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A Different View

Hard to lick loyalty – unless it’s Green Shield Stamps

Dave O'Connell

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

Loyalty, they say, has to be earned – it cannot be bought. But tell that to the purveyors of loyalty cards, because if you spend enough to get the stamps, everything from free coffee to cheap haircuts can be yours.

You can even get a computer for your child’s school, admittedly only if you spend the equivalent of the national debt on groceries – or if you only have a million for meat and veg, you may have to settle for a plastic football.

Clothes stores have swipe cards which give you money off if you sign up by email and continue to be inundated with special offers on runners and tee-shirts until your inbox is full to overflowing.

Indeed there’s a high price paid for loyalty in the commercial world we inhabit – the average wallet now has more loyalty cards than credit cards.

But it’s not a new phenomenon – do you remember Green Shield Stamps?

You’d get yards of them to stick into your booklet, and eventually you’d collect enough books to get a set of saucepans which would duly arrive in the post.

When all of this started back in 1958, one stamp was issued for each 6d – half a shilling – that was spent on goods, so large numbers of stamps had to be stuck into the books.

The problem was that you effectively needed to spend £12,000 to buy a TV for example – at a time when the average colour television cost around £350.

At a later stage, a second denomination was added, worth ten of the original stamps, which somewhat alleviated this problem. But you’d still have a sore tongue by the time you were finished licking for your set of delft.

Indeed – and as Michael Caine might say, not many people know this – it was the Green Shield Stamps that led to the formation of Argos.
As sales slowed, Green Shield Stamp catalogue shops began to offer part stamp redemption and part cash, for the goods in their catalogue. The proportion of cash accepted was slowly increased until the goods could be purchased, outright, without the need for any stamps.

And in time, the catalogue stores, warehouses and vehicle fleet were re-branded as Argos in July 1973.

The Green Shield Stamps actually lasted until the early nineties although they had really had their day by the early eighties – but by then everyone was in on the loyalty act.

Petrol stations bought your loyalty with other kinds of gimmicks – when Esso had an outlet across from the hospital (where Tesco is now), I can recall a coin collection of the England 1970 World Cup squad.

I wasn’t driving at the time obviously – because boys under ten years of age only do that in Tallaght – but it was the prospect of acquiring a tatty gold coin bearing the head of Bobby Moore or Peter Bonetti or Bobby Charlton that steered us, literally, to the same garage every time.

And because everything eventually turns full circle, petrol stations are back with a modern version of the old routine. Topaz has announced that it is investing €3 million into the roll-out of a new loyalty app.

So no doubt it will have bells and whistles and email alerts and bonuses and incentives and whatever you’re having yourself, and the inventors will stand back and admire their work in the way that their forefathers did when they came up with the wheel.

But the truth is that it’s just a variation on a well-worn theme – and for our generation they can try all they like, but they’ll never manage to lick Green Shield Stamps.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Stats allow us to take inspiration from wherever we can glean it

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The King of Scandi-Noir Jo Nesbø has an incidental line in Knife, his latest Harry Hole thriller, where his main man is sparking up a ciggie. “With every cigarette, God takes an hour off your life . . . and he gives it to Keith Richards.”

Because, in the way that we will always find the evidence to support our argument – no matter how ridiculous – we can hold up the pickled Rolling Stone member as an example of how a ridiculously unhealthy life needn’t necessarily be a short one.

Even when all of the odds are stacked in the other direction, and every shred of evidence ever produced by entire world of medicine would laugh that notion out the door, you take your fig leaf of comfort where you find it.

In the cold light of day, if Keith Richards is your role model for healthy living, we can assume that Jeff Bezos is your touchstone for making ends meet on a tight budget. And Donald Trump is your guiding light when it comes to respect for all races and women.

But all you really want to do is to drill a hole in the argument of the self-righteous that the secret to long life lies in protein drinks and muesli; you point to the rock and roll man who has consumed more through his nose than his mouth and you smugly smile.

And what we all know deep down is that if you were given a choice of a night on the raz with Keef or some new-age, clean living guru who liquidises their own kale smoothies, you know without hesitation which option is for you.

All of the Stones – with the obvious exception of Brian Jones – have defied the odds on longevity, but none more so than Keith, who hasn’t pulled back one inch from the edge for most of his 75 years.

 

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Third-level’s new arrivals remind us all of our youth

Dave O'Connell

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It’s the academic year’s equivalent of Spring – the season when the new young Leaving Cert lambs gambol across the NUIG lawns and pitches, eager to embrace every form of their new life and freedom.

You can spot them instantly on the morning walk to work from the westside of the city; gazing in awe and wonder at the map of the huge campus after years of confinement within the four walls of a secondary school.

For the first week, they had their new college to themselves – apart from the world-weary lecturers who make their way back after a well-earned long summer – and they’d have you convinced that the world was their oyster.

Which of course it is, even if they might have to wait a little while to conquer it just yet.

For now, they’ve freed themselves of the shackles of second-level where the attendance roll is called every morning and all misdemeanours are reported to your parents as though you don’t actually exist.

They are living away from home, in flats, shared houses or college accommodation – or indeed, these days, sleeping on floors or couches or living in hostels – but wherever it is, it’s not home.

And not being home means there are no parents; so, for the first two weeks at least, the back pain from the floorboards seems like a price worth paying.

There’s an innocence in their eyes, that sense of wonder as they enter a whole new world – of learning for sure, but just as much of partying, socialising and making the best friends you’ll ever encounter.

This is Freshers’ Week at NUIG, which – for those of us of an older vintage – might suggest it’s a tribute to a popular tangy sweet of our youth or it’s sponsored by them. It’s not; Freshers are First Years and this is to build on Orientation Week by truly immersing them in college life.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City  and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

The key to happiness comes down to a tea

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

There are few of life’s problems that can’t be eased just a little with the help of a nice cup of tea – and no matter how many Flat Whites or Frappuccinos the coffee aficionados dream up for your delectation, the oul’ cuppa is still your only man.

The problem is that tea isn’t as sophisticated as its coffee alternative – and all of the new-fangled machines and potions are pushing it further out of fashion.

Of course, ourselves and our near-neighbours still love nothing more than a cup of tea – although I’m sure it’s actually more popular in, say, India or China – but you still don’t find tea shops on every corner.

Coffee is the sexy drink with a million and one ways to drink it – and those caught up on the Nespresso whirligig are hooked on the fact that they offer more varieties than Heinz.

The trendy coffee shops ask you more questions than US Immigration before you can sit down with your triple venti half-sweet non-fat caramel Macchiato.

Admittedly, you’ll find posh tea shops too with its loose-leaf offerings from the world’s hot spots, not to mention herbal or even root teas made from dandelions or ginger.

But the most sophisticated the average tea drinker gets is loose-leaf English breakfast with a little strainer to keep the bits from choking you.

For the most part, the tea bag does the job – with the biggest decision facing you being whether it’s Barry’s or Lyons.

Tea was in the news for the wrong reasons recently when a ten-year-long study warned those who took their cuppa piping hot that their preference could dramatically increase the risk of cancer.

Dr Farhad Islami of the American Cancer Society studied the drinking habits of 50,045 people in northeast Iran – and his findings were fairly alarming.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City  and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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