The relationship is charmingly feudal. I swear loyalty to Lord Staples by signing up for his rewards. A brisk but moving ceremony at the cash register – smiles, congratulations – is followed by welcoming salutations in my in-box.
Then one day, Lord Staples finds himself under siege from the grasping Earl of Office Depot. Lord Staples sends out a call for my dollars. I saddle up my war-car and muster with other customers to pay homage at Lord Staples’ big, boxy castle. I faithfully deploy my dollars in his behalf… and ride home – battered – lugging a box of paper and other spoils of war.
At some later date, Lord Staples grants me a free pen and a promise of future favors.
That’s how loyalty programs work.
Banks, restaurants, hotels, airlines – all promote such feudal arrangements. My objection is to their sheer complexity – also feudal. Am I exempt from service at harvest time? Do I owe Lord Staples my daughter for a few nights (or knights)? Does he get his third of my wheat before or after I beat it against the rocks?
With the Duke of Delta (here illustrated), the program has the typical complexities.
Note this handsome ad for the Duke of Delta’s pact. Great graphics – but such confusing terminology! “SkyMiles program”… “rollover elite miles”… “Medallion qualification level”…. “the new Diamond Medallion tier.”
Tough to figure out. I worry that, if I swear allegiance to the Duke of Delta, I might unwittingly be ceding over a beloved pet – or even a cherry tree – in exchange for one of these "medallions."