Saturday, March 6, 2010

Last Chance

Way back I obtained a discount card from Barnes & Noble. Its structure is simple. I pay a relatively modest amount for the discount card each year. Thereafter I enjoy a regular discount on all items I buy at the store. I save money because my purchasing volume is high enough to earn back the price of the card every year—plus some. The plot now thickens. A while after I got used to the B&N card, Borders offered a free discount card and, of course, I got one. Free is good. But these two book chains have quite different approaches. Borders’ card is retroactive. After you’ve made some purchases, you get discounts coupons for future purchases. But these are often limited to certain items and certain periods.

In both cases, the stores try to get you to be a frequent buyer. Someone at B&N imagines that I sit about at home thinking like Rodin’s The Thinker, worrying: “Have I purchased enough books from Barnes & Noble to have recovered the fifteen, twenty-five dollars (forget the amount) I spent on my discount card? Let me stop thinking and consult my discount diary NOW.” Then, seeing that I still have three, two, or one dollar unredeemed, I rush out to acquire the latest best seller. The folks at Borders imagine that I find e-mailed coupons irresistible. These arrive after I’ve been to the store to buy something. Borders thinks that urgent e-mails with deadlines can move me. The upshot here is that I buy my books at B&N by preference although the B&N store is farther away. B&N’s program is more rational.

Today I get an e-mail from Borders titled: Last Chance: Up to 40% Off at PETCO Up to 70% Off at The Home Depot. Now here is a wonder. What does buying books have to do with PETCO? You know the place, don’t you? PETCO is—Where the pets go. And Home Depot, while certainly a close acquaintance, only sells how-to-do-your-plumbing kind of titles. Well. This particular e-mail promotion offers me nine, count them, nine different coupons—and all because I’m the proud holder of a Borders Reward Card. Almost all have expiration dates, some tomorrow, some the day after tomorrow. I can buy shoes from Nordstrom, hotel rooms from Pricelines, skincare products from Philosophy (Philosophy??). Of the remaining four—The Container Store, Sephora, Staples, and Gilt Groupe I only recognize Staples. I honestly haven’t a clue what the others have on offer—although the Gilt Groupe actually names two items. One of the is Marc by Marc; the other is Zac Posen. Even after I resume my The Thinker pose, I cannot for the life of me remember if I’ve run out of Zac Posen or not.

Last Chance? I think I’ll miss it. The gates of the heaven of the Kingdom of Commerce are closing on me. And the choice is all mine, too.


  1. Ah, this brings back memories back when I got my Borders Rewards card years ago. Never really used it for all those extra discounts either. Nor did I want it for any of those extra discounts. Funny thing, marketing. For all of those "extras" I prefer a more rational approach: That way I can go to their site when I so choose, select the store I want to shop at, click on their link, then get a percentage of my purchase back. After the money back reaches $5 or more, I get a check in the mail. I still get e-mails weekly from ebates telling me about the weekly deals (from stores I never shop at), but as it's one e-mail a week, I can conveniently delete it and not bother for another week. Sorry Borders, your irrational marketing flooding my inbox has driven me into the "arms" of a competitor...

  2. Oh, wonderful post and great laugh.

    Yes, the Internet era has ushered in a new emphasis on what is referred to as affiliate marketing.... and one can almost see how it should work, maybe, given the right partners, maybe. And yet, in practice I have never made use of the sorts of affiliate offers or coupons I've received.

    I ran into one particularly funny example of this practice at my favorite grocery store, Hillers. They actually were giving out coupons with purchases over $100 and the coupons were for.... here it comes, a local restaurant. does make you wonder.

    Now, I'd never heard unitl now. I might just check that one out.

  3. One other thing that this post made me think of is a book titled The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz, whom I saw interviewed on the Colbert Report recently.

    A quote from the book:
    "Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."

    The author sounds interesting and his points are pretty straight forward. What I want, for example, is good health care, not more effing choice...

    If you're interested in a taste of his style, here's a YouTube clip.

  4. After some drilling down, it appears that Zac Posen is a Designer Fashion Label. Neither Arsen nor I know this, of course. But as I checked on the WEB, I find that "what's being said (is): Success in fashion is one part talent, one part luck and one part a tireless ability (tireless?) to hold a gaudy marquee over your head (??). Posen has all these qualities (??) in excess."
    What all this means is not for me to understand, of course, because I have checked out the prices and find that cheapest t-shirts cost between $68 and $88.00... just a bit in excess!

    Said for me is: "All good things sare cheap, all bad are very dear." Thoreau, March 3, 1841

  5. I'm sure no one's gonna read this but I feel like writing it anyway : about last chances, I often think "God! It's amazing how much money I could have saved if I'd gone shopping today! Too bad I didn't!" Also, I never seem to have the stupid coupons on me when I'm actually in the store where I can use them. That frustrates me to no end. Makes me feel I've been cheated somehow...

    I love the Thoreau quote. Good food for thought. And speaking of food, Monique's Hillers story was also quite funny!


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