Q. Supermarkets are just rewarding loyal shoppers. What's wrong with that?
The notion of "rewarding loyal shoppers" is wrong on two counts. First is the myth of a "reward." The markets claim that the opportunity to participate in the program is their way of "rewarding" you for your loyalty to the store. But a reward is a tangible benefit you wouldn't have had otherwise. There is no benefit in being recorded and tracked for the "privilege" of paying the same sale prices you'd always been able to pay in the past. (In fact, you often wind up paying prices that are even higer than they were before the card program was introduced.)
Shoppers are not signing up out of a sincere desire to contribute their private information to the supermarket's database, but in response to coercion and strong-arm tactics -- "if you resist you'll pay a price." This is not how a store rewards "loyalty," it's how a bully with power (the power to affect your pocketbook -- and ultimately the power to keep you from eating) abuses its power to subdue and control the shoppers that patronize it.
Second is the myth that these cards are offered to shoppers who demonstrate loyalty. Leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether a supermarket, of all institutions, is one to which I would even want to demonstrate loyalty, there is the simple fact that these cards are issued indiscriminately to anyone who walks in the door -- not as a reward to selected shoppers who are somehow more loyal than others. The cards don't instill loyalty after they've been issued, either:
Supermarket "loyalty" programs reward submission and compliance with the registration, numbering, and surveillance agenda -- not loyalty.