Saturday, June 6, 2009

lick 'em and stick 'em

When my 1971 Dodge Charger was new, I remember pulling in to the local Shell station on White Bear Avenue in St. Paul to buy premium gas, which was priced at 36.9 cents a gallon.

When the attendant came out to pump the gas, he also cleaned the windshield and checked the oil, and occasionally also checked the air in the tires.

Often, I was offered a “Shell glass” as part of my reward for stopping in, but I ALWAYS received green stamps.

It may surprise you to know that S & H green stamps have been around since 1896. Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson formed the Sperry and Hutchinson Company way back then in order to help a variety of enterprises (primarily supermarkets, retail stores, and gas stations) to expand THEIR businesses.

At the height of the company’s popularity, the S & H rewards catalog was the largest publication in the United States, and the company issued three times as many stamps as the United States Postal Service.

The popularity of green stamps peaked in the 1960’s, but the
recessions of the 1970’s had an adverse effect on the sale of stamps.

The loss of its largest customer, Publix Supermarkets, on May 27, 1989, eventually led to the collapse of the “green stamp” collection phenomenon.

In a sense, you could say that the green stamps that we all received for goods that we would have purchased anyway, without incentives, amounted to “money for nothing”:

The concept of getting rewards for shopping lives on today, in programs ranging from frequent flyer miles to the VISA and MasterCard’s rewards programs, but (somehow) it just isn’t the same.

As a kid, I always felt that there was some magic to those little books filled with green stamps. My sister and I were given the honor of licking the stamps and putting them into the books, and it was ALWAYS a lot of fun to travel to the green stamps redemption center to claim our reward for money well spent.

The Sperry and Hutchinson Company was sold by its founders successors in 1981, but it is STILL in operation today, under a slightly different name.

S & H Solutions offers S & H Greenpoints, a digital version of Green Stamps, but you can’t touch them, taste them, or smell them, and because of that, we’re all just a little bit poorer.

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