Having spent waaaay too much time in stores this month (December), this DIY hack for creating a Loyalty Card to Rule Them All from Instructables caught my attention thanks to Lifehacker’s Whitson Gordon.
In the article, Whitson Gordon also referenced "KeyRingThing" an online service that helps you build a double-sided card with up to three bar-codes on each that house your needed loyalty rewards codes. Print the card yourself, or pay a small fee to have them make a nice one that won’t self-destruct in your wallet over time.
Off course, the DIY version here is the hipster version of iphone or android apps like keyringapp, rewardcard, cardstar and others that allow you to scan your loyalty or rewards or bonus cards to your phone for supposed quick "scan back" while you’re checking out of your favorite brick-n-mortar.
However, the reality of some of these digital advances isn’t actually here yet, as Bob Tedeschi noted in NYT’s Personal Tech a few months back:
Ideally, you could… go to the store, open the app during the checkout process, call up the store’s loyalty card and hand your phone to the clerk. The phone’s screen would show a digitized representation of your card, complete with bar code and numbers, which the clerk would then scan. The benefits of loyalty club membership would rain down on you.
In the real world, you will hand your phone to the clerk with the following instructions: “Your scanner probably won’t pick up the bar code, so you may have to type in the numbers.”
At the end of the day, my reality is that I carry only one or two "loyalty cards" at all. In fact, at the grocery store where I would normally use my reward card most-often, I generally opt for just tapping in my phone number in the PIN/ATM pad while the checker is scanning my chili, Oreos and milk.
Which begs the question—when will companies allow me to register MY unique ID with them rather than having me "sign up" for their loyalty card and then carry around their designated number invented for them to recognize me?
I already use my phone number (though that changes often enough companies should consider something more permanent), my website address (think OPENID endpoint) or a barcode that I have pre-printed (geeks would think of this as a public key). Whatever number/text/hexadecimal code that I give them that would really be used by the vendor as a self-generated unique ID for me. They can, of course, assign some key to my identity in their own database, and every time I present this key, they can identify me.
Honestly, I think our PHONES may be perfect for this (something we always have with us) if Near-Field Communications (NFC) gets more common, as recently included in the Google Nexus-S.
Of course, marketers don’t think this way because "LOYALTY" to a marketer means my loyalty to them, not the other way around.