Mondays with Mike: Take these rewards points and…

December 11, 2017 • Posted in Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, travel by
Photo of a pile of rewards program cards.

Please. Make it stop!

I hate coupons.

I hate loyalty programs—whether it’s frequent flier programs or little punch cards that you have to carry around so you get that 10th cup of coffee free. I hate cash back schemes, mileage cards, hotel points. I hate all of it.

I know some people enjoy clipping every coupon, taking advantage of every buy-one-get-one free deal—it’s kind of a game for them.

It all just aggravates me. Save the money it costs to run the freaking program. Cut the price for everybody. Shut up and quit trying to manipulate me.

But I’m not immune to it. When it comes to flying, we’re enrolled. We’re in the Kimpton Hotel Karma rewards program. I get emails from loyalty programs I can’t even remember—they date from work travel in bygone days.

Even when we have a lot of points, enough to do something free, I hate them. Go online. See how much it costs in dollars. See how much it costs in rewards points. If we fly on this day and that time, yes, we have enough points. But really, it’s not that expensive: maybe we should just pay dollars and save the points? Then there’s a fee to use the damn points.  Headache builds.

Same thing with hotels. Hours on the freaking computer figuring it out. I’m absolutely sure that if we all put some small value on our time that we’d discover tracking down these deals is a net loss.

This little fit of mine was triggered by a bar stool conversation the other night with some of our old bar stool pals from the now defunct Hackney’s. We were at another neighborhood haunt called the South Loop Club—it ’s an old, old school joint with Formica tables and Formica bartop. It’s clean, but nothing’s been updated for decades—except it has the ubiquitous flat screens with sporting events running all the time. But. it’s quiet. WXRT—an FM music station that’s an institution in Chicago—plays at a low volume in the background, and conversation happens without yelling.

Anyway, Hackney’s isn’t the only local institution to have closed in the past year. Blackie’s, another bar/restaurant—one that had been in the hood forever—closed its doors a few months ago. When it did, we also lost a great place for weekend breakfast. There are lots of other places around here, but they’re all overcrowded, loud, trendy and expensive. (Have I said, “Get off my lawn!” yet?)

The friends we were with Saturday night are part of a neighborhood group that breakfasted at Blackie’s religiously every Saturday morning. A really terrific, comforting ritual.

The group auditioned a bunch of breakfast replacement joints, and happily, they have found another old-school place—a little farther away than Blackie’s—that has somehow survived a wave of gentrification. It’s called Eppel’s.

Anyway, our friends Kyle and Cathrine talked about the breakfast they’d had that morning. They liked the food and the folks that worked there. And they have apparently established themselves as regulars, because, they said, on the way out, everyone in the party was handed a cup of coffee in a to-go cup. “It’s on us,” said the manager.

Now that’s a loyalty program.

Chuck Gullett On December 11, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I think Seth and Bess originally told us about Eppels. Perfect old school cafe!

mknezo2014 On December 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

Seth and Bess. Now that’s old school.

mknezo2014 On December 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

Hmmm. Finger up to cheek and eyes to sky as I think hard about who might order spaghetti for breakfast….

Laura On December 11, 2017 at 2:22 pm

As part of the Kyle and Cat breakfast club, I can second the vote for Eppel’s. Food is great, ton of choices, large portions if you want them, and Tammy the server refers to us as “Family.” As in, “Hi, Family, how are you this week?” She also talks to our husband about us in terms of our orders: guess who is the guy that orders spaghetti for breakfast?

Bev On December 11, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Totally agree with the coupon thing.

Kathy Moyer On December 11, 2017 at 8:16 pm

Hi Mike,
Thanks for that hilarious “coupon rag”, I laughed my ass off. I feel the same way. I feel like screaming when I’m in line at a grocery store and it’s crowded and everyone is eager to flee, and the woman in front of you pulls out a wad of coupons. That’s when I want to shove my
cart right into her “behind”!! (I try to be PC).

Sheila A. Donovan On December 11, 2017 at 10:01 pm

I really miss Blackies!

Diana On December 12, 2017 at 10:21 am

I do agree that a cup of coffee to go, when you leave is a great, creative idea and will bring people back but, I do not agree about all reward programs. I love getting my annual check back from Costco, my free pie from Crain’s Pies in Michigan after I have bought 10 pies and my free flights on America n Airlines. Yes, there are many others that I ignore and do not keep track of or try to benefit from but Crain’s, Costco and AA are companies I’d use even if they did not have a rewards program.

mknezo2014 On December 12, 2017 at 10:33 am

Yeah, we used to shop at Costco (miss the hot dogs!) and I liked getting my cash back at the end of the year, especially since I didn’t have to consciously do anything but go there to get it. Except I kinda did: You get the cash back with the higher membership level, so you have to do the minor tabulation to be sure you shouldn’t just opt for the cheaper one. And so if you have the higher membership, your incentivized to spend more to be sure you get enough back to justify it. I see the free coffee as a more personal gesture and I don’t think it relies on any systematic cost accounting–it’s just a kindness. To me, rewards programs are more like Vegas: Nothing’s free, and the house isn’t doing it unless it makes sense for the house.

Lora On December 14, 2017 at 12:09 am

Yeah. I miss you guys, but I HATE what the neighborhood has become. River South.

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