hear that you have a rewarding relationship with coupons. Others I know and like also manage their coupons well. I just don’t seem to have the ability to do so — except for the gas discounts we get from our supermarket as well. But then, it’s really my husband who manages to use them before they expire.

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  11. I agree completely with your sentiment. My pet peeve is the reward cards that grocery stores give you for free. With these you get discounted prices and they get to sell your information to every idiot with the cash. So, not only do you get discounted prices, that should be given in the first place, you also get e-mails from a thousand companies who have purchased your info. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you, Troy. I’d never thought about the stores selling my information when I sign up for a discount card, but of course it makes sense. Marketing is a monster indeed.

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  12. You really struck a chord with this story.
    Frequent flier miles? – – – I do not like them. Can’t keep track of them.
    On the other hand, Triple Awesome Grape Kool-Aid.sounds so cool I too might buy it even though I too don’t need it!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. We have two major, one mid range and a handful of minor supermarket chains here, all with varying prices and specials. The majority run week long specials, but the mid range supermarket has a coupon savers club. When I was a child they mailed out coupon books every month and in order to receive the special you had to take the right coupon with you. The checkout operators all had spare books at their stations though so it didn’t matter if you forgot. About 10 years ago they changed it to a card that you kept in your wallet and scanned when you got to the checkout to get your discount. The only way to know the specials was to read the signs under the food, but again the checkout operators had cards at their stations that they would scan for anyone cardless. Recently, its changed again. You have to join the club and you get a card in the mail that you use for your discount and you get emailed the specials as well as them being displayed in the aisles. No card, no discount. They also do run weekly specials that anyone can access, the club specials are just a bonus for people with a card. I can’t help but think it would have been easier from the start just to have weekly specials like all the other chains!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, Katie, that does sound needlessly complicated; but I suppose if you are onto the system, you can make it work for you. Our one supermarket has a card as well, and recently changed their rules so you don’t have to have the card, you can just enter your telephone number and the specials are yours. What a relief. I was never sure where my card was; though it was usually lost in my chaotic purse.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I recall the stamp books, and when all our “Mel-Mac” dishes came from a “Duz” box, and when “Gay Dish Liquid” changed it’s name to “Joy”. We have great Bo-go’s here, just got free bagels, chicken chests, and cream cheese. Most coupons are for weiners, or family packs, I avoid those. Now we get stamps for Ginsu knives, I saved coupons once for free goldfish, a cherished wedding gift for couple not allowed a cat. Funny post, thanks Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes Janet, At my work we had cereal boxes with coupons for free fish from Woolworths, the couple got about a dozen fish, that survived longer than the marriage. I was not, however, invited to the wedding for fear I would show up bearing radishes…still hurts.

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  15. Oh I so agree it is so wasteful to the planet sending out all those coupons which are never for anything you actually want, then as you say they do not cover the whole cost. I am also getting really annoyed by my supermarket offering “buy 2 for ” I do not want two bags of toilet rolls or two boxes of cereal. There is only me to use them! As a single person and now on limited income it is most annoying to have to pay full price because I only want one of a product. I am getting grouchy lol in my senior years lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Lynne, we’re all getting grouchy in our old age and for good reason. I, too, rail at the 2 for 1 price unless, as in one of our stores, you can buy one for half price. Now that’s sensible.

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  16. I smiled, laughed, and nodded my head in agreement while reading this post, Janet.
    You know, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all a ruse and that we, the consumers, are being taken advantage of by all these rewards programs and coupon offerings.
    I wholeheartedly agree with your idea in the last sentence, but I’m afraid that will never happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right about the small print on coupons; I can’t read them either. Maybe that’s why I used to miss the expiration dates! My life has been better since I forgot about the pesky things.

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  17. Agree totally with your thoughts on these so called bargains!
    We sometimes get $10 off next supermarket shop, but only if you do it within the dates written in tiny script. I prefer to shop at Aldi, a cheaper store with no vouchers and save heaps.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I remember the S & H Green Stamps. After saving them for what seemed like forever, I redeemed them in for a yellow mushroom lamp. (If you come to my house you will see that I collect rather odd lamps) I gave the lamp to Katie and she used it until it broke after her move to Bellingham. To my amazement, I found the exact same lamp on Etsy and was able to give it to her. Buying it was so much easier!
    I agree about trying to redeem coupons and all of the rest. I have often asked myself the same thing, “how about a fair price?”

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    • I have noticed your lamps, Janice, but rather than thinking them odd, I liked them and thought Mom would too. I enjoyed the story of the yellow mushroom lamp and Katie. I think it’s great she liked it and you were able to replace it. According to the weather report, you’re having bad weather your way this cold, windy, snowy Wednesday. Stay warm.

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      • Thanks Janet. We survived the snowstorm, now there is another on the way! Springtime in the Rockies!
        FYI-I also have a lamp shaped like an egg!

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  19. A few years ago, I purchased the required Philadelphia Cream Cheese products to claim a spring-form baking pan – twice. The Philly mob missed the mark if they thought to turn me into an avid cheesecake maker. I haven’t used the pretty blue pans, but love having them. 🙂

    I enjoyed reading of your experiences, Janet, as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I enjoyed your post. Here in the UK we had our own version of these (called ‘Green Shield stamps’) and I remember my mother saving up books and books of them, usually for small things like the waterproof ‘pillows’ that would slip over the top of a sun-lounger’s headrest. Curiously I was thinking about those only a few days ago and trying to remember where they came from! Now I do, thanks!

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  21. My mother went into a frenzy hunting and having us glue green stamps every year before Christmas. She got some big stuff she couldn’t have come up with otherwise over the years, a bicycle, a big red wagon, a Chatty Cathy Doll. She always got at least one big present. I know that helped her budget. Glad I found your site.

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