The takeaway from Brian Palmer's Slate piece: if a business uses loyalty cards to retain customers, it probably sucks.
[C]ompanies that think they can’t compete on service or quality are not trying hard enough. Take a look at grocery stores. A few chains, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, attract customers through superior quality or unique products. It’s no coincidence that these stores don’t have loyalty programs. They don’t need them, because they’ve given you a compelling reason to shop with them. Grocery outlets with harsh lighting, cheap flooring, and signs handwritten in marker—you know the ones I mean—almost always have some kind of club program, because they can’t think of any other reason for you to walk through their noisy, unresponsive sliding doors. (Wegmans is alone among premium-quality grocery chains in having a loyalty program, but it dates back to 1990, before the chain surged past its humdrum upstate New York competitors.)