Ward’s World: Loyalty? I’d stick to green stamps – by John Ward

John Ward is sticking to Green Shield stamps.
John Ward is sticking to Green Shield stamps.
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Buying something from a large retail outlet these days, the chances are you will be asked if you have one of their loyalty or bonus cards.

To be honest, my standard reply is no, as if I carried every single one of ’em –should I have chosen to sign up for one in every shop, garage or toenail-clipping parlour – I would be walking lop-sided with the sheer weight of carrying them all.

Not to mention needing a roof rack fitted to the wallet, to carry those I added because the colour of the card goes well with my real, imitation, vinyl, mock-leather leisure shoes, formerly known as “trainers”.

As for the above cards, loyalty amounts to nothing much these days.

I was with a large car insurance company for a years, and used to renew every year until I woke up to the fact that the furry toy they “gave” you was very expensive. So I said “enough is enough”, and went to an insurance broker. Overnight I got the same deal, and it amounted to me saving a real £63, although I do miss the furry toy.

The emergency vehicle-recovery concern I was with for over 12 years put their annual renewal fee up by double figures every year. As I had only ever claimed or used their service twice, I was in theory a sitting duck on their wall chart, so I cancelled. Later, I saw one of their bods, with his umbrella and bartering bench, standing outside a supermarket. I rejoined and saved £47 in one swoop – for the very same cover.

The thought of having your “loyalty” card swiped after each transaction becomes daunting when you consider that the points you accrue – unless you are a big shopper, as these are the folk the stores are really after – are quite futile.

I look at the set of three screwdrivers I redeemed with my points. In theory they cost me about six hundred quid over a couple of years, and £200 screwdrivers are quite something, believe you me. But try as I may, I can’t get insurance cover for them, although if I did, imagine the points I could earn on the deal, plus the furry toy...

Social history moment coming up. In the late 1960s there was a scheme that gave stamps away on assorted purchases. You filled a book up with these Green Shield Stamps and and it had a value. If you filled X-number of books, the gifts on offer were staggering. In some cases you could get a real car to drive off in – in our street somebody got married and all their relations, etc, saved up their books and kitted out the happy couple’s home, from the toaster to the washing machine.

I got them when I filled up with petrol, and exchanged them for quite a few meaningful items in the process.

In about 1971 I went along to their showroom – yes, showroom – and selected a set of spanners. I am proud to say I still have them today in my toolbox, so the quality was not that bad. I still use them. At least they have lasted longer than today’s offerings of furry creatures that will perhaps end up as toys for the pet dog or cat ... or rhino, as picked up from an online auction site.