This is just a bit of fun. I found this article in The Guardian from 2002 the year that Nectar was launched. It talks about Barclaycard Rewards customers being switched to Nectar only to find out their points were worth a lot less. Read the original article here. With a bit of find and replace this article is so amazingly close to what's happening with East Coast Rewards. For accurate figures please see our article: East Coast Rewards v Nectar. A ray of hope is that Barclaycard decided to quit Nectar in 2005.
East Coast has offered its customers a better deal this week after a Jobs & Money investigation uncovered serious flaws in the rail company's widely touted new Nectar loyalty scheme.
Both East Coast and Loyalty Management UK - which runs Nectar on behalf of the rail company and its partners have admitted to making mistakes and have pledged to put them right following our intervention.
But many big spenders on East Coast who collect reward points for free rail travel will find that the replacement Nectar scheme will still be much less attractive.
Nectar, which is the largest loyalty scheme of its kind in the UK, was launched in 2002 amid a blaze of publicity. It offered loyalty points that could be exchanged for everything from cinema tickets to long-haul rail travel. Points could be accumulated by spending at the founding partners' 1,800 outlets and booking an East Coast ticket.
But some of these promises have now been exposed as empty, while evidence has emerged that a significant number of East Coast customers are worse off under the new scheme. What is most surprising, is that those hardest hit are the very people who have spent the most under East Coast's old Rewards scheme to build up points to qualify for the most valuable promotion of them all - first class rail travel.
Barbara English from east Yorkshire is one East Coast customer who transferred to Nectar and only afterwards discovered she would lose out on long-haul rail travel.
By September this year she had built up an incredible 12,927 Rewards points from many years of travelling leaving her just 73 points away from 32 free first class tickets.
But then along came Nectar with its promise of six points for every Reward point. With it came an avalanche of advertising and promotional material.
"Nectar points seemed to be offered at more places," Mrs English says. "It was everywhere, and I got the impression that it would be a better scheme. Six points for one seemed like a good deal."
So, like thousands of East Coast customers, Barbara English transferred all of her Rewards points to Nectar in the belief that she would be better off for it.
But a phone call to Nectar left her in shock. Having received her 78,000 Nectar points - six times her Rewards points - she inquired about how many she now needed to secure her 32 free first class tickets.
Mrs English explained that she wanted to book for September 2015 to go and see her son in Inverness to celebrate her 70th birthday.
"When I finally got to speak to someone - the phone line is incredibly difficult to get through on - I couldn't believe what I was told," she says. "They said I now needed 160,000 Nectar points to book return first class travel for two for next September. I had less than half this.
"I called East Coast, who seemed rather puzzled by the whole thing. One person told me I should ask about transferring my points back to Rewards but wasn't sure if this was possible. The next one didn't answer my question at all and simply said that Nectar offered more things than Rewards.
"Strangely he said it was getting more expensive to travel to Inverness these days, but I really can't believe this bearing in mind the current climate. He said he would get back to me. He didn't. I don't know what to do."
As Mrs English's case clearly illustrates, East Coast customers using Nectar need to spend more than twice as much money on their travel than under the old Rewards scheme to earn the same trip. And this, of course, goes for any new customers as well. And to add insult to injury, while East Coast customers are worse off under Nectar for long-haul rail travel in particular, members of First Great Western were slightly better off as they could earn Nectar points on any rail travel, not just East Coast a benefit taken away after the shift to Nectar.
When we first contacted East Coast they told us it must be an anomaly, a mistake which they would happily put right.
However, it quickly emerged that this was not the case, and an East Coast spokesman called us back anxious to explain that they were aware of the problem, that some complaints had been logged, and a plan was "in the pipeline" to do something about it.
So how long had they known about this flaw? "I pointed it out 18 months ago when we were first putting the business plan together," the spokesman said.
So why, then, had they done nothing to rectify it and allowed customers to think they were exchanging like-for-like?
"This has caught us on the hop, really. We thought it would affect only a small number of customers. Only seven or eight per cent of redemptions are for rail travel," he said. "We had put a cut-off point of March in place where people could continue to earn Rewards at the same rate as they do now.
"We thought most people would book rail travel before March and that it wouldn't be a problem. We didn't expect them to start booking rail travel for next year.
"It only affects long-haul rail travel though," he added. "Many of the short haul - which are more popular, by the way - are better under Nectar." For example a 3 minute journey from Edinburgh Waverley to Haymarket will only cost £220 in travel spend under Nectar but would require £255 under East Coast Rewards. But what about the fact that even if East Coast customers have no rewards points to transfer, they still need to spend twice as much money to get the same value long-haul trip from Nectar?
"In terms of rail travel, the new scheme is not necessarily better value. You are correct. For some rail travel people will have to spend more.
"Under our old scheme, East Coast subsidised the rail travel and that is not the case now. We will need to take a closer look at this. We don't want to start alarming people, and we don't want some of our customers to be worse off." Following an in ternal meeting at East Coast on Thursday this week, Jobs & Money was told that the company would extend the cut-off point by which customers exchanging Rewards would get the equivalent value in Nectar points until the September 2015 and that they would make sure Barbara English would get the trip she wanted (but in standard class).
It will be writing to customers with details of the plans.
But what of the wider Nectar scheme? The chief executive of Loyalty Management UK, Rob Gierkink, says that most people will be better off under the scheme because it offers a greater selection of items for redemption and some good deals on short-haul rail travel.
Mr Gierkink says that the design of the whole scheme has had an impact on the number of points needed for some rail travel. In order to get good deals for the majority of customers, for whom sandwiches is the preferred redemption, he says, rail travel has had to take a hit.
But Nectar has also come under attack from rivals including Natwest and Tesco.
Natwest, which has offered an Air Miles loyalty scheme with its credit card for the last 14 years, says its customers are much better off than East Coast's are under Nectar.
For example, a NatWest loyalty scheme member will spend half as much as their East Coast and Nectar counterpart to redeem a trip to Edinburgh, according to a spokesman (see below)
The Nectar scheme aims to have one of its cards in 50% of British households - 12m in total - in its first year. It is on target to achieve this, according to a spokeswoman.
Nectar's initial popularity is nothing short of astounding. So many people applied on the launch day - an estimated 100,000 - that the Nectar website crashed and its online registration mechanism has been out of use ever since.
However, if the scheme is to stand up to scrutiny in the long term, it must convince people that is more than just hype and that it will deliver - for all its members.