October 7, 2015, 12:00 am
Filed under: popconsumption

Right now in front of me is a disgustingly large pumpkin spice latte, made of ‘Sumatran coconut milk‘, which I got for free because – quelle horreur! – I am a gold member.  For about two years, possibly.  Even with mixed feelings about the McDs of coffee and extremely sporadic Starbucks attendance.  It is justifiable as a cultural experience.  In a few years, maybe I’m in a place where they don’t dream of putting pie spice or referencing Cucurbitaceae to sell coffee.

One of the weirdest things about North America is the points economy.  Points on flights, points on groceries, points on coffee and department store purchases.  Tiers of points, where after so many points, the earnings accelerate.  Special offers for the special-ist consumers.  Points on points for using the right payment method.

You could stay out of the whole mess.

Pay cash.

Live like no one’s tracking.

But then I wouldn’t have the free tiny normally overpriced lip balm sitting on my desk.  It’s made of effing avocado oil and probably angel wings.

Right now it’s peak points.  Kind of embarrassing.  It can be explained, right? Really?  Part of it is due to a moderate (perhaps ironic) dislike of shopping and a strong preference to always go to the same stores.  FOOL, THIS IS A VIP CARD.  Also, to an obsessive tendency to analyze rewards programs and to always use the program once committed (HOLD ON, there is a VIP card in… HERE… SOMEWHERE).

The interesting thing about the points economy is that it exists outside of taxation.  Really, anything free because of points is worth not only the value of the item, but the taxes – consumer and income – that were usually not paid on the item.

Let’s say, for example, a $10 item in a place with 15% sales tax provided to a person with an average 20% tax rate.  The true value of the item becomes $11.50 due to the lack of sales tax and ends up grossed up to about $13.80 in terms of the taxable income that needed to be generated to have that thing.  Rewards are technically worth more to people that pay more income taxes.

Evidence of tracking appears when a vendor starts to advertise things to you that it knows you like, based on past preferences.  I wish more companies optimized it, because I want to live in a robot future where I am individually marketed to based on algorithms so I no longer have to read irrelevant advertising.

Today’s PSL, a creation of fictional digital points, collected and cashed via an app. Amazing.

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