Raise your hand if you remember S&H Green Stamps. For those of you without telepathy, my hand is high in the air. That’s because I certainly remember Green Stamps. Now, for those of you who don’t remember them, or aren’t old enough to know about them, let me give you a brief summary of what they were.
I guess the easiest way to explain them would be to say that they were like bonus points you get when you use your credit card or frequent flyer miles that you can rack up with the airlines, but for everyday things. The most common place you would get them were at grocery stores. How much you spent on your grocery shopping trip determined how many green stamps you earned.
There was a little machine next to the register, and the cashier would dial-up how many stamps you had earned and it would spit them out. The actual green stamps themselves were about the size of a postage stamp, and worked in much the same way, as you had to lick the back of them to stick them in the green stamp books.
Now those books, once they were filled, could be used to buy all sorts of stuff from the Green Stamps Catalog. It was usually the type of merchandise you would find at a Dollar General store, but they also carried some nicer items as well. So for just doing what you normally would by doing your weekly grocery shopping, you earned some free shopping spree money! These things were so popular, that the grocery stores used them as a way to bring in folks. They would often run “double stamp day” promotions where you would earn double the amount of green stamps that you normally would. This was a big deal in my house, and shopping day always lined up with double stamp day.
My Mom had a drawer in the kitchen set aside for just her green stamps. Nothing else was allowed in there, and when it was emptied, we would start the slow process of filling it up with books once again.
Unless something really caught her eye in the catalog, she wouldn’t spend any of her stamps until Christmas each year. She kept track of how many stamps she had, and would pour over the green stamp catalog looking for Christmas presents in much the same way us kids did with the Sears Wish Book. She would make out her list, gather her stamps, and we would head off to the Green Stamp Store.
Did I forget to mention the Green Stamp Store? I guess I did. See, not only could you use your stamps to order from their catalog, but they also had full-blown stores around the country too. The closest one to us was an hour away, but we would make the trip once a year for her to use her stamps to buy some Christmas presents with. It was usually the same trip where we went to the mall for Christmas. Yes, when I was growing up, I only got to go to the mall once a year. We’d also stop by a few other places I only saw once a year.
But anyway, we would load up and head off to the Green Stamp store with all of her stamps in tow. I had somewhat of a vested interest in this whole process because I am the one she entrusted the responsibility to get all the stamps into the books. Which meant that after each trip to the store, I would lick the backs of all the stamps we had gotten and paste them into their books.
The gifts she used these things on were usually for those people on the fringe of your gift-giving list. Like at the family Christmas party, we didn’t give gifts to everyone there, jut the person whose name you had ended up drawing a month before. So with two family parties, and 4 names drawn for each, she would look hard to find eight suitable gifts that could be bought with her stamps. It was frugal, but it was a good way to get folks a gift, but still not crush the budget by spending cash on them.
For whatever reason, Green Stamps started losing steam and popularity in the 80’s. I can’t recall exactly when we stopped getting them, but I know we were still getting and using them as late as 1988. It’s not a concept that would work in our world today, but man, it sure is fun to think back on them now.
Here as some links to more info on Green Stamps: