When I left Walmart one day last week with a $10.00 purchase, my receipt was so long that I felt guilty about the tree I’d just helped to kill. Half the long receipt invited me to complete a survey at a website listed about that store visit. Then came the lure. It read: “In return for your time, you could receive one of five $1,000.00 Walmart shopping cards.” The comma after the word time is mine. Walmart doesn’t deal in commas. The word could is theirs and is the key word.
I don’t remember when I noticed the first survey invitation, but soon I was getting them from every store I go to—Lowe’s, Home Depot, CVS, and even my old buddy Belk. What on earth’s going on?
Curious, I sat down one day to actually do one of the surveys. When the clerks are forced to tell customers about them, they always say “a short survey.” I’m sure they’re told to say that, too, but we all know that short is a relative term. A day is short if you’re comparing it to eternity. The survey I took required about 20 minutes and I was chomping at the bit before I finished it, but I’d made a pact with myself to finish it so I did. I found it repetitious and worthless. I could have read a chapter in my current book in that 20 minutes. I could have mopped the floor or painted my toenails. I wasted my time, in other words. I don’t like to waste my time.
And then there’s the enticement. Does anybody ever win? Can they prove that someone wins? Is the whole thing a scam? I don’t know for sure, but I bet that other people like me sometimes take the survey out of curiosity and on the rare, rare chance that it might actually be real. All of us could use a $1,000.00 gift card to any of these stores, right? There’s that word could again. The sky could fall tomorrow, too, but it probably won’t.
If any one has actually won and used one of these cards, please email me. Then I’ll apologize for my skepticism.
Gimmicks drive me crazy. In addition to the surveys and gift cards business, consider the cards that some stores require to participate in their savings. Why exactly do I need a card to walk into a grocery store or a pharmacy and take advantage of their advertised bargains? Does their card make me a member of an elite group?
There’s a lot more to these cards than they tell us, of course. Trisha Torrey of About.com Guide says that the cards are really used to make the company money and if they have to violate your privacy a little or even a lot to do so, well so be it. You, the happy shopper, check out the receipt to see just how much you saved. The store that issued the card made more money than you spent because the store is using that card to collect information from you that they sell to the highest bidder.
Larger corporation want info to determine your health problems and figure out who should pay higher insurance premiums. What we buy can tell a lot about us. For example, if you buy steak, wine and imported chocolate often, you probably are quite affluent. Would a potential insurer be interested in your diet? Obviously.
I always knew that these cards benefit the company rather than the customer. I get really suspicious when any company starts telling me how much it cares for me. What they really mean is they are really fond of my money and would like to have more and more of it; if they can make money by selling my information, that’s just an added bonus. All’s fair in love and big business. If you pay attention, you’ll find that only the big stores require those cards.
How often do the locally owned stores offer you one? Never is right.
Way back in 1968, Congress passed a truth in lending law to protect the consumer. Maybe it’s time for a truth in selling bill. Or do we even really want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but? It might be too painful.