Are You a Loyalty Club Member? Press Y/N.

pumpIt is -14 °F at 5:00 a.m., and I am pumping gas at the Quicki-Mart.

Out on the highway, cars sputter by dragging long tails of condensation.

I hope to join them soon but before I go anywhere, the pump has a few questions.

“Are you a loyalty club member… Y/N?”

I try to recall if my wife signed us up but I can’t focus. It is cold and the pop music blasting from the canopy overhead makes concentration impossible.

If I answer yes, the pump will demand that I document my loyalty by producing a plastic card. If I do nothing, hopefully it will move on.

The pumps sulks for a few moments before repeating the question.

“Are you a loyalty club member… Y/N?”

I press the “NO” button.

Now it wants to know if I want a car wash. The wash is closed because the doors are frozen to the concrete. Apparently the pump does not know this.

I indicate “NO”.

It continues the interrogation. “Do you want a receipt… Y/N?”

At -14 °F, all I want is gas, warmth and blessed silence from the canopy above.

A rumble rises from deep within its innards. I have heard dogs do that and I step back knowing what happens after dogs do that.

The pump winces. Its screen blinks.  Clearly it is very upset. Another LCD question slowly forms in the crystals….

“Are you a loyalty club member… Y/N?”

I get back into my car and drive down the highway to a gas station where I did business for years. There the pumps are stupid. They know nothing about human emotions, least of all loyalty. All they do is dispense gasoline.

I used to be fiercely loyal to this station back when the pumps were manned by guys with monosyllabic names like Roy, Chuck and Jim. No matter what the weather, they filled the tank, washed the windows,  checked the fluid levels and the tire pressure — and did so cheerfully.

But those guys aren’t around anymore because I stopped being loyal to them. Instead, I went down the block to pump my own gas and save a few pennies. Now that station demands I carry a card to prove my loyalty. I refuse to do it.  It is like a having to prove fidelity to a cheating spouse.

But more importantly, I refuse because of practical reasons. Being a typical American male means that I carry a wallet, which in turn means that I have to sit on their loyalty card, ergo in every sense of the word, a retailer’s loyalty card is a pain in the ass.

Besides if a retailer wants my loyalty, they can earn it by selling quality goods at a fair price. They also might consider standing behind their products instead of trying to clip me for an extended warranty.

I know the days of Roy, Chuck and Jim are gone. We threw them away. But gas stations can still earn my loyalty by providing clean restrooms, free air and of course – pumps that don’t nag you.