Daze of My Life: More Needs to be Less

Daze of My Life
More Needs to be Less

Would you mind holding my keys? And by that I really mean, can you please hold my key ring because I can't fit the darn thing in my pant's pocket anymore.
Why? Not because of the number of keys, or their size (although the size of the newer model automobile keys, especially those with the computer chip embedded, is getting a little out of hand, literally), and not because of the key fobs (those plastic attachments with the lock, unlock, trunk release and emergency buttons that are now a key part of your new car purchase)--no, the reason I can't fit my keys/key ring into my pant's pocket anymore is not even related to my car. It's related to the world of retail: more generally, to the world of consumerism and how us consumers are marketed to so that we may pay the lowest prices and earn the greatest incentives for the products that we buy.
What I am specifically talking about are the plastic, rectangular, made-to-hang-from-your-key chain bonus-type cards first introduced, if memory serves, by the supermarkets and now becoming ever more promotionally relevant for all other retailers/service providers. Just yesterday in fact, I received yet another attachment from the pet superstore where I buy Bailey and Chester's food.
And what did I do? I punched the whole out of the card and slipped it onto my key ring. Why? So when I return to buy another 41 pounds of dog food, I can pay the least amount of money for it because I'm a member of the club. (I wonder if they have secret meetings or secret handshakes, and if they have secret handshakes and I learn it, will I get a treat for doing it?).
And of course, having this plastic bonus card--attached to my key ring--stuffed into my pant's pocket or cluttering up my car's steering wheel when I'm driving, can only serve one purpose: to constantly remind me to shop at whatever stores these key ring attachments belong to, if for no other reason then to compensate me for the annoyance and discomfort these cards create.
And as with so many ideas, once company A introduces a new strategy that appears to be successful, company B will often follow suit and before too long, so too will companies C-Z, and that's exactly what has happened with these key ring attachments. It's not just the supermarkets anymore, it's everybody--gasoline, grocery, fast food, slow food, books, CDs, videos, pet products, clothing--you name it. If I, as a semi reasonable consumer, am going to take advantage of the consuming, money-saving opportunities marketed to me, I need to have my bonus card-type key ring attachment on hand.
And yes, I do realize that these bonus card, club memberships, are also distributed in convenient credit card size varieties, too, but I certainly don't have any more extra slots in my wallet for such things than I do key ring space.
Moreover, considering the stuff that's already pocketed in my pants--cell phone, pager, sunglasses, coins, mints and of course, my keys--and the stuff that likely will be added--iPod, Blackberry and Palm Pilot--the absolute last thing I need is a wallet bursting at the seams crammed into a back pocket already stressed out due to some other more weighty issues.
So this key ring attachment issue is now way past bothering me; it's now inconveniencing me, and inconveniencing the customer is hardly the path of least resistance. In fact, with all the competition for the consumer's dollars, sometimes less is still better than more.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.