Back when Stamps were Green....I Don't Mean Eco-Friendly! Collecting S&H Green Stamps
Familiar Sign of S&H Green Stamps
S&H Green Stamps ... One of the Earliest Customer Loyalty Programs
Customer loyalty programs got their start back in 1896 when Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson started what would become a pop culture icon in the United States....S&H Green Stamps.
Many of us grew up licking the green stamps and putting them in collector books until our tongues turned green. For some reason, most of us never got around to putting them in the books until the day we wanted to go to the redemption center and pick out a wonderful gift. It was amazing that you could get almost anything with your stamp books. There is a story of a school in Erie, Pennsylvania saving 5.4 million stamps to buy a pair of gorillas for a zoo!
S&H Green Stamps Were Extremely Popular and Successful Marketing Ploy
By the mid 1960s, 80% of the US households were participating in the extremely successful bonus stamp programs. Shoppers were collecting not just the S&H green stamps which were the most popular, but also Triple S stamps from Grand Union stores, Gold Bond, Blue Chip, Plaid stamps from A&P supermarkets and several others.
Retailers bought the stamps from companies like S&H then gave them to customers based on the dollar amount of their purchases. Customers would choose one merchant over another because they gave more stamps per dollar spent. In addition to grocery stores, gas stations and department stores used the bonus stamps to attract customers.
Stamp Collecting or Gambling?
It is amazing but some states equated the stamp programs to gambling! The programs were regulated by the government in those states and the merchants had to get a special permit to participate. Due to the high cost of the licenses, few stores were able to give out the bonus stamps in those areas of the US. But that didn't stop the green stamp craze and by the 1960s the S&H company was issuing 3 times as many stamps as the US Postal service and collecting the little green stamps had become a national pastime.
With a strong economy and busy lifestyles, interest in the stamps declined in the 1990s and by 1999 only 100 stores were giving out green stamps. Then along came the Internet and S&H green stamps went virtual. Today they are called "Green Points" and you collect them by making purchases from virtual stores that offer them and ordering items from an online rewards catalog. More information is available at their website, www.greenpoints.com.
If you still have some of the old stamps, don't worry. You can contact the S&H company at 800-435-5674 for instructions on how to redeem them.
Somehow cashing in points online just isn't the same as getting a green tongue then jumping in the Studebaker to rush down to the redemption center!
Green Stamps, Prostitution and Tequila!
Green Stamps have been mentioned in movies, tv shows and songs. A particularly funny episode of the TV show "Night Court" featured an elderly prostitute who admits to the court that she "did it" for Green Stamps. Bailiff Bull Shannon, played by Richard Moll, asks Bailiff Roz Russell, portrayed by Marsha Warfield, "Can you imagine degrading yourself for Green Stamps?" Roz replied, "Sure. By now I would've had enough stamps for a sailboat."
Charles Addams, the cartoonist that inspired the tv series Addams Family, drew a cartoon that featured a mortician that gave out Green Stamps. Novelist Stephen King talks about his first short story idea called "Happy Stamps". The unpublished story is about counterfeiting the stamps in order to get a new home and was supposedly inspired by King's mother who loved to collect S&H green stamps.
In 1962, singer Pat Boone had a hit song called "Speedy Gonzales". The final line of the song is "Hey Rosita, come quick, down at the cantina they're giving green stamps with tequila!"
Pat Boone hit "Speedy Gonzales" Mentions Green Stamps
© 2011 Thelma Raker Coffone
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