Point Cards

Japan can be a wacky place. After living here for a while, you tend to get used to a lot of it however – banners featuring topless women advertising massage parlors in the middle of the day, 85 lb. wanna-be B-boy Japanese boys walking around in baggy “thug” clothing simultaneously festooned with the logos of every single NBA team currently in existence, mayonaisse invariably finding its way into every single dish you order at a restaurant – and pretty soon, don’t even blink an eyelid at something that would definitely have given you pause back home.
Just what is a “Club Dydo” card…? Read on to find out…!
One of the odd little things about Japan one might not realize unless they live here is the country’s extreme fascination with “point cards”. The premise is pretty basic, really – patronize a store or establishment, and for every visit (or more often, certain amount spent) they will give you some ‘points’. After a while, these points can be redeemed for various little trinkets, discounts on future purchases, and so on. While a few stores might have “punch cards” or “loyalty cards” back home (a video store, for example: rent 9 videos, the 10th is free, and so on…) they have absolutely nothing on the sheer number of cards issued over here.
It’s not just the number of cards issued either – often in Japan, point cards can provide substantial rewards far greater than what we would get back home. Major electronics stores are a prime example: usually when one makes a purchase at any of these stores, a certain percentage of the purchase price (usually around 10~15%) is converted directly into points. Here’s the kicker – the points are as good as cash…! So for example, if you buy a television for 20000 yen (~US $200) and the store gives you 15% of the price as points – that’s 3000 yen (~US $30…!!!) off of your next purchase! For big sticker items, like computers or washing machines, that adds up to an amazing amount of money – often enough to buy an extra hard drive, a digital camera, or maybe even one of those super awesome massage chairs…!
With so many tangible benefits, one is often tempted to ask for a point card wherever they go – chances are good that the establishment, no matter how seemingly contradictory to expectations – will have a point card system. (Two of my favoritely random point cards are one from a love hotel in Osaka (apparently if I patronize their establishment 10 times, the 11th “rest” is on the house, plus I get a free “toy”….) and my Club Dydo card (which we’ll get to in just a minute)).
Even just walking around it’s easy to amass quite a stack – I’m the sort of fellow who likes to keep his wallet as thin and light as possible (better for the back, though in my case, my lack of money makes it much easier ;) !), but I was amazed at the random assortment of point cards I pulled out of my wallet just now for this picture – keep in mind I had last cleared out my wallet about 3 weeks ago!
Another 5 stamps and I have a free tonkatsu dinner waiting for me! Yummy…!
There’s at least 10 different cards in the picture above – most of them rather non-descript – tower records (not such a good deal – in order to receive a coupon for yen1500 (~US $15) off you’d have to spend close to yen 50000 (~US $500…!!!), a couple of electronics stores, a video shop, my cell phone store…! (I dunno how many cell phones they expect me to buy from them…!! (>_<)P) and so on.
Walking along the street the other day, however, I ran into what is so far, my all time favorite point card.
As some of you may know, Japan is a country in need of constant hydration. What else could explain the apparently endless sea of drink machines that plaster the country from one end to the other, blanketing every square meter with a cheerfully humming white box ready to dispense your favorite warmed or chilled beverage at a moment’s notice? In fact, one would be hard pressed to go anywhere in this country where they would be more than 100 meters away from dispensing a refreshing and delicious 120 yen can of liquid satisfaction.
Having acclimated to this environment fully in this respect (I’ve reached the point where if I don’t spend at least US $2.40 on beverages in a day I begin to fear I am becoming dehydrated) I was walking home from the store last week when I thought to myself “wow panda, you’ve gone about 1 1/2 hours without drinking something…! You better purchase a beverage at this machine coming up…!”. And so I did, despite the fact that I was only about 4 blocks away from my house, and all its associated free tap water.
Sorry for the sh!te quality of this photo. Didn’t realize it was set on night mode…!
But there was something unusual about this drink machine – and it wasn’t just that it greeted me, suggested a beverage for me to try, and bowed/thanked me after I made my selection – it was that after it told me to “enjoy my purchase”, it then went on to ask me:
“would you like a point card…?”
“….wha…?” I replied, confusedly staring at the politely blinking red button in front of me. The machine, perhaps sensing my hesitation, continued:
“Collect points to purchase exciting new goods from Club Dydo’s new character goods campaign! Starting April 1st, Club Dydo will offer entertaining character products based on all your favorite (Nintendo) Famicon mascots in Club Dydo’s new “Famicon Present Campaign”…!! Would you like a point card…?”
Here you can see the complex mechanisms that dispense a Club Dydo point card!
I shook my head for a second to clear the multitude of thoughts racing through it – then, almost instinctively, I pressed the glowing red button, and with a whiirrrrr, a point card dropped into the slot at the bottom of the machine.
“thank you for your purchase, and remember – start collecting points today with every beverage purchase…!”
And just like that the artificially synthesized high pitched female tones went quiet and I was left standing alone holding my newly-received point card in the dark, face illuminated by the pale flourescent tubes of the now-silent drink machine before me.
Yes, my friends, Panda is now the proud owner of a Club Dydo drink machine point card (actually I have two, because one of my friends gave me theirs when they saw how chuffed to bits I was over the whole concept of a drink machine point card) – keep it with you at all times, and everytime you make a qualifying drink purchase at a participating Dydo drink machine, insert your card and start collecting points…! For me, the fact that my drink machine saw fit to issue me a point card alternately delights me and frightens me to the core in a way I can’t quite explain – it represents a new stage in the inaneness of it all – one of those few things still so wacky it gives me pause while I try to absorb it all into my brain without exploding.
Surfing over to the siezure-inducing, flash-laden, stark yellow-on-black Club Dydo website reveals a long list of trinkets and gadgets your hard earned points can get you: a super mario teapot/cup “tower set” (200 points or about 50 cans of coffee), a pac-man grocery tote (300 points or more cans of Mistio Carbo-flexible Gas Volume 2.5 grape soda than you’d ever care to drink in your life) or something called a Club Dydo “interior light” (200 points and which to me looks like nothing more than plastic imitation of a can coffee with a light bulb stuck in it). I was struck by the pointlessness (no pun intended :P ) of it all – these are quite literally, some of the most worthless trinkets around – most are readily available at the 100 yen (~US $1) store without the “logo”, yet apparently, people must be mad into them, since Dydo apparently thought it profitable enough to spend lots of money on licensing fees with Nintendo and Namco (and mistar mario and miss pacman don’t come cheap, either…!). What does this say about society, or even people in general (human nature…?) if just the mere suggestion of earning some cheap piece of junk (ostensibly “for free”) brings out the rabid, kleptomaniacal point-hoarding instincts in all of us? What sort of base instinct does the point card phenomenon really tap into…? Am I sure I want to know? After all, didn’t I push the red button when the drink machine asked me for a point card?
Again, sorry for the sh!te picture. Peep all the cool Club Dydo goods you can get…!
And why does a drink machine – a device of questionable need in the first place, feel compelled to waste the plastic to issue me a point card for something that should be an impulse buy in the first place…!? Exactly what aim are they trying to achieve…? It reminds me of those old commercials that used to run back in the states for lobbying groups like “The Plastic Council of America” or “The National Association of Tin Manufacturers” – I, and I suspect most people, won’t stop to think “wow, yeah, I could get this can of baked beans… but is the can made of tin or aluminum…!? Cuz’ I only want those tin cans now that I saw that advert the other day…!” In much the same way, does Dydo really think that the next time I’m walking down the street – a street covered with more than 12 drink machines per block – and decide that I would like to make a beverage purchase, that I will take the time to stop, pull out my wallet, flip through the pile of junk cramming it to the brims until I find my Club Dydo point card, then waste 10 minutes of my life trying to sort out the nearest Dydo drink machine with a point card slot (only the new machines have them) then make my beverage selection based not on what I like, but on what concoction will yield me the maximum number of points…? (..yeeeesss!!! Only 38 more sickeningly sweet canned coffees to go until that Super Mario Club Dydo keychain will be mine….!)
Then again, they may be onto something greater than I realize – today, just as I was pulling into my driveway after a long and exhausting bike ride, I decided to stop and get something to drink. Now there is a drink machine located literally in front of my apartment, but for a moment – just a moment – I remember seriously considering getting back on my bike and going those extra 4 blocks and back just so I could get some points on my Club Dydo point card.
Now listening to: “DJ Doboy – I’ll fly away with you (Ultimate Remix)”
10:24 am

One Reaction

  1. Linsey pamela Mitchell

    How Do i go about getting a point card?