+ Discover What The Geeks Know That You May Not
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- One Mile At A Time: Have Loyalty Programs Become Too Rewarding?
- View From The Wing: Are Loyalty Programs Really Worthless?
- View From The Wing: Loyalty Programs Are About Conflicts Of Interest
- Nomadic Matt: Don't Be Loyal To Frequent Flier Programs
- View From The Wing: Why Frequent Flyer Programs Make Sense
- View From The Wing: How Does The Loyalty Shareholder Fare?
Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson founded, Sperry & Hutchinson Company, Inc. in 1896 and began offering stamps to retailers. The Green Stamps, as they were called, were one of the first retail loyalty programs. Retail organizations such as supermarkets, gas stations, and department stores bought the stamps from S&H and gave them as bonuses to customers based on the dollar amount of each purchase. Over time, some shoppers began choosing one merchant over another because they gave out more stamps per dollar spent.
Just like post office stamps, Green Stamps were coated with a gummed underside. As shoppers accumulated Green Stamps they moistened the underside and adhered them in collection books that were provided for free by S&H. Stamps were issued in denominations of 1, 10, and 50 points. The booklets each contained 24 pages. Filling a single page required 50 points making each completed booklet worth 1200 points. Each item available at the S&H store or catalog was assigned a value. Shoppers would then redeem the stamps for items such as toys, kitchen utensils, and household appliances. Some communities even pooled them to buy school buses, firetrucks and, on one occasion, a gorilla and an elephant for a local zoo. According to Julie Ulmer Mathews of Redlands, "I was delighted to see how many stamps a purchase would bring in, as the stamps piled up, the more excited and satisfied I became. The sooner the books were filled, the sooner I could get my longed-for gift." At the peak of the Green Stamps, in the 1960s, S&H promoted its rewards catalog as the largest publication in the United States and boasted that it issued three times as many stamps as the U.S. Postal Service. – adapted from Redland’s Daily Facts