Loyalty In The Form Of A Frequent Buyer Card

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It's clinically shown that 100 percent of Emily Ferbers will buy approximately nine more cups of coffee than originally intended in order to get the tenth cup free. It's an astonishingly small bit of psychology that works wonders on me: Give me a little business card, punch some holes it in, and tell me that if I do enough of something, you'll reward me. It's scary how easy I am to train.

If I'm being romantic about it, I can come up with some relatively convincing story along the lines of me feeling some special sense of kinship with my barista when I hand over my card half punched. “Remember this face,” it says. Or “Have you seen Cheers? I'm pretty sure this is my Cheers and you're Ted Danson, but the stakes are lower,”

The problem is, I have a hell of a lot of punch cards. Multiples of some because I have a bad habit of switching wallets haphazardly. The really dangerous card is from Journelle—the only suitable place to buy a bra and not feel weird about overbearing staff (really, they're just the best). Buy something like eight panties (God, I hate that word) and be rewarded with one pair, totally gratis! And they're Hanky Panky, so you know they're valuable. It's like my kryptonite.

But then there are the people like ITG's resident COO Henry Davis who “refuse frequent buyer cards on principle on the basis they are stupid, take up real estate in my wallet, and invariably get lost before I get free coffee,” Which is fair. Misguided, given the amount of coffee he drinks on a daily basis, but fair. He tells me there's a coffee shop in Napa that keeps customers' punch cards in a Rolodex by the register so they're there when you need them. But I'm of the mindset that if you're going to get a free coffee, lace thong, ice cream scoop, etc., you've got to work for it by hauling around a punch card card in your wallet day-in and day-out.

So, friends, jump down this rabbit hole with me—what gets you to buy? Discount codes? Point systems? The promise of a spot in heaven next to a young Ted Danson? I'm always looking to branch out.

—Emily Ferber

Photographed by Tom Newton.