Watsons VIP Card. It's an absolute rip off and a ridiculous waste of RM 12 which you are never going to get back in a year.
Let me lay out the facts for you.
The Watsons so-called VIP Card is like any other customer card we get from Isetan, Robinson's and the like. The idea is simple: the more you spend, the more points you earn and the higher the rebate.
Customers are expected to pay RM 12 for the Watson's VIP card. Card holders earn 1 point for every RM 1 spent in-store at Watson's and once they have collected 200 points, they are entitled to a RM 1 rebate. Customers earn double points for every Watson's in-house product purchase and 5 times the points earned for the first purchase made during your birthday month. Special discounts and bonus points are given for particular products as well.
Putting the special offers and bonus points aside, let's take a look at the basic tier.
Every RM 1 spent gives you 1 point.
200 points collected gives you RM 1 to spend.
This means that you need to spend RM 200 in-store to get an RM 1 rebate. For those with a finance bent, this gives us a rate of return of 0.5%.
Some of you out there may be thinking, "Hmm, ok. Let's say I spend about RM 50 in-store a month. This gives me a return of RM 1 after 4 months but I guess that it's better than nothing..."
Aha, but you have forgotten something. You need to pay RM 12 for the card. This means that you have to spend a grand total of RM 2,400 before you see any real returns on your Watsons VIP card.
Think about it long and hard, ladies. How long will it take you to accumulate a total spending of RM 2,400 at Watsons? Some of you may not have a problem but the average consumer is going to take more than 2 years to hit that much, lifetime membership or not. One of my friends argues that the RM 12 will be offset by all the free vouchers included with the card and that I was seeing too much into the issue.
"Look, maybe they are willing to pay RM 12 for all those vouchers. The card isn't the point."
The thing for me though is that the card is the whole point. Even if I do get my money back in the form of vouchers, I still expect to derive a certain value from a membership card. Most departmental store cards have a 5% rebate on purchases. The OneCard has a 1% rebate but lots of participating outlets. Strip the bells and whistles away and the Watsons card only has a 0.5% rate of return.
Have you seen the number of customers in a Watsons outlet on a ordinary day? Their turnover is amazing. There has to be a better way of rewarding your customers.
Even after looking at the bonus offers and special member prices offered with this card, I was still left shaking my head. The savings are minimal and while the special bonus points seem like a lot, they are actually not worth much once you do the math. 10% in-store discounts are more value for money.
To put it another way, are you telling me that I can spend RM200 in store for my birthday month, get 1,000 points and only get back RM5 for my efforts? I might as well wait til Christmas when RM5 vouchers are given with every RM25 purchase at Guardian.
I doubt that RM 5 will make much of a difference after dropping RM200 at the counter. People for whom that RM 5 would make all the difference for wouldn't be caught spending RM200 on toiletries in one shot. I work with the rural poor, for crying out loud, so I know the value of RM 5 to them. From this angle, not only is the Watsons card low value but elitist to boot.
Even Malaysian banks have a better rate of return -- and that isn't saying much!
Over the Border to Singapore
If we look closer across the border to Singapore, their Watson's card costs $5 for lifetime membership. Every $5 spent gives you a point and every $ 50 spent gets you an additional 10 points. 20 points gets you a rebate of $ 1. This gets you a basic return of 1%. If you spend $ 50 each time you step into a Singaporean Watsons, you end up with a return of 2%.
Also, you need to spend $500 ($ 250 if you opt for the $ 50 nett spending option) to get back that initial $ 5 spent on getting the card. If we ignore the exchange rate and consider that the Singaporean dollar has a higher purchasing power in Singapore, the Singaporean Watsons card is a much better deal.
Other Loyalty Cards
The famed UK Boots card gives a 4% rebate for every pound spent. The Priceline card in Australia gives quarterly rebates: 3% for every AUD 100 spent quarterly and 4% if you spend above AUD 200 in-store (assuming that you don't purchase anything with bonus points). Both cards, by the way, are free.
I love Watsons and think that they carry a really good range of skincare and cosmetics. I also like the fact that they are making the effort to bring a wider range of brands. Who would have thought of seeing DHC on Malaysian shores a few years ago? I make beeline for Watsons each time I enter Midvalley.
I do object to what seems to be pretty shabby treatment of a loyal customer base.
Don't buy the card and complain about it to Watsons customer care services. This customer loyalty card is an absolute rip off, has little value and I think that the Watsons customer base deserves better. Watsons can and should definitely do better than this.
Competing pharmacies, take note.