Pointo Cardo, Anyone?

Customer loyalty is very important to any company. I know this. I have been a frequent flyer member since my university days back in the mid 80s; then came the other ones, like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream; the AMC Theatres; a Sausalito T-shirt design store; Macy’s (they calculate the amount you ever spend in the store card, and one day when you least expect it, they send you a gift.) But no city has ever inundated me with so many loyalty programs as Tokyo has. In the short time that I had lived here since February 2004, I had accumulated many more of these cards than I ever had while living for almost two decades in the United States. It is unbelievable the amount of cards that had taken residence inside my wallet. Anybody remember George Costanza’s wallet (from the Seinfeld sitcom)? Mine is about to wrest the thickness record away from George’s wallet.

Sumimasen, koko de, pointo cardo ga arimasu ka? Excuse me; is point card available here? I have begun to recite that question every time I go to a new store (or any store I in which have never shopped before.) Mind you, retailers already make so much money from me, the least I could do is trying to get as much back from them. Sure, I am being their faithful dog, letting them have my address so that they can spam me and tracking my shopping habit. I don’t care; just give me back my bone! Arf arf!

Let me see what point cards this dog has dragged so far:
2 major department stores (not their credit cards, but point cards; there is a distinction here)
1 electronic store
1 pharmacy & sundry store
1 grocery store
1 coffee shop at the Century Hyatt Hotel
1 toy store (this will cease to exist once my nieces and nephews grow older)
1 noodle joint
1 ice cream parlor
2 soup places
1 crêpes stand (I am telling you, this is a street vendor giving out point card; what if it no longer vends the item at the same location?)
1 drycleaner
1 HMV (music) store, except that the iTunes music store causes slow growth in the point accrual in this card
1 art store
1 Roppongi Hills community card
1 Virgin Cinemas card

Some cards have an expiration date, and others impose a small fee to own them:
The toy store card – you will have to shop three times there before finally getting a point card.
The art store card – it costs ¥500, and subsequently, any transaction will have to be in cash, but you do get a whopping 24% discount (this one is actually the most direct in giving the discount, and a big discount at that).
The dry cleaning card – ¥500, and if you will receive a 10% discount, plus if you pick up the item(s) on the appointed day, then an additional discount of 5%.
The Virgin Cinemas card-¥500

Sometimes, these cards actually work against the vendors. One time, my partner and I were strolling in the adjacent neighborhood when suddenly he suggested grabbing something quick at the soup café. I welcomed the idea until I realized that I had forgotten to bring that particular card. When I was adamant not to lose a single point, he responded that the card had betrayed the café; it lost two sales that night because I had forgotten to bring the card. He said, get another card, then the next time, bring both and consolidate them into one. Ha! Did he not think that I had tried that before at a different store? Most of the stores would not bend the rules: in some, they actually stated it in the Terms and Agreement (not even in fine prints) that they would not consolidate two cards into one. Curses! Somebody must have told ‘em about me.


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