Catharsis: So, what exactly is the anthro card for?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

photo courtesy of taste duds

Ah, the anthro card. That little yellow card that sits up near cash registers. This slight piece of plastic has inspired more questions than last night's LOST. The most common question I get? What is the card for? Well, I used to know. But lately things have become a bit muddled.

Let's start with this: the anthro card is not a credit card. It's like the loyalty card from your local grocery store...an extra piece of plastic that gets scanned before you pay. Everyone gets an individual number (printed on the back of the card).

Consistently the biggest benefit for USA residents has been occasional free shipping. There's no promotion at the moment but once a quarter Anthropologie will turn on free online shipping for domestic orders. Sometimes there is a minimum -- which is incredibly lame -- but usually there's not. In order to qualify for free shipping you need to make sure your anthro card is linked to your online account. To do so, sign into your Anthropologie.com account and go here.

But what of birthday discounts, receipt-less returns and "early bird" specials? For a long time I was under the impression that having an anthro card meant you automatically got the birthday discount. However as I've learned recently that's not the case. The birthday discount is not a guaranteed perk; having an anthro card simply enters you into the lottery for one. Update: in 2012 Anthropologie made the birthday discount a perk for every anthro members, no more lottery. You can read the Birthday Discount FAQ here.

And then there are receipt-less returns. Perhaps it's because my purchase rate has gone back up recently at Anthropologie but the process has not been smooth lately. Twice now in the past 2 months I've been turned away at stores because the sales associates couldn't find the proper transaction in my history. And not to pick on any one SA but one time I had instruct her on how to log into my anthro account. I should point out I've never worked for Anthropologie and I don't now. I'm just more familiar with online CRMs than she was. My anthro card is a replacement so I don't know if that's part of the issue here. But it's annoying being told something is a perk and then being unable to utilize it.

And finally we have the mysterious non-existent perks. Go to my.anthropologie.com and you're told of "early-bird specials" which is described thusly: See it first, buy it early. Soon, you'll be able to preview our newest collections and shop them before they're available in stores or online. I've been waiting 3 or 4 years for anything like this to manifest! I want magical preview books! Or emails. Or something. I mention this not because I want Anthro to remove that line but because I'd love for it to happen.



So what is the real purpose of the anthro card? For Anthropologie it's a marketing tool. They're tracking our purchases to build customer profiles. I don't mind one bit. I'm happy to help them create a profile on me if it helps them come up with better products and incentives. If it means certain items hit my NYC stores first because someone like me will buy them I am in, even as my wallet cries.

I hate to sound greedy but I do expect something in exchange. And yes, the birthday discount and occasional free shipping are nice. I have a few other ideas about things Anthropologie could incentivize anthro card members with....

Free shipping on charge-sends.
A charge send is when you call a store and ask them to mail you an item after you've paid over the phone. Most stores don't charge me shipping. But a few (I'm looking at you, State St in Chicago!) insist on doing so. I understand this is Anthropologie's policy but it's dumb. It's like with J.Crew. There's smart J.Crew, which holds after-hours events for small groups during which I get 20% off my purchase. That's smart. Then there's dumb J.Crew, which runs a Free Shipping on $150 that's actually a Free Shipping on $189 promo. That's DUMB. Don't be dumb Anthropologie. Usually I just sigh and eat it but a couple of times when the SA tells me they're going to charge shipping, I have stopped the transaction. Both times the SA reversed themselves and said they could do free shipping. So which is it?? I WANT TO BUY SOMETHING. Don't make it harder for me. Friction is bad.

Free shipping on online orders over x amount, all the time.
I know Anthropologie probably would not do free shipping just for being an anthro member so this is my compromise. If I'm going to spend $250 or more online I think it would be nice not to pay an additional $18 just for the convenience of home delivery. Home items above a certain size could be excluded but for clothing this should be easy. I know you mark up your items. I don't care. But don't mark up the shipping too. Then I feel bitter when an item doesn't work out and I just paid $18 to try something on and return it. Do you want to breed bitterness in me? No. You don't.

An invite to one after-hours store party a year.
I'm totally going out on a limb here. Oh wait, no I'm not. The following chains have invited me to an after-hours shopping party this year: Saks 5th Ave, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf, Bloomingdales, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor LOFT...do you sense a pattern here? (Besides that I spend entirely too much money on clothing?) Granted, I did have the pleasure of attending a party at the Chelsea Anthro. Which was awesome and I'm so thankful for the invite! But I didn't get invited because I'm an anthro member. It would be very cool to hang out at an event after-hours with other shoppers and some wine. It's expensive to put on I'm sure. Think about it, anthro. It's a cool treat. And you're falling a bit behind in that department.

Something, anything, for Canada.
Our lovely neighbors to the north recently got their first brick and mortar Anthropologies. Unfortunately though the few promotions that are available to US anthro members are not extending northward. No free shipping. Different prices. Inconsistent sale items. It's a bummer to say the least.

Anthro's counter-argument to all this is of course: uh, roxy, you say you demand these things but you just spent $$$ with us last month, and you're on-track to do the same this month. So why should we feel compelled to do this again? And did you notice we're not exactly the promotions store? To which I say: point taken. Still, I'm hopeful and hopefully speaking on behalf of others here.

What other questions do you have about the anthro card? What other ideas do you have for perks?