An inconvenient truth about loyalty programs


Is your loyalty for sale?

Would you remain true to a company, no matter what it does, in exchange for a platinum card or the promise of “free” or discounted product?

Target is hoping so after more than 40 million customer credit-card numbers were compromised on Black Friday. Its response? A 10 percent-off bribe offered to holiday shoppers last weekend.

Perhaps the retailer knows its customers too well. Give ’em a few bucks off — or better yet, something “free” — and they’ll overlook anything. (Never mind that almost nothing is free and that the definition of “free” we’ve come to accept is misleading, harmful and wrong.)

Face it: Too often, your business goes to the highest bidder, especially in travel. But maybe we’re thinking about loyalty in the wrong way.

Broken promises

Customers like Bill Rowell, who gave an entire career’s worth of loyalty to American Airlines, are discovering this warped concept of loyalty.

“I was amazed when I passed the 25 year and 30 anniversaries with AAdvantage that American did not bother to send even a ‘thank you’ email, much less some kind of special offer,” he says.

He feels the airline took his business for granted because he was based in Dallas, and in exchange for benefits like upgrades and perks, the business travelers he knew in the AAdvantage program offered their blind allegiance to the airline and “did handstands” in order to be treated with a little dignity.

And for what? American, like other legacy airlines, eventually just moved the goalposts, reserving VIP treatment for an ever-smaller group of elite-level passengers. Rowell felt like he was on a hamster wheel. After more than three decades of loyalty to American, he concluded that American “did not care” and he switched to Southwest Airlines.

Related story:   Get out of my store! What to do when you're denied service

American’s definition of “loyalty” seems to be as follows: Give us your money and you can earn points toward a “free” flight and the possibility of an upgrade. But we offer no real guarantees. (Oh, and P.S., the miles don’t really belong to you and we can change the program rules at any time.) The only guarantee we’re interested in is your cash.

Any questions?

Why loyalty is like trust

But this isn’t yet another critique of travel loyalty programs which, as I’ve noted time and again, only benefit a handful of consumers who take the time to study the program rules as if they’re holy scripture.

Actually, I think it’s time for a new view of loyalty.

When I think of loyalty, I think of cheese, coffee and the color blue. In that order.

Loyalty means you want to give the company business because you like its products.

This summer, my family and I visited Tillamook, Ore., and had an opportunity to tour its cooperative cheese factory. We love cheese but we hadn’t considered ourselves brand-loyal, unless you count the really expensive Gruyere with the Swiss flag that I buy every now and then at my supermarket.

My kids loved the factory tour. Everyone was friendly, they offered us delicious samples, and they explained how their cheese was different from other cheeses. We bought Tillamook extra-sharp cheddar at the factory store and enjoyed some that evening with a chilled bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

It was amazing.

We’re now loyal to Tillamook products. It didn’t take a loyalty card or points to convert us — just a darned good product. We will go out of our way to buy a block of Tillamook cheddar and we will pay more for it. Yeah, it’s that good.

Related story:   Are loyalty programs worth "nothing"?

True loyalty overcomes everything. Take Starbucks coffee, for example. My family loves Starbucks. When you’re driving through flyover country, as we often are when we’re on assignment for our family travel blog, where else can you get a decent Americano? Also, the kids adore Starbucks’ scones, donuts and breakfast sandwiches.

On our recent trip to Seattle, we made a pilgrimage to the first Starbucks store at Pike Place Market.

Starbucks and I have a tense relationship outside its stores. I’ve written about the company in the past and the head of its public relations department used to work for an airline that I criticized on a regular basis. Let’s just say I’m not on his Christmas card list.

So what? I would drive miles out of my way for a Starbucks espresso. And here’s a confession: I participate in its loyalty program, too, though I don’t keep track of the “free” drinks it supposedly offers and care absolutely zero about the color of my card.

True loyalty overcomes even overt animosity, as in the kind JetBlue shows for my consumer advocacy work. Time and again, the airline hasn’t just ignored my efforts to help its passengers as an advocate, it has gone out of its way to say it will not respond, because it doesn’t want to resolve cases “through the media.”


JetBlue’s unfortunate intransigence has led to some interesting stories that I really didn’t want to write.

And yet, I love JetBlue. It treats its passengers with respect. Yeah, I have a TrueBlue account somewhere, but I often forget to input my number when I’m flying. It means nothing to me.

Related story:   Hey, how about a refund for that airline fee?

I should also say that when I’m flying on JetBlue, I always send a tweet out to @JetBlue thanking it for the lovely travel experience, and it is always so gracious with a response, even though the social media folks know who I am.

Isn’t that loyalty?

It isn’t something that’s coerced. It’s not achieved with gimmicks or even discounts (you listening, Target?). It’s a quality product — an amazing block of tangy cheddar cheese, a great cup of coffee, or a dignified flight experience.

Come to think of it, how dare they use the word “loyalty” to describe those other programs? They are nothing more than schemes that force your indentured servitude to a company offering substandard service.

Maybe it’s time to rethink what we mean by “loyalty.” Maybe real loyalty, like trust, must be earned — not coerced or bought.

Is your loyalty for sale?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • polexia_rogue

    I agree; there is never any reason to give your loyalty for a prize, wither it’s miles or punchs on a card for a free sandwhich- buy what you would buy normally.

    by the way i work for target and holy ***p it was crowded today. It makes me think there was somesort of conspiracy to cause a media commotion then offer a magical sale- all in the middle of Christmas shopping season- seriously today was MORE CROWDED THEN BLACK FRIDAY.

    -just saying

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t know how to answer the question, so I’ll say this. When I engage in a financial transaction, I care about two things, ethics and myself. Are my actions beneficial to me and are the ethical, moral and right.

    Chris and I are in agreement about loyalty (for once). He goes out of
    his way to get Starbucks, presumably bypassing the cheaper, more
    convenient 7-11 coffee. Why? Because it works for him. That’s what
    “loyalty” is about. Giving repeat business to the provider who gives
    you what works for you.

    I remained a Marriott Platinum member because I got a crazy low weekend rate of $54.50 plus breakfast at the Los Angeles Marriott in downtown. The “no additional fee” upgrade to an 800 square foot panoramic full suite didn’t hurt. When that rate jumped to $199 per night, I dropped Marriott like a bad habit and moved across the street to the Westin Bonaventure.

    Marriott doesn’t love me. I don’t love it. I’m not a personal friend of Bill Marriott. That’s Bill Rowell’s huge misunderstanding of business “loyalty”. He wants a card from American? Are they dating? Are they going steady? Did he send American a card for their 25th?

    For me, it was the Westin’s Heavenly bed, the best bed I’ve ever slept on, next to the Ritz-Carlton’s. It’s the sole reason that I began patronizing Starwood. I even bought one for myself.

    I get the best sleep at Starwood hotels, period, so I only stay elsewhere if Starwood is too inconvenient.

  • Justin

    The fundamental concept of brand loyalty is a major point of contention. Small businesses are built upon a loyal customer base. Walmart didn’t become a conglomerate by offering poor service and unfair prices. Instead, Walmart catered to the bargain hunter, found a successful niche, and made history. Today, Walmart is controversial, but highly profitable.

    I bring up Walmart for their functional business model. Ignore the whole underpaid, poor work environment controversy for a moment. Walmart has perfected the “High Volume” sales strategy. Better to sell 50 rooms at 100 dollars, than 10 rooms at 500. Fifty customers bring more prospect of increased sales through their network of friends.

    Now back to the your post. Pretend Marriot has a hotel containing 200 rooms. On an average night, occupancy is 45%. Peak season is 80%. Initially, some bean counter, executive, or shareholders saw these numbers and decided to increase profits by filling more rooms. Loyalty programs were invented in hopes of retaining a core client base and generating new customers in the process. A balance between “High Volume” and retaining Brand Value was born.

    Somewhere along the line, companies have done an about face. Customers responded to offers, signed up to the loyalty programs, and began shopping. Yet, after getting people in the door, these organizations have eroded incentives. The value of most loyal programs routinely diminish. Market and spending habits do play a factor.

    However, I truly believe “Customer” and “Service” are under assault. Companies want the customers, but care little about service now. Your Marriot with $54.99 rooms – No Longer. Replaced by a $199 price tag. What did your “loyalty” buy? Not much, other than proving fickle customers do leave when treated poorly and incentives removed. So instead of filling rooms, Marriot is willing to take a loss on selling fewer at higher prices once again.

    Goes to show, why be loyal when corporate policies change on a whim. Spend as one normally needs to spend. If there’s a secondary benefit from daily shopping habits, wonderful. Chris buys Starbucks coffee. I don’t know about Starbucks, but several coffee shops offer a “Reward Drink” after X purchases.

    Chris Drinks Coffee. Chris Likes Starbucks. The fact he gets a “Reward Drink” is a bonus rather than expectation.


    JetBlue answering your tweet is not loyalty Chris. It is simply good use of social networking/media. And your love for Starbucks is a hoot. You are blindly loyal to a company and claim not to know what free things you get from the loyalty program.? Then why are you in the program? Just buy the coffee and ignore the program completely. But I see that you being in a loyalty program is okay because you and your family like the product, but anyone belonging to a travel loyalty program is messed up in some way. A bit of do as I say and not as I do?
    And the gentleman that did not get a card from AA after being a member of their loyalty club for 25 or 30 years? What of it?
    I am a Delta frequent flyer as I live close to ATL. And not one time have I ever assumed that Delta is loyal to me. I fly other carriers when it makes economic sense to do it. I do not remember when I joined but it has been over 20 years. And I did not expect a card from Delta and therefore am not disappointed. I am platinum and will have no trouble being that level again next year under the new plan. But I am no more important to them than I am to the NFL team I have been a fan of since I was in high school. (Not ATL by the way.) I have been to games, wear the team jersey and recognize that the team does not know or care I am still a fan.
    The big difference between me and a lot of people is that I recognize that most loyalty programs are a one-way street—the customer is loyal to the company but the company is seldom loyal to the customer. That is true of airlines and it is true of Starbucks (a company I ceased doing any business with in September 2001.)

  • I think hell just froze over.

  • I don’t recall saying you should “never” participate in a loyalty program — I did say that loyalty programs often do more harm than good for the average traveler. I think you’re missing my point, which is that true loyalty must be earned through a good product, not gimmicks or bribes. Loyalty program participation is a byproduct of that true loyalty. Starbucks gives me a refill on iced tea when I show my “gold” card, and it’s a nice way of saying “thank you.” But it’s not the reason I go to Starbucks. I go because I like the coffee.

  • BillCCC

    We get it. Belonging to an airline loyalty program is bad because you don’t like them. Starbucks is OK because you like their coffee. Not to get anything going here but you will probably pay more per year for the overpriced coffee at Starbucks than someone else will pay to buy a ticket on an airline to stay with the loyalty program.

  • Huh? I just admitted to belonging to TrueBlue. Are you reading all the way through?

    Briefly, airline loyalty programs are bad for most passengers because they segment us, take valuable amenities away from customers who deserve them, and encourage reckless spending behavior by members. That being said, some passengers do benefit from a loyalty program, and should be active participants.

  • BillCCC

    You are right, I apologize. I didn’t read the entire post in enough detail to make that statement.I am sorry.

  • EdB

    Is it safe to say that joining a loyalty program for a product you would buy anyways without a loyalty program is okay? That is how I have always viewed them. For airlines, none of them offer anything above the others to make them stand out. When I did fly in the past, there was one airline that I would choose over all the others, even if it was more expensive, because the service I got from them was better than others. So joining their loyalty program would be more a side benefit that the reason I flew with them. But alas, they are no more. :(

  • Yes, I fully support that. But giving a company more of your business for the purpose of earning miles … well, down that road lies madness, as my old journalism instructor used to say.

  • John Baker

    I think the person that changed “Frequent {fill-in-the-blank} Program” to Loyalty Program did everyone a disservice. It never has been about rewarding loyalty. Its always been about identifying and rewarding frequent customers.

    So I ask Bill, did you send AA a card in honor of your anniversaries? Yea, I didn’t think so. You received benefits along the way but by the absence of Chris touting your status as a Grand Poobah, I don’t think you were ever “that” frequent.

    Here’s another hint Chris… That “free” refill from Starbucks will go away when you quit drinking there. Normally you have a problem with both the free part and the part that Starbucks will quit rewarding you once you no longer shop there.

    Here’s the bottom line. Frequent {fill-in-the-blank} Programs reward those that frequent the businesses the most. Not those that are most loyal. Once the frequent buying stops so do the benefits. That’s the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  • EdB

    I agree. I’m sure you would drop Starbucks in a second if the coffee and service quality were to drop. I stay “loyal” as long as the business is loyal to standards that attracted me in the first place.

  • John Baker

    That point at which membership in a program influences your purchasing decision… The business has won.

  • backprop

    “I was amazed when I passed the 25 year and 30 anniversaries with
    AAdvantage that American did not bother to send even a ‘thank you’
    email, much less some kind of special offer,” he says.

    I’m sure you posted this to get a reaction, so here it is: PUHLEEAAZZZE.

    You were “AMAZED” that you didn’t get something free? How is that “AMAZING”? I can think of a few other words: “spoiled” “entitled” “gag-inducing”.

  • MarkKelling

    I am “loyal” to no company.

    While it is true I belong to the frequent customer program of every airline, hotel, rental car, grocery store and other company I have done business with that offers such a program (yes even Starbucks), it is not because I feel that I am special to any of them or that they owe me anything at all. I choose the one that fits my current needs the best. This does mean that I do have status with some of them because they fit my needs more often than others – and I enjoy the perks that I get because of that.

    Southwest has sent me a birthday card every year since I joined their frequent flyer program. This year they included a couple of drink coupons and a note saying they miss me because I have not flown with them for two years. Does anyone at Southwest really “miss” me? No. I doubt anyone at Southwest even knows I exist other than through my frequent flyer number. What they miss is my spending on their products. I flew with them last week, not because of the drink coupons but because I had enough points to get a round trip flight where I needed to go. UA doesn’t even acknowledge that I exist even though I fly 100K miles a year with them. Because they didn’t send me a birthday card should I refuse to ever fly them again? Of course not. I will continue to fly whichever airline provides me the best flight option when I need to fly.

    I have enjoyed my birthday item at Starbucks every year since 2006 even though in many of those years I spent nothing at a Starbucks. They are happy to give me that one item free, yes really free since I spent nothing on their products, with the hope of my eventually becoming a “loyal” customer. I guess it worked because in the last couple years I do regularly buy their coffee on the way to work (mainly because the coffee at work is terrible and I’m too lazy to brew my own most mornings). But if Starbucks would disappear, I wouldn’t miss them because I’m sure I would find some other coffee shop to take their place. And you have to ask for your free item to get it, otherwise you lose it. Just last week I got my entire breakfast at no additional cost because I had my birthday item (a breakfast sandwich) and an additional “free” item (my coffee) that I cashed in. Since the “free” coffee was only because I bough a dozen other coffees, I know it wasn’t really “free” and compared to the amount I had to spend to get it probably still too expensive.

    Use the frequent customer programs to your benefit. Be happy when you get something extra you didn’t expect. Just don’t go crazy by doing business with any company expecting to be treated like royalty and you will be a happier person.

  • Amen to that. Thank you.

  • Miami510

    Question: Is there true loyalty?

    I’d answer, only in a few rare instances. Loyalty works two ways, and when I think
    about airline loyalty, I see that airlines have very little loyalty to their
    frequent flyers. I’m thinking of cases where the rules change in the middle of the game; one needed 10,000 miles for a free trip and that is changed to 15,000 by fiat, and immediately the miles you’ve accumulated are devalued. I’m also
    thinking of a notice I received that told me that my miles would expire if not
    used by a certain date, and the many companies who have both black-out dates and limitations on the number of seats available for milage use on many flights.

    There is a firm I do feel a loyalty to; Crutchfield. It’s a mail order electronics firm with whom I’ve been doing business with for 14 years. Their end of the bargain is their technical help… with no time limit. Example: I had some programing difficulties between my router and my Blueray receiver, both which I purchased many years ago from Crutchfield. Their technical help walked me through the process of getting the connections to work. This was long after the purchase and 9:00 PM
    in the evening, and they spent about 45 minutes with me.

    That type of service engenders loyalty on my part and when I needed a new electronic device I called them rather than rushing to the local discounters… of which there are many.

  • Justin


    A better approach is to promote avoidance of “loyalty for loyalty sake”.


    1) You drink their coffee regularly out of preference
    2 Enjoy their coffee over other brands
    3) Drink their coffee irrespective of the courtesy drink after X purchases


    You maintain a personal shopping habit where incentives are secondary. A prime example of a program that works.

  • omgstfualready

    I’m not sure if anyone had the same reaction as I which was laughter. I found this very, likely unintentionally, hilarious. I’m loyal to me. I buy a brand over and again because I like it the most. I don’t have a personal relationship with the company with which I am doing business. They have something I desire (product or services) and I have something they desire (money) and should we agree upon an exchange rate we trade one for the other. At no point are my feelings involved.

  • That’s a good analysis. Maybe I should have phrased it that way.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    To be fair, that comment might have come across differently if we could have actually heard them say it.

    As someone who’s worked in marketing for a lot of years, I am a bit amazed that there aren’t any anniversary thank you messages sent out to 25-year members. That’s a missed opportunity; even if there were no extra deals associated it’s still a nice bit of good will. And if this person noticed their absence, safe bet others did, as well.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I called my Pastor and he confirmed it :-)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Face it: Too often, your business goes to the highest bidder, especially in travel. ”

    How can it ever be “too often” when that is the normal process of choosing who to patronize? If they’re the better deal, or the most convenient, or I like something from them more, then they get my business. In that regard, the “highest bidder” will always win. I may not always use the exact same criteria (one transaction budget may trump convenience, vice versa the next time) but I’m always picking a winner based on their offers.

    And the Target “bribe” saved us a nice chunk of change on our regular weekly grocery trip, thank you very much. Their Red Card is great deal if you regularly shop Target. They basically take the credit card transaction fees they’d have to pay anyway and hand them back to you as a 5% reduction for using their card when you shop with them. But none of that has anything to do with the security breach, which could have happened to any retailer–Target was not more likely to be hacked because they had a loyalty card.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think that’s the rub. The entire concept of loyalty is merely a marketing gimmick. At no point should the business savvy person believe that this was about loyalty. How can I be loyal to Starwood and Marriott simultaneously when they are fierce competitors. That’s like being loyal to your wife…and your mistress.

    This is about one thing only. Incentivizing me to spend my travel dollars at your establishment instead of your competitors. When I dropped Marriott, I’m sure Bill Marriott didn’t weep, gnash his teeth, and wear sack cloth and ashes.

    The correct answer isn’t spend as you normally spend. Perhaps your normal spending is unsophisticated. The correct answer is spend to maximize your ROI, taking the entire package into consideration and in particular all costs.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


    Amen. Its all about being a frequent (euphemism for high value) customer. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    People criticize Starbucks as too expensive but I think the coffee is actually reasonably priced. 2 and a half bucks for a VERY large cup of quality coffee. I went to diners and paid that much, and more, for slop.

    McD’s has a pretty good cup of coffee nowadays and they even add your sugar and milk for you too and for a buck. It’s a total bargain!

    We should give an award to Starbucks for improving the quality of coffee in the USA. I grew up thinking coffee was this disgusting concoction. Then in the 90’s, things changed.

    Now if only someone would do a similar thing for TEA. I brew my own at home and when I go out and nothing else is available, Lipton makes me gag. My wife drinks it because nothing else is available but I’d rather have a cup of water. Proper tea is brewed loose in a teapot or pressed.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    You, Chris and I are old schoolers who remember different times. Back in the old days, before the internet, and in a different time in the states, loyalty was more common overall. Marriages lasted longer. People worked at the same company for life. Branding was a BIG deal. Generics such as generic drugs or those “bagged” cereal was less common. There were no supermarket loyalty cards but the bagboys carried your groceries to your car and the checkout clerk knew your name. Rental car companies wouldn’t imagine pulling an undercarriage-dent-and-charge scam because the bad publicity would kill them. There was less news around but if something like that hit the local newspapers or worse, national news, it would kill them. But with the internet showing that nearly everyone is fickle and bottom feeders, it dilutes branding and loyalty. Pretty much ALL the rental car companies pull that scam now just as ALL the legacy airline carriers have lousy service. So where does the poor, pulled consumer run to?

  • Guilty as charged. I am old school. But is that a trick question? I think a lot of the unhappy customers are here commenting on my site every day.

  • bodega3

    Consumers are fickle. I happen to live in a rural area. Many are extremely loyal to local businesses, which don’t have all the bells and whistles of corporate America. You do business with them because they are part of the community, support our kids and give back to the community. But another group will drive 20 minutes to the nearest Walmart to save 5 cents on a loaf of bread and imported fruit instead of buying local produce. It goes both ways between businesses and consumers.

  • Daddydo

    Great article, but you are preaching to the choir.

  • omgstfualready

    Adding that the security breach was unrelated to their own credit cards. ALL customers had a chance of being impacted, not only those paying with a Target card. That is why I merely skimmed the rest of the article because it was misleading.

  • bodega3

    Acknowledgement is worth its weight in gold!


    Well said!

  • MarkKelling

    Starbucks is trying to do the same thing with tea. They are opening their Teavana stores in various places. None near me yet so I don’t know what they are really like, but the pictures online look interesting. Will it work? Who knows.

  • ctporter

    There are advantages to belonging to a “loyalty program”, to avoid them is certainly a choice, but not necessarily a wise one for an individual. Chris is right about how far some people go to gain points, but for the most part, the program do provide a benefit to a consumer. (I did not use the word free) Is it “fair” for my grocery chain to give me a better price on lettuce if I am a member of their program than those that are not? I especially notice that when I am away from home shopping at a grocery chain that does not serve my home town. Yes it is fair, my one time purchase is not helpful to that chain compared to the people that shop there weekly. My airline program does give me a birthday card that includes a 10% discount on a future flight under conditions, is it required of all programs? No, and it certainly is not why I am in the FF program I am in. Alaska Airlines home base is Seattle, where I fly out of and my choices of flights are often much better using them than the other carriers. When they are not, I end up taking other airlines, middle seats in the back and all. Time of day, cost, and connection times are all very important to me which then leads me to Alaska most of the time. Since I am required by my company to book the lowest fare it is wonderful to be able to book seats with extra leg room due to the amount of flying I do with Alaska, and even get an upgrade at times. Is it fair to upgrade me over someone that flies 1-5 times a year? Of course it is. Am I silly for belonging to their program? Of course not, I would be silly NOT to being that my work calls for me to travel often. (and NO, I am not some high flying executive, I am going to factories, construction sites, etc in all kinds of weather and conditions just doing my job) My grocery programs and my airline programs work for me. However, there is a clothing store that I shop often that has a program that ends up being worthless to me, I wish their program rewarded me the way my airline and grocery program does instead of giving me discounts that expire before I can use them making them a waste of time and energy. The key to any frequent user program is to understand exactly how it works, and know your spending patterns and preferences. Then make the decisions to use or not accordingly.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    My wife is crazy for the costco gas. It’s about 25 cents cheaper than the name brand stations. Doing the math, she saves about 2 bucks by gassing up at costco but it’s easily a 20 minute to 30 minute wait. Yes, I’m a cheapskate but I calculated one. I’ll pay a little bit more for convenience.

    Walmart for produce? Here in DC metro, it’s the Asian markets that have great prices on fruit, canned or fresh.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Shopping local is a value for some, not for others. Where I grew up, the local businesses had a monopoly in ever business sector. The result was rude employees, greedy business owners, and terrible products and services. The attitude was take it or leave it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Not necessarily. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? My membership in Starwood gives me free breakfast and free internet. That generally a $35+ value to me. As a result I will often book Starwood as the difference in price between a comparable hotel is rarely $35.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t know where you live but here in the San Francisco Bay area as well as Los Angeles all the good coffee shops (not Starbucks) serve tea brewed loose. You can do a higher quality chain such as Peet’s, an independent coffee shop, or any of the plethora of Asian tea shops.

  • backprop

    Count me among the cynical (it’s true), but I know that an acknowledgement of that type is driven by a calculated marketing equation and then carried out by machines, without a single human interacting with it. It’s a sales tool, not a true gesture of goodwill.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    DC metro suburbs. I miss LA. The Palm Thai. The Russian tea cafes… We do have a teavana next door, but they sell bags of tea (doesn’t have a cafe) and the prices are insane: $70 a bag. I can go to Russian Gourmet and buy a bag of Czar Nikolai for $9. The local Afghani store sells loose black tea from India for $6.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I too find that ethnic markets are so much cheaper its almost criminal. I have Chinese in-laws who have opened my eyes to the Chinese markets here.

  • omgstfualready

    Please forgive me in advance; I’m going off topic. I wanted to post an interesting customer service experience from Amazon. I’ve never contacted them before and I was actually impressed with the results. I ordered something last week and paid extra for delivery today (Monday). I got an email from them early this morning that UPS is having issues and my item is delayed one or two days. I was bummed. I needed it for Tuesday afternoon. I can always go to a brick and mortar for the gift but it was more than Amazon (even after the extra for shipping).

    I emailed Amazon’s customer service and explained I know it is their carrier having the issue but that I did pay for the shipping with the understanding it would be here Monday. I asked if I don’t have it delivered Tuesday since I had to go to a store and purchase the item, would I be able to request my shipping fees to be returned to me. Frankly I think it was a clear, concise, and pleasant email from me. I left out I’d have to pay more for the item and would be battling Christmas Eve chaos (and I’m not even a Christian!) since that is kinda implied I really didn’t want to go to the store since I used Amazon in the first place.

    They responded within a few hours that they contacted UPS and I’m on track for a Tuesday delivery but just in case they sent me a prepaid return slip (since I was buying it elsewhere I didn’t need what I ordered from them). And a goodwill gesture they retuned the shipping fee anyway.
    Yes, I know it is between Amazon and UPS and I’m sure Amazon will have UPS give them back the money they returned to me. And yes, if I am truly getting it Tuesday I won’t use the prepaid return slip. Basically Amazon is out nothing. Yet they responded quickly and just as importantly, were proactive in addressing my needs. They could have told me to wait until tomorrow since UPS said I’m on their list and email back if that didn’t happen as expected. I’m pleased with the outcome.

    I will not be ‘loyal’ to them for this, I will go where the markets take me, but should all things be equal, I’ll stick with Amazon.

    Thanks for letting me go astray.

  • EdB

    I had a similar issue with a delivery from Amazon. I paid for overnight delivery, and the carrier, OnTrac (don’t get me started on how bad they are), never attempted to deliver it and claimed they couldn’t. I called Amazon to let them know and find out what they could do about it. I needed the item for the weekend and like you, would have to go to a brick and mortar store to get the item. The rep I talked to refunded my shipping and told me to just refuse delivery. Now I live in an apartment and this carrier never brings it to the unit and drops it off at the office and that I wouldn’t be able to refuse it. The rep called the delivery company and they told him they would not bring it by Saturday. So the rep gave me a prepaid return label and I thought that would be the end of it. About an hour later, I got a call from a supervisor at Amazon letting me know that the package WILL be delivered on Saturday and to my unit. Well, it was delivered on Saturday, but to the office instead. I let the supervisor know about it and he let me know that they were putting a flag on my account not to every ship anything by OnTrac.

    Will I be “loyal” to them? If they have what I need at the right price, I am going to order from them first because of the level of customer service I have received. I have gotten similar quality on other “late” orders so this wasn’t a one time thing. When a company treats me right, I will reward them with more business. However, if the service or quality drops, I won’t hesitate to find someone else to spend my money with.

  • omgstfualready

    Marriages lasted longer because women had no opportunity in the work force and put up with intolerable situations for lack of ability to support themselves.

    People worked at the same company for life and that is exactly what the company took from them.

    Grocery stores didn’t need to compete with anyone else so they could afford to pay people to walk your stuff for you to your car and keep higher profit margins.

    Travel used to be for the well to do and the passengers dressed and acted accordingly.

    Do I need to go on? Change happens. Sometimes it is for the better, sometimes for the worse, but often it is just a different new ‘normal’.

  • omgstfualready

    If I were to bet I’d say no way that was intentionally done. I’m sure the lawsuits are flying.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    AMEN Sister!

  • omgstfualready

    I agree, when I get them I think how much money did they spend on this nonsense that is keeping the cost higher than perhaps necessary.

  • BMG4ME

    I can’t see the connection between a data breach and loyalty, sorry. Your story about tweeting JetBlue is interesting because I tweeted the alleged supremos of customer service, SouthWest, after some great service by an employee, and they did not acknowledge me. On the other hand, American always replies to my tweets, and the executives I know there, that I sometimes write to, always reply. That’s loyalty.

  • Justin

    Thanks. Patent Pending =). Might win over the dissent when presenting the idea in a new light.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Regarding women and lack of opportunities in the workplace: Madame Curie, Seamstresses, the inventor of the windshield wiper (a woman), and millions of other jobs that proletariat women were expected to perform. The notion of women never working after marriage was largely bourgeois that the working classes adopted to copy status. My working class father and part-time working mother afforded a large home, vacations for a month a year, and 4 kids. Today, liberated youngsters get 30 years loans for a condo. Today, most young women would rather remain single than marry down in income.

    Regarding companies taking people for life. My Aunt had her husband die of black lung at age 30. She lived off of the disability/death payments for the rest of her natural life. Layoffs to outsource workers or bring in sponsored foreigners would have gotten a massive protest.

    Grocery stores: My 2nd Uncle ran a Polish butcher shop. He griped about competition from grocery stores. In those days, people went to specialty shops to get baked goods and meat. My mother read the fliers from 3 different stores and would circle the best deals and then made a run to three different stores a week.

    Some people claim that flying isn’t much cheaper than back then due to fuel and TSA costs. I think people simply drove or took the train more than back then AND dressed better to boot. Men wore hats and ties to work and the plane. But one thing I like are the no-smoking cabins today!

    But yeah, sure change happens. Agreed. Happy Holidays.

  • California_Dave

    Agree 100%. I get a birthday card from Southwest Airlines every year, and this year, I got 4 free drink tickets “just to say thanks for my business” although I don’t fly them enough to get more than 1 free ticket every 5 years or so. Automation makes sending a simple card so easy. It is an expense to Southwest; the other airlines could pay for a month of automated thank you emails or cards with 2 or 3 ticket change fees per month.

  • omgstfualready

    Yes, I would rather stay single than have to settle for someone beneath my standards, and no, my standards are not economically based.

    Enjoy your day off.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I was thinking, on my day off, about the philosophical conundrum of “lowering our standards” and simply not doing something. Like traveling for instance. Now THAT’S about learning to lower your standards. Unless you’re wealthy, you’re going to have to deal with narrow seats, crachety seatmates, rental car ripoffs, slow buses, late trains, you name it. In my marriage, I’m the adventurous one and my wife only learned about travel via me dragging her (sometimes literally) around the world.

    Hmmm, and that sounds a lot like life too. My sibling has lived in the same town within about a mile from where she was born and raised. She’ll probably die there too. And note, I’m not criticizing that. That’s what she prefers. She doesn’t yearn to travel so for her, it’s not settling. She LIKES living in the same place.

    However, then there’s the third case: Folks who WANT to travel but don’t because they don’t want to worry about or deal with the problems above and would “rather” stay home. But in a way, not traveling or staying single is “settling”, yes? They’re settling for one choice over another.

    Most everyone settles unless they’re affluent or wealthy and I daresay, lucky. They probably don’t write a lot to Elliott fretting about these travel problems but if they do, I doubt they refuse to “settle” and give up travel altogether.

    When someone says they “refuse to settle”, it sounds like they already have. They just don’t know it.

    Happy Day Off!

  • omgstfualready

    lol. no. It is those of us that didn’t realize how much happiness we deserve and now do and will not be allowed to be mistreated ever again, by anyone, for any reason.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Of course, I wasn’t condoning abuse (note that women weren’t always perfect saints in marriage either). Again, travel as in life is about putting up sometimes with mistreatment. Unfair bosses. Rude gate agents. Surly flight Attendants. And spouses are (sometimes) a combination of all of them!

    The way to deal with these challenges is to work and find a better boss (or grit your teeth and wait for them to mess up and then call them out like I did recently), stay the heck away from Spirit Airlines, and do the legwork to find a good spouse. Unless someone does the legwork to improve something, they’re settling.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.