Reward #atozchallenge

Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

Rewards programs are meant to encourage brand loyalty. One of the earliest examples of one is S & H Green Stamps. Certain merchants, such as gas stations, grocery stores, and department stores, would give you stamps based on how many dollars you spent, generally one for every dollar. In Chicago, for example, National Food Stores and Wieboldt’s department stores issued them, as well as Magikist Carpet Cleaners and (I think) Standard Oil stations.

The Magikist sign at Montrose Ave. and the Kennedy Expressway, Chicago. There were three such signs, the other two located on the Dan Ryan Expressway and the Eisenhower Expressway. This one lasted the longest.

The idea was you’d get the stamps and paste them in a book. Each book held 1200 stamps, and when filled the book could be exchanged for things like lamps, toasters, silverware, and musical instruments. Of course, for most of the items in the Ideabook (their catalog), you needed more than one book. If you were saving up for something really big, like a TV or clock radio, you would be saving the stamps for a very long time, and there was no guarantee that the item would still be in the catalog when you were ready to get it. Businesses that issued them would have “double stamp” and “triple stamp” days to help you along. There were rival stamp companies, like Top Value and Plaid Stamps, but Green Stamps were the big one. Allan Sherman had a parody of the song “Green Eyes,” called “Green Stamps.”

When I started traveling, I became a member of as many frequent flyer and frequent stayer programs as I could, then would go out of my way to take those airlines and stay at those hotels. Their rewards were pretty good, although after a while the airlines started changing their rules on what qualified as an eligible flight. Still, if you were willing to play their game, you could get free travel and stays at hotels.

Credit cards have even gotten into the act. I have one credit card that gives me 1.5% cash back on everything. I also have an Amazon rewards card for purchases there, and a Starbucks rewards card that gives me money back on purchases there. Both cards also reward you when you use their cards at restaurants, pharmacies, gas stations, and specific other businesses.

Like rebates, reward programs make you work for the benefits, and just like rebates, a lot of people think it isn’t worth the effort. Nevertheless, “something for nothing” is a pretty powerful selling point.

35 thoughts on “Reward #atozchallenge

  1. I actually read this post on Monday but didn’t get a chance to leave a comment. I was going to mention that my mom used to collect S&H stamps and I enjoyed putting them in the book. Then, that afternoon, after reading your post, I was finishing up a novel and the character mentioned her mom’s S&H Stamp book… EERIE! I almost heard the twilight zone theme song in my head.

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    1. I’ve been putting old commercials into some of my blog posts, such as One-Liner Wednesday. The commercials are typically collections people have put together on YouTube. The one that came up for today’s post was for S&H Green Stamps…

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  2. John,

    Oh what a blast from the past! I remember the green and gold stamp programs. Before we got married, DH’s mother gave him some filled green stamp books to redeem and to this day I still have the items that he picked out. A Betty Crocker cookbook and a nice set of Corning Ware mixing bowls. It seems he picked something else out but it escapes my mind now. I think all the women I knew in the day collected stamps to get merchandise they wanted.

    Like you, I have an Amazon CC which offers cash back savings either to go toward my CC amt owed or to use on future Amazon purchases. I prefer to use the money earned when paying off my balance. Another form of savings is Rakuten, formerly Ebates, which offers a percentage back from hundreds of online retailers and sometimes they extend the savings to in-store retailers. You won’t get rich but a penny saved is a penny earned and I’ve gotten back more than $1000 since 2009 which isn’t bad in my opinion. 🙂

    Cathy’s Pinup Girl Art Sketch Series ‘W’

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  3. Hi John – I remember Green Shield stamps … and we got lots of everyday glasses … not sure we (my parents) needed anything else! I know the reward systems favour some people … particularly travellers … but now many of these quizzes, so called-reward systems etc are there to just to get your data … I don’t I’m afraid … take care – but thanks for the memory and interesting to see what things were available in the States – take care – Hilary

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  4. I licked a lot of those stamps when I was a kid. It was exciting to finally have enough books to get what you’d been saving up for. We got a croquet set with Texas Gold Stamps. My dad got a Skilsaw with S&H Green Stamps.

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  5. I have a blue and white dish set from my grandmother (Currier & Ives) that she got collecting S&H Green Stamps. The plates are very pretty and you can now get them for a little “green” at antique stores. Who knew they would become so valuable? I used to travel a lot and got frequent flyer miles. Now, I’m grateful for not having to travel with my job very much. I think we should have these types of promotions again. Thanks for helping me reminisce … I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

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    1. I think your grandmother would be happy that you’re enjoying the dishes. That’s really what it’s all about. And yeah, I’d like to get a towel in a box of detergent, or a glass with a fillup at the service station, or S&H Green Stamps for shopping at a supermarket. They were simple joys…

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  6. We still have some S & H green stamps and some Blue Chip stamps too. We used to get them bowling. Can’t remember what we turned them in for, although I seem to recall some pretty neat stuff in the catalog..

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  7. Good memories from those Green Stamps and the gas station giveaways. I used to work for one of the S & H Green Stamps redemption centers. That was fun. I’d have to take the filled books, thumb through them to count they had enough, Then go back to the warehouse to get their item. 🙂

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    1. The cost to the merchant was minimal compared to the loyalty it brought. People wanted to collect the Green Stamps because they perceived that they were getting something for free. They still do it, just not with stamps in a book, but with cash rebates on credit cards, or like my Amazon Prime card, credit at the merchant.

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  8. I remember having to rent a car for about three months one winter in the early 80s. I was consulting at a company that was hard to get to and didn’t have many hotels around. They agreed to pay for the rental instead of the much higher travel expenses that would have been presented. I was shocked to discover, when I turned the car in that the rental company gave green stamps. Boy did we get a pile.

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    1. Budget Rent-a-Car? I think they were the ones that gave Green Stamps. I remember one of them did, but can’t remember which. When I was at home, Mom bought some new appliance, and the store gave Green Stamps, and she got a pile of them.

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  9. Ah, the memories – my dad worked for National Foods Store before it converted to K-Mart in our area. They had quite the reward system. I remember helping my mom put the stamps into the books. They didn’t taste good from what I remember? Probably toxic too!? I think I still have one of the books somewhere in a box sitting in storage? I’m pretty sure some of the crystal or the dishes I inherited from mom came from buying them with stamps. That song is funny! Thanks for sharing, this was fun to read and listen to!!

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    1. My good dishes that I use on special occasions are the dishes my dad got when he filled up gas at the gas station. For each time he gassed up, he got a dish. I have a set of 12 dinner plates, dessert plate, soup plates, cups and saucers, tea and coffee pots, small bowls. All of them and i am so happy to have these

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      1. They used to give away some pretty nice stuff at gas stations, back when gas was under 50 cents a gallon. We had some very nice glasses with NFL team logos on them that Mom got from one of the gas stations near home (Standard, Shell, or Arco). They used to give away glasses or towels with laundry detergent.

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    2. We shopped at National a lot when I was a kid. There was one close by when we lived in Chicago, and when we moved to Northfield (a suburb) that was the only grocery store in walking distance (well, there was the Convenient, which was good for Coke, cigarettes, and magazines but not much else). I was there almost every day, because Mom didn’t believe in meal planning…

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          1. John!! That’s a delightful story, thank you so much for sharing. Did you ever get the book put together?? Here’s a new science experiment for you – back in the day when you did that experiment, bread had fewer preservatives. (My dad also had a job as a bread delivery person, and over the years he did that job he found that the time between when he had to pull the bread off the shelf before going bad increased exponentially from 2-3 days to weeks). If you tried that same experiment today, I bet you’d find that it takes way longer for the mold to start growing … let me know how it turns out! 😉

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    1. I checked The Blogger’s Best Friend ™ which told me that the guy who started Green Shield stamps got the idea from S&H Green Stamps. We had other brands of reward stamps (Top Value and Plaid Stamps), but they weren’t as well-known. They probably got the idea from S&H, too.

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