Airmiles and shopping points are inventions for the vendor to track customer behaviour. It's an even exchange of information and loyalty for the promise of free travel or other benefits.
For those variety-seekers among us, collecting airmiles could mean compromising our desire to be frivolous. I find myself travelling British Midlands because it's part of the Star Alliance. But when I received my silver elite Continental Onepass today, I discovered that I could have just as easily have travelled KLM.
Airline loyalty does seem to come with airmiles though. I told my colleague that Virgin Atlantic offers the best transatlantic deals: value for money and comfort. But she insists on travelling American Airlines.
Recently TESCO and Sainsbury's started sending me supermarket coupons of the sort of food I would buy. I'm tempted to shop by these coupons. But having seen the way some people become obsessed with clipping coupons, I'm hesitant to start.
Having said that, I'm a victim of the airmile promise. I switched my gas supplier to Amerada Hess because they allowed me to use a credit card to pay for gas which they also awarded with airmiles. So I got double the airmiles, because my credit card gave me airmiles. When they stopped this scheme I switched to another energy company.
People must know by now that selling things at the airport is dead easy. Travellers, whether tired, bored, anxious, or rushing to catch a plane, are easily lured by free T-shirts, teddy bears, toy airplanes, and Made-in-China plastic watches. Sure, I'd sign anything to get one of those. So I signed up for who knows how many credit cards that way.
It's easier to collect airmiles nowadays than five years ago. The Star Alliance was probably the first to get airlines to mutually recognise each other and share routes. I flew round-the-world on a Star Alliance ticket when there were only 7 airlines in the scheme.
Have I ever used the airmiles I've so diligently collected for a dozen years or more? Only once. London to Rome return. Why not more often? Because I keep thinking that if I just collect a few more airmiles, I'd qualify for a round-the-world ticket. By which time, I suppose, fares might have fallen so much that it's not worth the wait!
11 March 2002 Monday