Minding our Business: Rewards to Shop Local?

Randy Kraft
Randy Kraft

I just signed on for the Five Points plan at Heidelberg Café. Why not? They didn’t ask for my email address, so no spam, and they don’t require a commitment, and after a few visits, I might win a free iced-tea. Why not?

My Zinc card is well worn and in my wallet at all times. I accumulate points there rather quickly and occasionally enjoy the delight of a discounted lunch. CVS and the supermarkets offer many versions of rewards programs for valued customers, as do places like Laguna Beach Books. The capitalist equivalent of loyalty: shop regularly, earn rewards. Apparently, these days, customer service and quality product are simply not enough.

Each retailer is tied to a different rewards system, many of which, although they claim otherwise, save and sell my data to marketing companies. Every now and then, I peek into my email junk folder before I trash it all, where I find an odd assortment of solicitations inviting me to purchase everything from penile implants to plastic surgery. Clearly they know my age but not my gender, which often confuses. When I am reminded in this way that my shopping patterns are fodder for direct marketing, and in the interest of preserving a modicum of privacy, why may be the better question, not why not.

Perhaps there is a better alternative that serves all Laguna Beach: a shopper’s reward program for locals. A united, hopefully secure system, with one card, to minimize the maddening multiple array of plastic shards hanging from my key chain, and a further incentive to shop local?

I vaguely recall discussion by the city’s business task force, or was it the Chamber of Commerce, on just such an idea – where did that go? School Power has its own “Laguna Locals” card, earned with a $100 donation and sponsored by a large number of shops, restaurants and service organizations, which supports the foundation. Laguna’s Parents Club has the “Parents Perks” card, offering a 20% discount to members.

Smart fundraising, of course. However I urge the city’s business leaders to consider once again a program to motivate and reward locals for staying local. All the more important in the Internet age. A sign-up rewards program, so no resident feels obligated or coerced [although peer pressure might be fierce] with points accumulating across a wide swath of participants, also voluntary. Every resident and every commercial enterprise should have the opportunity to join. One card for all, and all for one. Perhaps we might be good neighbors and open our fabulous incentive program to neighboring residents in Dana Point and Corona del Mar who like to shop here.

Why not?


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. This column features Laguna businesses and business people.

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