Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I’m not a car guy. So why does Pep Boys want me in their loyalty program?

So I was standing in line at my local Pep Boys auto parts store the other day. Not that I’m a car guy. I usually pay my trusty neighborhood mechanic Larry to do everything car-related. But the wife needed some new windshield wipers, and I figured this was something I could handle.

Anyway, the guy in front of me in line was buying a roof rack and the cashier asked him if he was in the Pep Boys rewards program. My quick read: this guy wasn’t a car guy either, just a guy going on vacation. His response, as expected, was “no”.

Figuring the cashier would just move on, or hand him a “take one”, she instead asked him for a bunch of personal info on the spot—name, address, phone #, e-mail address —handed him a membership pamphlet and viola, he was enrolled in the program.

I’m next up in line and she goes through the same routine:

“Are you in the Pep Boys rewards program?”


“Can I have your name…addresss…telephone number…”

There was no asking me if I wanted to join the program, which I didn’t—I mean I go into an auto parts store about once a year at best. There was also no concern that with only one cashier on duty, the line behind me was now a good five-deep.

The Pep Boys program? Well, it seems okay, with some nice added benefits like free flat repair and discount towing. But I could quibble. The program is a straight cash back rewards program with funding at a fair but flat 5% for all customers. Pep Boys might consider:

• A mix of rewards, so the program isn’t all about the money

• A tiered approach that offers incremental rewards when I hit a specific spend level

• Special bonuses and perks for its very best customers

• A program that does more than enroll customers, but engages with them

My biggest concern is the auto-enroll aspect of the program, whereby you’re enrolled whether you want to be in the program or not. The long-term effect of auto-enrollment is detrimental. Because I didn’t raise my hand to join, the chances of my actual participation are greatly diminished. And ultimately, when the program participation numbers come in, it won’t reflect well on the results.

As you might have surmised, I’m a prime example of a customer who should not have been auto-enrolled. Loyalty program or not, I may never set foot into a Pep Boys again. You see, those windshield wipers I bought—they’re still sitting in the trunk of my car. They need a special adapter to be installed, and I’d just as soon have Larry the mechanic do it. Like I said, I’m not a car guy.

This post is by Tom Rapsas and originally appeared on the blog Loyalty Truth, November 2, 2010. You can reach Tom at