Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Exclusive Clubs

We used to be “users” or “buyers.” Then we became “customers.” After that it was “consumers,” and now, “members.”

Users and Buyers were okay. Customer was okay. Consumer was almost okay.

It’s hard to “consume” an insurance policy or an automobile, though you can eat one and set fire to either.

But most of the time consumers was alright.

But member?

Members belong to clubs and associations and societies.

Then, one of the Charge Card companies (American Express?) started calling users of its services “members.”

It caught on. Soon, all cards got rid of all their users, buyers, customers and consumers, and we all became “card members” or “card-members” or “cardmembers.”

Now, come the stores. We have “wholesale clubs” like “B.J.’s” (where did they get THAT name?) and Costco and Sam’s Club.

And the TV shopping channels are playing right along. You can be a “member” of QVC, simply by asking. Probably HSN and ShopNBC, too.

And there are benefits, galore, the first (and most important) being you get much more advertising than you used to. Mailings, e-mail, even phone solicitation in an opt-out era. (Yes, it’s legal if you initiate business with them.

Another benefit? At the shopping clubs – the concrete ones – you get to buy large size items which often expire before you can use half of whatever it is, unless you’re running a summer camp, a daycare center (which has members, too) or a family with two dozen kids.

Big saving, that one.

At some branches the “clubs” will sell you gasoline at a couple of cents off the average neighborhood price. For this privilege, you pay between 40 and 70 dollars a year.

Another big saving.

The TV shopping services will ask you for your membership number and up will pop your name, address, e-mail and credit card number.

How convenient. Makes it easy to load up on those ab toners, Cubic Zirconium rings, and that wonderful wristwatch with the ten interchangeable bands. Things you really need.

The competition for “members” is so fierce these days that you now get “rewards” for joining and participating.

Free pen and pencil sets (all you pay is postage.) Upgraded shipping and handling. (The 15 dollar ground delivery fee is waved, or you get extra speedy deliver for the same price. Which makes you wonder what they actually do when they “handle” something.)

Frequent flyer miles (some of which expire before you’re wheels down on that “member-special” flight from LaGuardia to Moote Pointe International or Dover NJ, or other highly desirable travel destinations.)

But it’s not all bad.

There’s a sense of community. The guy in the airplane seat next to you may also be a member of the frequent flyer program.

Everyone you meet in Costco is a member of that same tightly knit, smarter-than-the-average-shopper fraternity.

Let’s not restrict “membership” to the Moose Lodge and the shopping club.

Think of the fun you can have as a “member” of, say, your mobile phone carrier, instead of a mere user, buyer, customer or consumer.

It’s nice to belong.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005

1 comment:

John G said...

Yeah--buyer, shopper, customer, consumer, member. Next thing will be relatives. "Join your Sears brothers and sisters for keen family savings." Feh.