Just one thing: I'm not really sure why.
If we were talking any one of the airline frequent flyer programs of which I am a member, that I would understand. Since these programs were first created back in the 1970's, they have morphed from simply giving out plaques and promotional materials to good customers to becoming self-contained economies on their own that rival many nations. Total membership numbers are closely guarded secrets and hard to come by, plus there is huge overlap from one to another. But estimates of the largest, the American Airlines AAdvantage program, run from 60 million to 100 million members, collecting and spending trillions of miles worth billions of dollars. It's as if you took everyone in Thailand and put them on a plane to Orlando.
And I am one of those citizens of the air. Like many, I wouldn't dream of booking a ticket and NOT being scrupulous enough make sure my ID number is correctly recorded. For even as they keep ratcheting up the floor and tweaking the earning criteria, after only roughly 1000 flights from here to Los Angeles I can accrue enough miles to fly to Atlanta for free, as long as I travel on a Tuesday evening and am willing to make a stop in Detroit along the way.
Building up my account also vaults me into the rarified air of elite members. Depending on the program, these usually include tiers identified by precious metals (silver, gold, platinum), precious gems (opal, sapphire, diamond) or some other precious hierarchy that gives nod to the need to feel superior (preferred, elite, VIP). Doing so gives me additional perks, which in an airlines' case means things like early boarding, lounge access and special peanuts.
That said, it's worth noting that as the rewards levels have been upped and more people are flying more often, the peaks have become harder to scale. The net result is that whereas it used to be commonplace to score an upgrade, now only the most grizzled road warriors can expect to get bumped to the front. Or as I realized when I looked for my name on the monitors at the gate on my last flight, I was so far down the list that I would need everyone in business class to get off, and then all the people who replaced them to also cancel, and then maybe, just maybe, I might have a shot at a seat close to the pilots.
Still, that vision of being part of the 1% has so entranced the buying public that any company that sells anything has created a loyalty program to entice and reward their best customers. From the American Express Membership Rewards Program to MGM Resorts MLife Rewards to Marvel Comics Marvel Insider program, there are a million ways to collect points or visits or miles or visits and trade them in for free stuff, discounts or enhanced experiences. Collect enough, and you can ascend from a mere consumer to preferred status, allowing you to claim a free trip (Amex) to a discounted stay (MLife) to an Ironman pin (Marvel). Only you can decide if it's worth listening to a Black Panther Podcast to claim the points.
Which brings me back to my Speedy Card. I registered for it not because I wanted a free bratwurst from those silver grilling rollers (1350 points) nor a bag of Speedy Gummi Worms (1250 points) but because, well, I don't know. I guess because it filled some deep internal need. After all, as one reviewer noted, these days all customers are children at heart and feel we should be rewarded for our participation. And so almost more important than a 20% off coupon is being flagged as Elite (Run Everything Labs) or Circle5 (Neiman Marcus) or Addict (AHAVA cosmetics).
So when you see me at the pumps, recognize me for what I am. Not just another schmo filling his tank with 10 gallons of Plus. No, my 4502 points qualify me as a Speedy Rewards Perk member. Show some respect.
Marc Wollin of Bedford has points in places he will never use. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.