The (Dis)Loyalty Program
When loyalty isn't rewarded
The market is saturated with loyalty programs. We get rewarded for steps, transacting and viewing content... we collect points, digital currency, coupons, even digital badges that are nothing more than bragging rights. Sometimes it’s just the seemingly day to day things that would occur with or without this symbiotic relationship we share with a particular provider.
But what happens when loyalty programs become (dis)loyalty programs? One way programs that go from rewarding us for a behavior to dropping us. Ghosting us like a bad first date.
I had been patiently collecting my Aeroplan points for about five years. They weren’t attached to my credit card, because I don’t think the point value is actually that competitive (remember this statement). I also had a baby (two in fact), changed jobs, and had done some travel with companies that weren’t members of star alliance. What this means, is that exactly 13 months went by without me paying attention to what was happening with my 116,000 Aeroplan points.
It wasn’t until we recently booked an Air Canada flight, that I became painfully aware of my points being swept. Imagine my shock when I go from planning to redeem, to logging in and seeing that they are gone. Expired... I had missed the deadline by less than a month.
I spent 45 minutes on hold, scouring the website, begging, and pleading my case with the phone associate—it was clear, they both didn’t care and had become desensitized to my pleas. Snarky actually, but that’s another upcoming post.
The travel would have happened regardless, and probably with the same carriers. It didn’t actually cost me anything to collect those points, and as I’ve mentioned already, I don’t even think Aeroplan is the most competitive program out there. So why do I even care?
One word. Principle. I am the customer. How can this be one of those situations with zero room for error, and everything is pushed back on the customer? After my tantrum, and time spent poking around the website, I can acknowledge that Aeroplan makes it very clear that you need to use or redeem points in a twelve month period, and they claim to have sent me one email prior to expiration (which I maintain I never received)—so what I am saying here, is that I am fully aware of how “points liability” works, and that Aeroplan did (the bare minimum) what they are contractually obligated to do—but less than thirty days? I demonstrate five years of loyalty, and miss a deadline by thirty days and there’s nothing that anyone can do?
My issue is that companies who really subscribe to “loyalty”, don’t let their customers forget that their points are about to expire. And those same companies recognize that mistakes happen. In fact, they go above and beyond by giving their customers a hand when it comes to how to make sure their points will not expire. And... Since when is there nothing, anyone can do? (Since the 2009 class action law suite, that’s still being litigated... that’s when).
If they get to sweep my points, do I get to sweep the data they collected about my travel behaviour for the last five years? No grace period, no exceptions to the rule, not even a follow up email or message in their portal explaining what happened. Just a passive aggressive zero where your points used to be.
Now in their defense, they did offer to sell my points back to me for a whopping $1300. You read that right. One thousand, three hundred dollars, plus a $33 administration fee, for the privilege of reinstating my points. Of course, if I was willing to pay thirteen hundred bones for that privilege, I’d just book the full fair business class seat to begin with!
At the end of the day, a loyalty program that expires doesn’t seem very “loyal”.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story—because it can't end here right?