I have become very sensitive to anger. Almost to the extent that I’m sensitive to loyalty. When loyalty is betrayed, I get very angry. Because trust is one of the greatest dreams and needs of the human being.
I am therefore moved by this story of so many people experiencing great anger, anger at the lack of loyalty emanating from their best friends.
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I know because I read this headline: “USELESS: Delta Now Charges Over 500,000 SkyMiles One-Way for Some Cheap Travel.”
You should have noticed that these people’s best friends are big companies that “reward” customers for their “loyalty”.
What a concept, a capitalist concern that tells you it will reward you for devoting your deepest emotions to it. (Why hasn’t Apple ever thought of that?)
As often happens, it was the airlines that led the way in crushing the concept of loyalty. When things went wrong, they lured customers with all kinds of promises. The kind of promises politicians often offer. You know, promises of free stuff in exchange for your continued vote.
And then the airlines change their minds and incite angry headlines partially written in all caps. But the airlines are not alone in this subterfuge.
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One of the latest companies to follow suit in this freedom recoil is Starbucks.
If you’ve never committed to an exclusive dating relationship with the coffee chain, the idea of your loyalty program is to collect stars. The more stars you have, the more free stuff you will get. It’s like being a Hollywood agent, really.
However, imagine the desperate pain when you realize you need 100 stars for a free coffee or tea instead of 50.
Imagine, too, having to collect 300 stars to get a free protein box instead of the previous 200.
I know this is now a national issue because The New York Times criticized: “Chain restaurants make it more expensive to be loyal.”
I guess we all pay some kind of price for loyalty. But The New York Times insisted that things were really worrying. He quoted a recently loyal Starbucks customer as saying, “Are you kidding me?”
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Perhaps you should choose which of the betrayed you sympathize with the most. Is waiting a little longer for a free cup of coffee less nerve-wracking than waiting for a free economy flight to, say, Dubai? I suspect so.
What is perhaps more twisted is the way some companies have tried to slip those changes in, hoping that their customers, their most loyal and loving customers, won’t notice. After all, customers just push a few buttons on their phones. You don’t even think about it, do you?
But back to the anguish.
The Times quotes a surprised Kate Hogenson, senior consultant at Mallett Group, who advises in the area of, oh, brand loyalty.
She reflected, “I was surprised at Starbucks. It looked like something their lawyer had written, and it was buried in the holiday period. There they had a chance to tell me all the cool stuff they were adding to the rewards program.”
He added, in a pained tone: “But what people saw was that the points needed for a basic coffee or a latte went up.”
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Isn’t it the worst when your lover sneaks up on you? What do companies still have to learn about delivering bad news? Find some good news to go with it and present it first.
I prefer to give you bad news neither in a drip, nor covered in foamy milk. When companies don’t make enough money to please their CFOs and investors, they’re going to take that free love away from you, like they never loved you at all.
Perhaps, then, the best advice one can give is not to get carried away by emotions.
Airline loyalty programs? They’re fine if you fly a lot and enjoy fiddling with every nuance of the rules only to eventually sit on a plane and revel in the thought that you didn’t pay.
But you paid. You paid with your loyalty. And how many brands truly, madly, deeply deserve that?
more technically incorrect