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No points for a nice 'hello' for retailers.


It had to happen. The supermarket loyalty card has now spread beyond the likes of Sainsbury's and Argos into Birmingham's rubbish bins.

In a pilot scheme Birmingham City Council is to issue residents who successfully recycle their household ws aste with points on Nectar cards.

They can then exchange points gained for putting out their old newspapers, junk mail and magazines for goods at Sainsbury's, Argos and Homebase. A fine idea, surely, helping the environment and saving money for hard-pressed householders at the same time.

But wait a moment and consider this. A few years ago the most common greeting I received over the course of an average week was "How are you?" or possibly "Good morning."

Such harmless niceties were part of life, common courtesies from fellow human beings. But a more sinister commercial element has overtaken the How are Yous and the Good Mornings.

By far the most frequent question I get asked these days is "Have you got a Nectar Card?" Every time I visit my local garage, and every time I go to Sainsbury's, the same old question is trundled out.

Sometimes the verbal exchanges veer on the edge of slapstick. "You don't have a Nectar card, do you?" "No." "Would you like one?" "No" "We have to ask, I'm afraid." "Of course."

The Nectar squad were out in force at Sainsbury's in Tamworth last Sunday morning, determined to convert non-believers. Every shopper had to run a gauntlet of purple-cladded Nectar people, brandishing forms and false bonhomie.

I realize I could disarm the Nectar disciples and simply sign up for one of their ubiquitous cards, possibly saving several hundreds of pounds over the course of a year. But that really isn't the point.

The Nectar Card syndrome brings an unnecessary quasi-bullying element to the routine of shopping or filling the car with petrol. And the raison d'etre of Nectar and all it stands for would appear to be "Sign up, become one of us!" In a wonderful book a few years ago entitled Big Babies, author Michael Bywater disembowelled vast tracts of modern life, arguing we were all bombarded by petty rules, bossy advice and celebrity gossip.

In one telling passage he observed: "You, I, all of us are on the receiving end of a sustained campaign to infantilise us: our tastes, our responses, our behaviour, our private thoughts, our decisions, our buying habits...."

Meanwhile back at the garage, it's "Have you got a Nectar Card?" Zzzzzzzz.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2011
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