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DOUG FORD: Stamp of approval

Whatever happened to S&H Green Stamps?

Everybody is familiar with the various loyalty programs offered by businesses big and small, all in an effort to capture your patronage.

Examples of loyalty programs include the little tag on your keychain you swipe for discounts in grocery stores, airline miles programs and hotel frequent guest programs.

My guess is the S&H Green Stamps program was probably one of the first “loyalty” programs, one taking me back to the 1960s and my weekly family visits to the grocery store.

Competitors included Plaid Stamps offered by A&P Supermarkets and Eagle Stamps, offered by May Company stores and others.

S&H Green Stamps were popular from the 1930s until the late 1980s, part of a rewards program operated by the Sperry & Hutchinson company.

At one time, its rewards catalog was reportedly the largest in the country.

The company is said to have issued three times as many stamps as the U.S. Postal Service.

I always looked forward to family visits to the grocery store, what with my penchant for junk food and soft drinks as a little tyke, but I recall receiving green stamps at checkout.

Once home, we pulled out our green stamp book and carefully licked and placed the stamps in the appropriate place.

Each book reportedly contained 24 pages, and to fill a book required 50 points, with each book containing 1,200 points.

Once the books were filled, we looked at the catalog and determined needs and wants and proceeded to the nearest Green Stamps store, in our case near Ballou Park in Danville.

Of course, people chose retailers who gave out more stamps per dollar spent, and that’s where the loyalty came in.

I recall various housewares, including kitchen gadgets being on display as well as sporting goods such as basketballs and footballs.

If my memory serves me, and sometimes it chooses not to, my first basketball was “bought” with S&H Green Stamps.

Since its heydey, the company has modified its practices in response to the Internet and World Wide Web, offering “greenpoints” as rewards for online purchases.

And, if you’re cleaning out your attic or garage and discover old Green Stamps, they can be traded in for GreenPoints and be used.

In a way, the use of loyalty programs can be seen as a substitute for good, old fashioned customer service as a way of attracting customers. 

I hope not, because a product is only as good as the merchant who stands behind it.