Thursday, 25 November 2010

The price of loyalty

Loyalties to pay for

In the broad scheme of things we tend to strive to keep certain loyalties and allow others to lapse. I used to gather all sorts of loyalty cards few of which really offered much benefit and one of which I had to pay for to enjoy the benefits.

I used to travel a lot and I tied myself to the Accor brand which features the Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Pullman, and a number of budget brands.

You got points that could be converted to credits apart from other benefits as bargain prices and late check-outs, then a couple of years ago the card was re-launched and we had to shell out twice what we used to pay for the cards without much different in benefits in my view.

I allowed that to lapse, by which time I was already using the loyalty card that gave me deals with Radisson, Park Inn and hotels in the group. I like the late checkout idea, though.

Free agent, firm agency

My supermarket downstairs sometimes throws deals at us but we can only benefit from these bargains if we have our bonus cards to hand. Interestingly, our cards are not personalised but it should not take long for them to link payment cards to loyalty cards and they will know if you have been loitering around the fruit counter or picking up the cheap hosiery.

As much as possible, I travel KLM or in general the SkyTeam Alliance because if I do 25,000 miles of travel or take 15 flights a year, I become an Elite Flying Blue card holder; I can check-in at the business class counters even if I am travelling cattle class, I can jump queues to board the plane; quite convenient, I’ll say.

It was almost a 20 minute walk to the gate that I only met the air hostesses and I was immediately recognised by name – that brings concern.

As a battering ram

Loyalty in some ways begets better service, offers greater rewards and exposes you to good deals. I know I have used my Accor Favourite Guest Card status to demand amends be made to ensure I did not end up spending 4 nights in multiple hotels because they had overbooked the one I originally reserved.

Yes, you can suddenly become driven and then I noticed that when I bought Private Eye and minced pies, yes food at Amsterdam’s Waterstones bookshop, the loyalty points accrued could pay for what I bought but I did not spend points.

The amount of untapped value in cards for different schemes might well be another bubble being created but rarely do you hear that what you have has suddenly appreciated in value not even with an error in your favour.

The race to remain eligible for the perks remains a very serious one.

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