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Harris Blackwood: Every business card in your pocket has a story
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Every business card in your pocket has a story

The other day, I was experiencing some pain in my hip. After a bit of investigation, I determined the problem was because of all of the cards issued by various businesses.

I have a card from a couple of grocery stores, two pharmacies, a hardware store, four hotel chains, three convenience stores and two airlines. They all want to tell me how important I am.

The truth is, they want to keep up with what I’m buying and how much money I am spending with them.

I also have a few credit cards.

I remember when there were just credit cards. Then, somebody decided we needed levels, such as silver and gold. I guess too many people reached those levels because now they have platinum and diamond.

It’s sort of like vice presidents at a bank. It isn’t like the White House, where you have only one vice president.

A friend of mine started out on the ground floor of a bank. One day, he was called in to the office of the senior executive vice president and told he was being promoted to vice president. Banks have about as many vice presidents as they do pens on chains.

There is a big demand among folks who are selling you stuff to know just what and how often you are buying their wares.

A few years ago, I read Walmart has one of the biggest computer systems in the world. When you buy a candy bar in Gainesville, it is immediately known at headquarters in Arkansas.

I have a card at a particular hotel chain. I have reached the gold level. When I check in, the desk clerk begins this robot-sounding spiel about how glad he is I am a gold-level customer and offers me a free bottle of water. That really excites me. A bottle of water that probably costs them 50 or 75 cents. Woo-hoo.

I do appreciate the hotels that offer free internet service. Well, most of the time.

I stayed at one hotel about two exits past the end of the information superhighway. I had to stand by the window and hold my computer up high to connect to Wi-Fi.

It seems like everybody wants you to either go online and fill out a customer service survey and get a chance to win a gift certificate to the business. The surveys always have a ranking of excellent, good, fair, neutral, poor and really bad.

Word to the wise: Don’t ever pick really bad because somebody is going to hound you with emails or phone calls about your bad experience.

But I love how these cards hand out points. Some give you thousands of points for each dollar you spend.

“You’ve got 5,000 points,” a clerk at a store said. “Would you like to use them today?”

My heart swells, I’m thinking that 5,000 points must be very valuable because I am, after all, a platinum customer.

“That will save you $3,” she said.

I felt deflated.

What really frightens me is how much these people know about you. Sometimes, I just think about chocolate chip cookies and I get coupons on my grocery store receipts.

As soon as I can scratch up a few thousand points, I’ll get them.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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