by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
October 1, 2006
HE'S CUCKOO FOR THE COFFEE-CARD CRAZE
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- I'm cuckoo for coffee cards. You know, the little cards that get punched, stamped, or marked whenever you buy a cup of coffee or latté at your favorite local coffee shop. (Not Starbucks though - they don't believe in rewarding customer loyalty). After nine or 10 stamps, you get a free cup of your favorite beverage.
If you're smart, you buy the small, cheap lattés to fill up the card, and then go all out for the super mega double white chocolate mocha with your freebie. But if you're not smart, you get the same old thing you do every day, in which case I have to ask why even bother with the card. You're not a real coffee-card connoisseur.
Coffee-card collectors are fanatical about them. We jealously guard each stamp with the desperation of an addict, frantically looking all around, guarding against anyone who might steal our just rewards. I have a friend whose wife kept making off with his cards before he finally realized where they all went and took them back from her.
Their divorce is final next month.
Coffee cards are a trophy for us. They're evidence of our crowning glory, showing the world we have successfully hunted down and conquered our daily coffee quotient. It's the badge of honor that shows our little victory to our fellow coffee fiends.
Hunter #1: Hey, Burly Jim! What'd you bag today?
Hunter #2: Hey, Big Earl. I nailed a Vanilla Nut half-caf with sprinkles. How about you?
Hunter #1: I took down one o' them decaf Pumpkin Spice mochas with skim milk and cinnamon. That makes seven stamps for me!
Hunter #2: Ooh, that's great. My wife stole my last card, so I'm only up to four on this one.
I've got a bad habit of collecting cards from any coffee shop I visit during my travels. I figure, with one stamp I'm one-tenth closer to a free beverage of my choosing, so why waste it? You never know when you'll be back in Grand Forks, North Dakota nine more times. I keep the cards in my wallet for as long as possible, until I tip over when I sit down, then I transfer them to a special business card wallet I use just for my cards. I haven't been able to close it properly in two years.
What is it about us coffee fiends and our coffee cards? What drives us to get our stamps and then hoist our trophies over our heads and bay at the moon? Is it the victory? The sense of accomplishment? Maybe we had a childhood dream of getting a free coffee every two weeks for the rest of our adult lives. I mean, it can't be for the savings, because I'm only saving 12 cents a day.
But even though it's very little, I fight and clamor for every stamp I'm owed. I gnash my teeth in agony if I've forgotten my card, and a friend says "Oh, give me his stamp then." But I have been known to stamp swipe myself, so I can't really complain.
In fact, my friends and I have swiped so many stamps, we've come up with our own rules to stamp swiping, carefully developed after lengthy discussions and near fisticuffs.
Rule #1 - If someone buys your coffee, they get the stamp. This is even true if they loan you the money because you forgot your wallet that day.
Rule #2 - If someone asks you to get a cup of coffee for them because they don't have time, you can have their stamp, even if they paid for the coffee.
Rule #3 - It's perfectly acceptable to claim the stamp of another customer who doesn't normally collect stamps, assuming you don't mind being seen with them in public.
Rule #4 - If you have forgotten your card, you can donate your stamp to a friend.
Rule #5 - Completely ignore Rule #4. No one follows Rule #4.
I don't know what drives us to obsess about our coffee cards, like a baseball card collector searching for that elusive Barry Bonds pre-steroids rookie card. Why do we put so much effort and energy into collecting something that, at the end of the day, is still only worth $3.50, $4.00 tops? We've pondered the question at length, but can never come up with a suitable answer. We usually get too fatigued from a lack of caffeine and have to go back to the shop for a refill.
If you can answer that question, I'll send you a coffee card from my favorite local shop with seven stamps on it. Don't worry, it's not mine. I swiped it from a friend.
I told him his wife took it.