This week I ate a sandwich from Chick-fil-A, a steak from Houlihan’s, and a delicious almond pastry from Panera. All free. No BOGO required.

 

The offers started coming two weeks before my birthday. Greeting after greeting, all attached to a gift of some sort. By the time my birthday arrived, I had a total of 24 congratulatory emails. all from restaurants, retailers, and theatres. Places where I had, at some point, registered and given them my birthdate.

 

I realize I also gave them my email, possibly my physical address, my shopping habits, and, inadvertently (in some passively accepted privacy notice), my firstborn child. As I raked in the treats this week, though, I somehow felt it was worth it.

 

Gifts ranged from free desserts, pastries, and cookies…to free movies and popcorn…all the way to a filet mignon dinner. Ikea offered me a discount. I got a free iced latte, a couple of free burgers, and a free sandwich that made the Arby’s counter person go, “Wow—how’d you get that?” I think the Chick-fil-A one may have been a reward for how much I spend there, rather than a birthday one, but the timing was great for a birthday week treat.

 

All this to prove that rewards are sort of a big thing these days. Those who have given up on using coupons seem to like rewards, particularly when they are conveniently tucked into an app. What’s more, rewards come because you like the company—so you don’t have to weed through ones you don’t care to frequent.

 

Rewards are why I use a credit card that gives me free checked bags and accumulated air miles—both of which I used to go to Hawaii last year.

 

Rewards are why I pay attention when a company such as Dunkin’ Donuts offers a “Member Mondays” where you can get free stuff (like hash browns, this month) if you have your DD Perks® loyalty ID and buy a beverage, too.

 

Rewards are why Sephora’s Beauty Insider program has millions of members who get to use their reward points for discounts and limited edition products.

 

Yes, I know that by gathering these rewards the companies are also gathering information on me, but I’m OK with that. If my habits can help them create a better product or improve their service, I’m an open book. Fair trade for not having to remember the punch card, cut out the coupon, or wait in the longest line.

 

 

Now, I’ve probably spent my fair share at each of the places that sent me an email this month, and so I accept their gifts knowing I’ve already reciprocated in advance, if that’s a thing. They’ll get new business out of me, too, since I’ll fit in visits to these places even though it’s a really busy month of evening activities. What’s more, I’ll usually take at least one person with me who will pay full price for something.

 

Finally, they are also building my loyalty to them—after all, it’s now only 11 months until my next birthday month, when I can again rake in the rewards.

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