Monday, August 8, 2011

The Club Card Membership

I am a big Seinfeld fan.  I think it is one of those timeless shows that no matter how many times I watch an episode it continues to make me laugh.  One of my favorite episodes was during the ninth season when George Costanza starts having back problems from carrying such a fat wallet.  He kept everything in his wallet from receipts to credit cards to his money although George was never one to carry a lot of dough.  The episode concludes with his wallet exploding in the New York City air as he tries to close it after adding one last receipt.

I doubt George was faced with the growing list of stores that are offering Club Card memberships.  You know the cards I mean.  The ones that you don't want but without them, it seems like you pay double the cost for just about every item.  They started at the grocery stores which were somewhat understandable.  They want you to feel at home so that when you had their particular store's membership card (and the handy key chain card), you were part of their club.  You wouldn't dare go to another grocery store to buy your toilet paper and ice cream once you had the card, right?  The problem is that we all have multiple stores near our work and home so we are stuck getting cards for multiple stores.

Now that we all had at least three credit sized cards added to our wallets and/or the key chain version, we felt like we were part of something.  We were members of multiple clubs and there was a certain high school feeling about that.  We were jocks, band geeks, and part of the debate team all at once.  We were like Ferris Bueller, loved by everyone.

The problem is that other stores caught on to this madness.  Sporting goods stores, the big box stores and yes, now my favorite one, the liquor stores.  I went shopping for some wine over the weekend and noticed two things.  First, it was a newer fancier store than the average liquor store.  They had wine tasting stations set-up that were free along with some freshly cut provolone cheese.  Yummy, I thought, and what a great idea to put the wines that they were recommending out to be tasted.  The problem was that without the Club Card, you couldn't partake in the tasting.  Fooey, I said, I am not adding any more cards to my wallet fearing my impending George-like explosion.  The second thing though, was that I noticed almost every item in the store was discounted about 20% to the Club Card member.

So I was faced yet again with the decision to pay the added non-member price or join another club and receive normal pricing for the goods I was buying.  Needless to say, I am a proud new member of the glee club, I mean Wineworks in Marlton.  I am also proud that my wallet is still in tact both physically and fiscally.

When push comes to shove, I really feel like the whole thing is a rip off.  Not only in a monetary way but of our intelligence.  Here are these companies that are overcharging us to come into their stores unless we sign up and join them.  Joining them, however, doesn't only involve carrying around the extra cards which I am half joking.  But it involves handing over phone numbers and e-mail addresses so that we can be hounded by our new club but also sold to other club members for well coordinated attacks.  Involved in this information swapping is the occasional breach of security as well.  How many of you have gotten the news that your information may have been compromised by one of the clubs to which you belong?  What becomes more frustrating is when you go ahead and try to find out who received your information and what info did they get.  You will not win this battle, you do not have the security clearance for that.  This is when you will not feel so much a part of the club.

I know it is a losing battle trying to fight the powers at be from avoiding the surcharges that are the non-member prices.  I am sure that next time I buy fish food at Petsmart, I will be pulling out my Club Card to save $.38.  But here's to hoping that the next card I get doesn't push my wallet to the limit like my friend George and I do not lose everything the least of which will be my sanity.

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