A Card-Carrying Tightwad

I like a deal: In recent weeks, I’ve posted about Blackboard Eats and Groupon, two services that appeal to the penny-pincher in me, and I got $50 back from an American Express promotion in December. But I don’t like any and every deal. I have doubts about how much restaurants really want to engage in Restaurant Week, I’ve never been a happy-hour drinker, and when I saw a $7 “recession special” for a burger at Café Colonial the other day, I had concerns about where the meat came from.

loyalty-cards-by-tribeca-citizenThere’s one kind of deal I’m on the fence about—loyalty cards. I currently have three. I keep Kaffe 1668‘s in my wallet; I bring a Wichcraft one whenever I eat there; and in a drawer somewhere I have a Ciao Bella card with two stamps on it, dating from a summer when I frequently used to walk my dog to the World Financial Center, rewarding myself for his efforts.

Kaffe 1668’s coffee and Ciao Bella’s gelato are a bit pricey, so the card helps me justify the splurge. If I spend $3 per coffee, then buying 10 gets me a retroactive 30¢ discount on each cup. It’s not much, but somehow it’s enough to get me over the shame of asking for my card (which might as well have “Hello, my name is Cheap Bastard” printed on it) to be stamped. On the other hand, if 30¢ means that much to me, I have no business buying coffee at Kaffe 1668 in the first place.

I actually have four Wichcraft cards in my apartment right now, because I usually forget to bring one, forcing me to grab a new one each time. When I reach 12 sandwiches—the magic number—I’ll hand over all the cards, succeeding at looking cheap and disorganized. But the savings are a little more substantial: Spending $108 (12 sandwiches at $9 each) earns me a $9 rebate (in the form of a sandwich). Today, I got a bit of a buyback in that the clerk stamped my card an extra time, perhaps because I also bought soup, or perhaps because I was nice.

Naturally, when it comes time to order that free sandwich—or coffee at Kaffe 1668—I’ll go to the more expensive items on the menu. That’s called maximizing one’s value.

But if I’m stingy enough to order something expensive as my free sandwich, then I should probably enlist for the loyalty programs at Duane Reade and the Food Emporium. But like most people, I hate shopping at Duane Reade, and I’m convinced that I’m never going to go there again (alas, Kings Pharmacy doesn’t always have everything I need). As for Food Emporium, I have no excuse, other than theirs is a club I don’t want to join. Besides, both programs want personal information in exchange for a discount, and only certain items are on sale any given week, making it hard to tell if signing up would be worth it.

All of this is a long way of wondering whether there are other loyalty programs you’d recommend. Which do you carry with you? Where do you wish had one? Am I the only person who dreads asking for it to be stamped?

P.S. I just noticed on Kings Pharmacy’s website that Monday is “vitamin day,” and certain brands are buy one, get one half off. And I need vitamins! I’ll be seeing Kings tomorrow….


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