Thinking Outside Of The Loyalty Card

It looks like these days I’m experiencing a variety of ways to think differently. Whether it’s thinking outside of the jar, or realizing the obstacle is not the bottleneck, I’m exposed (luckily) to all sort of different perspectives.

Todays was no different.

The Benefits Of Working From Coffee Shops

No, this is not going to be about the overall, long term benefits of that, it’s about something way more mundane: loyalty cards and rewards. Turns out that if I stick to certain coffee shops long enough, I trigger some of their customer loyalty mechanisms. Sometimes is discounts given by barista, and sometimes is simple paper loyalty cards, on which they apply a stamp.

I got one of these for a coffee shop chain in Lisbon, where I am right now.

It’s divided into 8 small squares, and every time I have a coffee (or something including caffeine, like a dirty chai) they put a stamp on one of the squares. When I complete the card, I give it back to them and they give me a free coffee. So every eighth coffee is for free. Not bad.

Now, I don’t remember to hand the card every time I get a coffee, or, even worse, I hand out the card after I paid.

This happened last week, when I handed the card on which I had 7 stamps after I paid. So, normally, that would have been the eighth coffee, which should have been for free. Alas, I have already paid for it, money was in the register, and the barista couldn’t take it back anymore.

So, she decided to put the eighth stamp anyway and told me I should come to her next time, hand over the completed card and I would get a coffee for free. Sounded reasonable.

Oh, The Confusion

A couple of days later I find myself in another coffee shop from the same chain, it’s morning, and I have a foggy mind, because, obviously, I didn’t have my double espresso just yet.

I order my coffee, pay for it and then I remember to hand out the card. I know it’s useless now, but I hand it over anyway, with all the stamps completed, trying to explain to this barista what the other barista told me. Hard endeavor. Foggy mind, remember?

She seems to understand, so she give me another new card, and puts a stamp on it.

Now I have two cards. One completed (but no free coffee out of it) and a new one, just started.

So, I ask her politely, squeezing every bit of awareness from my sleepy mind, if there’s any way I can get a free coffee for the completed card. At this point, obviously, it’s not abut the perk anymore, but about clarity. I just wanted my world to make sense again.

She says yes, of course, and then she takes out the completed one. She doesn’t hand back the money for today’s coffee, but instead does something very unexpected.

She gives me a brand new card, on which she puts just seven stamps. The last spot is left unstamped, so next time I’m asking for a coffee, I should just (remember to) hand the card and get my long awaited free coffee.

Thinking Outside Of The Loyalty Card

If you made it this far, congratulations. I know it was difficult and confusing journey. I just realized that myself, while writing it.

Anyway, my point is that systems are out there just as guidelines. They don’t work in perpetuity, always predictable. They are subject to human mistakes (me forgetting to hand the card every time) and they can get clogged very easily (ending up with two cards, one of them “blocked”).

So, what we should aim to do is to think outside of the system. Rewinding the completed card to a brand new, incomplete one was a brilliant response to this glitch in the matrix. Not only because it gracefully solved a problem unsolvable at the protocol level, but because it proved there are always alternative solutions.

There is always a different way to do things, to solve problems, to advance, to get unstuck.

And there’s always good coffee as a reward for that.

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