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Rewards Programs: Use Them Subversively

 

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I recently started reading an article about how to earn more rewards points -- and ended up pondering mind control and rebellion. It brought me to the realization that it's great to use coupons, rewards and all that -- as long as we use them as subversively as possible.

This Chicago Tribune story, "Companies give green to get green: Incentive programs aim to spread environmental awareness to more-mainstream consumers," is interesting to me on two levels. On the surface, it's a list of ways you can get rewarded for recycling stuff, like RecycleBank*, where you can earn points for green(ish) activities and then redeem your points for coupons and stuff. I got some $2/1 Soft Scrub coupons from them that resulted in free bottles (Yes -- I signed up for some environment-friendly program in order to get cleaning products that aren't especially known as environmentally friendly. I did this to be subversive. See below.).

But the part of the article that piqued my interest on a deeper level was this:

"The green rewards programs are just part of a wave of initiatives aimed at shaping consumer behavior beyond returning to specific brands or retailers. Health care-related retailers aim to encourage healthful living: In April, Rite Aid started its "wellness +" program, which gives members benefits such as 24/7 access to a pharmacist and the chance to accrue points redeemable for product discounts or to use for health screenings. CVS recently completed a pilot program that rewarded consumers who remembered to take their blood pressure medication regularly. And Kroger and drugstore Duane Reade are partnering to test a national program called WellQ, intended to coax consumers into setting and achieving wellness goals, including timely refills of drug prescriptions.

The fact is, Americans seem to love loyalty and reward programs and are more than happy to add another membership card to their key rings. The average U.S. consumer belongs to 12 to 14 loyalty programs. The trick for consumer organizations and brands is to use the programs not only to influence shoppers' buying habits, but also to encourage other behavior, said Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner with Colloquy, part of the global marketing company LoyaltyOne."

That's right: Companies are no longer content to use loyalty programs to push us to buy more of their products -- a goal that seemed pretty forthright and understood. They want to use them to control our behavior. And sure, you might say that they're using them to shape our behavior in positive or benign ways, like reminding us to do healthy things.

But I don't want my behavior to be molded by corporations, any more than it already is by advertising. Yet, I salivate at the opportunity for more free stuff presented by companies like CVS/Caremark expanding their loyalty programs. That's why I endorse the Frugalista Loyalty Program Credo: Take the handouts, and use them. Subversively.

Lemme explain.

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CONTEST CLOSED Frugalista Challenge: Share Your Cheap Gift Tip and Win a $100 Gift Card

 

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THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED AND NO MORE ENTRIES WILL BE ACCEPTED. WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED BY MONDAY AT 5 P.M.

There are two ways to approach frugal gifting: Either you give what's expected and spend less than others spend, or you go beyond what's expected and spend the same amount that others would shell out for a more standard gift.

Me, I do a little of both, often splitting the difference. But one group of people I never hold out on is my readers. Because, guess what? It's Thursday, time for a giveaway!

Today's Frugalista Challenge is frugal gifting. Because, it's holiday shopping time already. Seriously? Seriously, because shopping frugally takes more planning. I'm going to share my tips for giving presents that cost less, then you leave a comment sharing your best frugal gifting tip, or what you want to try in the future to cut back on gift expenses.

Your comment is your entry to this week's $100 drawing, provided by 8Coupons.com. See the bottom of the post for more details on the prize. You can get a second entry by Tweeting this post; make sure to inlcude @carriekirby in your Tweet so I can tally it.

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ChicagoPoints: They'll Pay You to Read the Paper Now

I'm not a huge fan of points rewards programs that require you to do stuff, and that pay you in the chance to win stuff. Am I being too negative on these programs?

I adore my SwagBucks, because once I installed the program on my computer I don't have to do anything else and I can cash in the points for actual gift cards -- not just the chance to win gift cards. I've read other people get excited online about Pampers and Huggies points and such, and I've been trying it out, but so far I've been kind of bummed because it's been a hassle to sit down and enter the points and I end up having empty diaper packages sitting around cluttering the place up and so far I haven't won anything from Huggies and don't have enough points to get anything on Pampers.

But if you like points programs, and if you get the Tribune, there's this ChicagoPoints program. In today's paper they provided a code for 2,500 points: 4DRA1Z. That's enough for a chance to win a $350 Sears gift card, or two chances at a $125 cash prize. I have no idea what the odds of winning these prizes is.

You can also use your points to play a slot machine type game which I should totally tell my Grandma about because she will play a slots game on her computer just for the fun of it. So maybe I could turn my points over to Grandma and have her turn them into a gazillion points on the slots.

It says there will be a bonus code in the Tribune every day from now on, near the lotto results. You can also earn points by filling out surveys, reading a newsletter and doing surveys.

And by the way, even though ChicagoNow is affiliated with the Tribune, nobody told me to promote this ChicagoPoints program. (They'd probably be pretty disappointed in my lukewarm assessment if they were paying for it, lol!)

Do you do points programs? Does the time invested seem to pay off, or does it seem like a waste?

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