Store Credit Cards Spark Celebration

Last weekend my wife and I took the kids to a local department store for a little back-to-school shopping a couple months early. I recently cashed in some very old credit card rewards from a card we paid off recently in exchange for a gift card to a well-known department store. Combined with a 30% store sales flier we figured we could snag a couple deals before school starts at the end of summer.

I consider myself a fairly patient dad when it comes to shopping. During most shopping excursions my son and I take up our post outside the girl’s dressing room and hold “buy” and “put back” merchandise as my wife scurries back and forth from the dressing room to the clothing racks.

During this particular visit I noticed a garbled announcement over the store’s intercom system every few minutes followed by a rowdy cheer from store employees. By the fourth of fifth time I was curious enough (and sufficiently annoyed by the irrational exuberance) to ask a nearby employee what the celebration was about. “We just signed up another credit card,” she replied enthusiastically. My sarcastic reply was, “And why are we celebrating?” She scowled and went back to folding new shirts to put on the store shelves.

After what seemed like half a day my wife and daughter emerged from the dressing room with a reasonable number of new outfits. We put back those that didn’t fit, or were a little too expensive, and made our way to the register. “Attention associates, Julie just signed up her sixth credit card. Only four more and Julie wins the referral contest!” The store immediately erupted with cheers from store associates. Had I entered the debt Twilight Zone or something?

“Would you like to sign up for a (store name shall remain anonymous to protect the not-so-innocent) card today?” No thanks, I replied. “But sir, you can save 10% off today’s purchases in addition to the sales price.” Again, I declined, and this time added, “I don’t shop with credit cards any more, and we’re paying off our remaining card.”

At this point I could see her preparing her final pitch to add another notch in her credit card sign up belt. It would probably sound something like, “If you are approved for the card you can save 10% and then pay if off when the bill arrives.” Sounds logical, I know. However, she failed to tell me if I was just one day late her department store would charge me 24.99% interest for the privilege of using their store card. No thanks.

While I am not totally “anti-credit card,” I’ve grown less and less fond of them over the last few months. It seems like every day there is a new story out about a credit card issuer raising interest rates, lowering credit limits, doubling minimum payment amounts, and other sleazy tactics. I’ve even experienced some of this myself.

Card issuer’s defense is that the impending credit card reform legislation will eat into their profits, so they are merely reacting months in advance to offset those losses. From a profit/loss perspective I get that, but I still believe a credit card company, or store, that wants to retain customers, should show them the same loyalty they ask for in return.

When I was younger I used to work at a variety of retail stores and had to push credit cards to customers. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, and I would despise it today. There is nothing more annoying than a store employee greeting customers at the door with a clipboard filled with credit card applications. I respect stores rights to market their card, but a simple stack of applications at the register would suffice.

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