Helen Martin: Shopping’s not my life history

Loyalty cards can tell retailers a great deal about you
Loyalty cards can tell retailers a great deal about you
Have your say

LIKE most women nowadays, I have a voluminous handbag which could probably house a village of pygmies but actually accommodates lipsticks, a mobile phone, sometimes a Kindle, keys, purse, and an accumulation of junk.

Every so often I clear it out. It’s like a magician pulling things from a hat. The process goes on until, mysteriously, I seem to have pulled out more than the bag could possibly have held in the first place and there, among the piles of receipts, notes and sweetie wrappers, are the chits from supermarkets offering me anything from a few pence to a few pounds off my next shop.

Sainsbury’s in particular is crediting these vouchers for its greatly improved sales figures and claims that 93 per cent of us use coupons and 30 per cent of us are using more than we were last year.

I remain baffled. I have never used them. They get lost amid the rest of the handbag detritus of my life, so I don’t even bother to look for them at the till. By the time I come across them they have expired. Even if I located a valid one before I left the house and stuck it to my forehead with sticky tape I’d probably still forget to present it at the check-out. So they keep giving me them, I keep taking them and saying things like : “Oooh, that’s great. £3.50 off my next shop!” before . . . throwing them to the bottom of the handbag.

Loyalty cards are another no-no. Club points, Nectar points, any points, are just not my thing. I am deeply suspicious of the whole concept whereby stores can gather information about us. In fact, I heard recently about a case in the US where the Target loyalty card scheme resulted in a young teenage girl suddenly being swamped with advertising aimed at new mothers. Her father complained to all the companies involved saying his daughter was a “nice girl” and wasn’t pregnant. Turned out she was. So sophisticated was the retail technology that her pattern of buying stored on the card sent out automatic marketing indicators of impending motherhood before the girl knew herself, let alone getting round to telling her father.

Data is valuable. It must be, because Sainsbury’s say they’ve paid out £213 million in Nectar points over the last year as well as handing out 350 million Brand Match vouchers.

Now here’s my point. Instead of making us play this game that we really don’t have time for, saving up points, keeping carefully filed Brand Match vouchers and presenting them on time, deluding ourselves that we are getting a bargain in the process and at a cost to them of hundreds of millions, wouldn’t it be preferable if they just dropped the prices?

There may well be some ultra-fastidious, organised, pernickety people out there who get off on earning points and winning vouchers. I’m more of a “give me the cat food and let me out of here” shopper and I have absolutely no desire to help them build up a database on my life just so that they can send me funeral advertising before I’ve made the doctor’s appointment.


When Newhaven’s David Lloyd played Hatton at tennis recently, a disputed line call caused a stramash, with a player allegedly leaping over the net and brandishing a racquet as an offensive weapon. And when Elphinstone played Gifford at bowls, it’s reported an Elphinstone player was led off the ground in handcuffs by police leaving the team a man down! What next . . . croquet “casuals”?

Browned off by tanning police

POOR Kate Moss (a strange way to refer to a beautiful woman worth millions, I know). She’s now the face of St Tropez fake tan and quite innocently pointed out that there was no need to go around with “pasty pallor” any more.

Like a dog after a rabbit, out came the British Skin Foundation (BSF), angry with her for setting a bad example, despite the fact that she’s pushing a safe alternative to sunburn.

“It is a myth that a tan is a sign of being healthy. It is a sign of damaged skin. Pale skin can be natural and healthy.”

Yes but it can also make you look ill, washed-out, and sickly. And, judging from the BSF reaction, possibly makes you prone to nit-picking.

Making time for the measles jab

IT seems the measles epidemic could be heading north, and parents must

be glad their children have

had the MMR jab.

Those who refused often say they could never forgive themselves if their child went on to develop autism.

It may be even harder to

forgive themselves for going against medical advice, rejecting the vaccine and taking the consequences.

There’s still time.

Madge sells her ensemble short

MADONNA’S punk-themed outfit for the New York 2013 Met Ball. After a double take, I realised it wasn’t a picture of Hilary Devey having turned up for Dragon’s Den only to get her skirt accidentally sucked into the office shredder.