“Reward apps” offer simple ways of saving and a plethora of options
Gather around youngsters and let me tell you about the “coupon lady.” Long ago, these value-loving people would tenderly cut out pieces of paper from newspapers and magazines. Then, they’d take these pieces of paper to the store and get like, 10 cents off the price of a gallon of milk and maybe a whole dollar off a box of cereal! It was time-consuming work – snipping away with scissors and organizing each voucher based on which shop accepted them… not to mention they always had an expiration date that was generally, sometime like tomorrow. But she preserved. And when tallied up at the end of a year, a coupon lady saved perhaps hundreds of dollars. And yes, there were coupon gentlemen, but they were rare as couponing takes a certain devotion.
Of course, old-fashioned paper coupons still exist, but they’re fading away alongside the print editions of local newspapers. But we shall not mourn their passing, for the age of “e-coupons” – better known as gift card-earning apps – is here, and they are fabulous. With the simple download of an app, you can earn gift cards by snapping pics or scanning receipts of the stuff you buy – literally anything; from a loaf of bread to a Zoloft prescription. These reward apps are extremely flexible, with even a very picky person getting to choose between a host of options including discounts, free stuff, or literal gift cards to a store of your choice.
The “catch” is very much out in the open. You’re sharing your shopping data with a big data company, which is then selling it to consultant companies, advertisers, manufactures, etc. And we’d argue this is a good thing. People often think of some purchases as “private,” but in reality, little that we buy is a secret. Most of us use a debit or credit card, which collects data. There might be a few privacy die-hards that hope for a return to the days of bartering three goats for six bushels of hay, but they’re a tiny demographic.
Most don’t care much that some big data company knows how many pairs of shoes we bought last month. What we buy isn’t generally “sensitive” information. Additionally, by scanning things as simple as grocery receipts, we are actually contributing to the greater good by letting companies know what we like – and by extension, what we don’t like. We’re helping curate the market by revealing our tastes… and getting “paid” for doing so.
After getting into the habit of grabbing your phone and scanning or snapping a pic of a receipt, it hardly feels like a chore – especially after collecting enough points for a free Uber ride or that desperately needed pre-meeting Starbucks caffeine infusion. Or you could go with exchanging your points for say, Amazon gift cards… which can make awesome mini gifts for friends and family.
Gifts are tricky. They say, “it’s the thought that counts,” but is it really? How are these for some stats: Netherlands-based bank ING did a survey on Christmas gifts a few years back which found that about 15 percent of Europeans were “unhappy” with their gift, but a full 10 percent couldn’t even remember what they received that year. What do people do with all these less-than-wanted items? The survey says 25 percent ‘re-gifted’ them, 14 percent sold them and one person out of 10 took the “thought that counts” back to a store for an exchange.
Here’s the stat that really bites: ING’s findings indicated that the majority of younger people simply tossed the unloved present in the garbage! The US consumer website finder estimates 154 million Americans got something they didn’t want for Xmas ’19. That tallies up to more than US$15 billion worth of disappointments. We’d argue the solution for these horrifyingly wasteful numbers – not to mention the hurt feelings – are gift cards. They’re perfect: “This gift is from me, but it’s also from you to yourself.” Gift cards are something we should all use more frequently and without shame. Or go ahead and roll the dice on how well you “truly know somebody” and buy them that hideous scarf or ill-fitting skirt. Seriously… why don’t we respect gift cards more?
Anyway, you might not be able to fill this year’s Christmas shopping lists by scanning your daily purchases, but it’s pretty easy to earn a US$10 gift card. A good reward app has reasonable time limits (such as a year or more) on redeeming points and offers a wide degree of choice, allowing you to build up points towards certain items, discounts, cards, movie tickets, etc. And like the coupon ladies of old, if nothing else, you’ll be saving money for yourself or your family. It seems a bit daft to give up “free” money, especially when all they’re asking in return is data that is going to be collected one way or another. Why not get paid to play?