Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Seeing red at RedSpottedHanky

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RedSpottedHanky loyalty account screenshot

The screenshot above is my ‘loyalty’ account on the RedSpottedHanky web site – a site which sells train tickets in the UK. It awards loyalty points for purchases of train tickets, which can be redeemed for money-off e-vouchers for future ticket purchases, or discounts at various other retailers.

You’ll notice that on Thursday 2nd February, my account was ‘corrected’ and 77 points were removed, leaving me with 0.

This is apparently because all points expire at the end of the calendar year. And that includes 17 points that I’d earned a week before the end of the year, on the 24th December. Of course, RedSpottedHanky don’t make much of an effort to tell you this – it’s mentioned briefly on this page – but there are no warning emails, for example.

In some respects, I’ve been lucky to only lose 77 points, which are worth less than £1. Scott Willison, who blogs at merseytart.com, lost 573 points (almost £6). And when he emailed customer services, they refused to re-instate his points. Friends on Twitter have also lost points – one lost 1600 points, worth £16.

Of course I understand that RedSpottedHanky are under no obligation to keep these points active in perpetuity – after all, it’s their site, and there are plenty of other web sites selling UK rail tickets. But it’s not a good way to encourage loyalty – which, after all, is what this scheme is all about. I’d understand if points were valid for 12 months, but cancelling points earned only a week previously, and during the Christmas period, is harsh. Especially when you consider how much leisure travel takes places at this time.

At this point I could mention that RedSpottedHanky is owned by Atos, the French multi-national IT company. The same company that carries out the controversial Work Capability Assessment in the UK which has resulted in the withdrawal of social security benefits from many disabled people (including a close family member of mine, thankfully re-instated on appeal). However Atos provide IT systems to many UK train companies for ticketing and so boycotting them for this reason is largely pointless.

I’ve previously offered an enthusiastic recommendation of RedSpottedHanky, but this has left a bad taste in my mouth. Having said that, I will still use them:

  • You can still redeem Tesco Clubcard points for e-vouchers (which typically have a 10 year expiry), and £5 of Clubcard points gets you a £10 RedSpottedHanky e-voucher. We don’t shop at Tesco as much nowadays, as our local store doesn’t sell many lactose-free products, but this still saves me at least £40 each year.
  • You can get 1.5% cashback from Quidco on all ticket purchases, although I’m still waiting for a cashback payment on tickets bought almost five months ago in August last year.

But I may also be more willing to check out the competition. For travel on its own services, booking from East Coast can be cheaper, for example.

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