A man tried to bomb the Asheville, North Carolina airport last week. Law enforcement had a real challenge identifying the perpetrator, until a loyalty program membership gave him away.
- There was airport surveillance footage showing a white male in black clothes with a black cap.
- FBI discovered a new REI Traverse 70 backpack in the woods near the airport. It contained “gloves, a fuel source, a roll of Gorilla Tape” and “what appeared to be an alarm clock bell” that matched “the bell missing from the clock in the bomb.” There was also a gray polymer spoon inside.
- There was surveillance footage of some of those items being purchased at a Walmart and a Lowe’s but the man paid cash. They couldn’t identify him.
- However a backpack and spoon were purchased in the same transaction at a nearby REI store. But there was no surveillance footage. And the man again was careful and paid with cash.
- His identity was given away because he used his REI co-op membership number to earn cash back.
Copyright: joshuaraineyphotography / 123RF Stock Photo
There was no video footage this time. And again, the man paid cash. But, Anderson writes, “the individual … used an REI membership number when paying.”
An REI membership entitles a customer to 10 percent back on purchases every year. In this case, it also gave the FBI a name — Michael Estes.
Who doesn’t love good cash back?
Loyalty programs aren’t just an expense providing a rebate for purchases. They’re permission-based marketing, and highly personalized. Companies track purchase behavior and even predict what marketing is likely to be timely and effective to drive future purchases. It’s far less expensive and more effective marketing than mass advertising strategies.
And they’re so addictive even a careful would-be terrorist bomber can’t resist the allure of 10% earn.