Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Worst Pilot Program Of the Decade

I stood by BP during last summer's spill. Heck, I've got kids and most adults and politicians I know act like kids so forgive and forget. A spill can happen to anyone.

But two months ago when I got a letter stating my area had the good fortune to be involved in a pilot program regarding a change to the reward plan on my BP gas card I was suspicious.

First of all the details of the plan were convoluted. In my experience if someone makes things complicated then they are likely ripping you off. The current tax plan comes to mind. Plus they sent at least two follow up mailings, each with all the slickness of a political mailer. And each shedding absolutely no new information. Just the hype of "Get ready! It's changing! Isn't it exciting?!!!" More suspicions.

The old plan was simplicity itself. You get 5% back from every gas purchase and 1% from non-BP purchases. After you hit $25 you log in and they send you a $25 check or BP gift card or apply $25 to your statement.

The new plan is a bit more twisted. In fact when I talked to three different reps before I had someone who could explain the plan, each one repeating that it was a new pilot program and they hadn't been fully trained yet. And that last person could explain it but couldn't see how it seemed to me like it was a far worse rebate plan.

Willing to admit that I could be confused I waited a month, using the card like I usually do, and then started plugging data into a spreadsheet.

Here's how the new plan works out in practice. Your earn .007 for every dollar you spend (so far it sounds far less than my previous .05) and after $100 you can redeem your earnings. But here's the exciting thing... you don't have to log in and click a couple of buttons and wait ten business days to get your check. Nope, you can, well, you MUST redeem your rewards at the pump! My wife tried to not use the rewards once and the pump wouldn't let her. So you spend $100 and now get seven cents off each gallon up to twenty gallons. 20 X .07 = $1.40. The math under the old plan was $100 X .05 = $5 back. This may be new math but $1.40 back instantly is not as good as $5 back in a month, at least to my old fashioned don't-really-need-to-have-everything-instantly brain.

But wait, it gets better! Let's say you don't drive a giant truck with a twenty gallon tank! Let's say you have a regular car that holds fourteen gallons or a van that holds sixteen gallons when literally running on fumes. What happens to the potential rebates of those superfluous gallons? Do they roll over? NO SIR, THEY DO NOT! They are gone forever! So 20 X .07 = $1.40 actually turns out to be 14 X .07 = 98 measly cents if you run the risk of driving on fumes until you can find a BP.

Which I will not be doing. I signed up for a BP gas card because of their rebate policy a number of years ago. I can get a 1% rebate credit card almost anywhere so why saddle myself with having to drive around until I can locate one particular brand of gas station?

No comments: