Stuck Like Glue by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Retail Rewards

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I have such strong memories of S&H Green Stamps – the look, the feel, and even the taste of the glue. We got them at the gas station across the street from our house (Shell) and also at the grocery store down the block (Acme). We would wait until we had a big pile of stamps and then sit around the kitchen table pasting them into the books that were distributed for that purpose. If we were putting in one or two individual stamps on a page we would lick them (the glue tasted terrible!), but more often we had a whole sheet, just the right size to fill a page in the booklet, and then we would use a sponge to wet the back. Most commonly I thnk we were putting in whole sheets.

I have such strong memories of S&H Green Stamps - the look, the feel, and even the taste of the glue.

Here is what Wikipedia says about them (I made the font green just for fun):

The stamps were issued in denominations of one, ten, and fifty points, perforated with a gummed reverse. As shoppers accumulated the stamps, they moistened the reverse and mounted them in collector’s books, which were provided free by S&H. The books contained 24 pages and filling a page required 50 points, so each book contained 1,200 points. Shoppers could then exchange filled books for premiums, including housewares and other items, from the local Green Stamps store or catalog. Each premium was assigned a value expressed by the number of filled stamp books required to obtain it.

This is what a page in the book looked like, with explicit directions about how many stamps to put on the page and where to put them.

I don’t remember ever going to a Green Stamps redemption center, but I do remember poring over the catalog to see what we could get for the amount of stamps we had. Then we would be inspired to collect more stamps, since the items we wanted generally cost more than the value of the stamps we had pasted in the book. The only thing I am certain that we got with green stamps was a General Electric toaster-oven. As a replacement for our old toaster, this was a big improvement! Bagels, in particular, always used to get burned in the toaster, but came out perfectly in the toaster-oven. On the oven setting, you could cook a TV dinner without having to wait for the regular oven to heat up. I’m certain we got many other things, I just don’t recall what they were.

An interesting discovery I made while writing this story is that Andy Warhol did a painting in 1962 called S&H Green Stamps, which is at the Museum of Modern Art.  Apparently he thought green stamps were as much of a cultural symbol as Campbell Soup cans.

Warhol, S&H Green Stamps

In recent years, I have gotten free flights from airline frequent flyer programs, free groceries from supermarket loyalty programs, and occasionally even a free 11th smoothie after getting my card stamped for ten (although usually I lose the card, or the place goes out of business, before I get to ten). But none of these can match the excitement I remember from collecting and redeeming green stamps!

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Characterizations: funny


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    You have a better sense memory than I have, Suzy. We licked stamps in our household too, but I don’t remember what my mother traded them in for. We certainly did not get a toaster oven! That sounds like it must have been worth a LOT of stamps and what a great appliance to add to your kitchen. We ate a few TV dinners in our time, but not heated up in a toaster oven (now I don’t want to think about them, as Tucker Carlson is a Swanson heir).

    Like you, we traded airline miles for free tickets. I have all sorts of other little reward cards that I stash in my wallet (described as a brick by my husband). I understand how easy it can be to misplace those cards before all the holes are punched out. Some places have gone to a computerized model tied to your phone number. Makes a lot of sense to me.

    • Suzy says:

      I don’t know why I remember those stamps so vividly, there are plenty of other things I’ve forgotten! As to Tucker Carlson, he wasn’t even born until 1969, so he wasn’t reaping benefits (yet) from my TV dinners. I do like the programs tied to one’s phone number much better than trying to hold on to those punch cards. I joke that it means I can never give up my landline, although of course it doesn’t have to be your actual phone number, it’s just a 7-digit number that’s easy to remember.

  2. Fun story Suzy, I remember S & H green stamps and am sure we collected them, but don’t remember what if anything we got for them.

    And you’ve reminded me of unredeemed credit slips I still have in my desk for stores that have gone out of business! (If there’s still a Pier One in California I’ll send you my $5 credit!)

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Your research on Green Stamps was interesting, and certainly brought back memories of helping my mom fill in those books, all warped by the time they were done. I can’t recall what they were traded for at all, but know my mom got dishes out of soap boxes, and picked up water glasses and Golden Book encyclopedias at the A & P on a regular basis. Those stamps presaged a tsunami of frequent customer plans of more recent years.

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, those stamp books would get warped from all the wet stamps we put in them. Love the idea of dishes out of soap boxes. We also got drinking glasses from the gas station with the names of football teams on them, maybe after they stopped giving green stamps, or maybe at the same time.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for this trip down memory lane, Suzy. I do remember pasting those stamps in books as a kid, but have no idea what my parents redeemed them for. Still, it felt exciting to receive something for nothing, although we all know now that these giveaways aren’t really free.

  5. This was a very worthwhile flashback. Your recall of details on this one–with seemingly similar experiences of putting in stamps as a family activity–is more vivid than mine.
    As to those airline mile redemptions: the first time I used one was to go to Europe in 1989. Using my American Advantage points, my only choice was Boston to Dallas to Gatwick. I kept thinking; I hope I don’t go down. Bad enough to be dead, but much worse if everyone thinks I was a moron for taking that route to Europe.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Great story, Suzy, and you and your family were obviously much better than my mother was in terms of following up on the whole Green Stamps thing. Half the time, she wouldn’t even bother to wait for the stamps after she’d checked out her groceries.

    And some brilliant touches to your story, too, like the green print (I hadn’t even realized we could change font colors on Retro), the image from the inside of the Green Stamps book (where did you even get it?) and, of course, the Warhol painting (it didn’t even look like a soup can or Marilyn Monroe when I squinted).

    The song title is a new one for me. However, the name of the duo who first recorded it, Sugarland, at least reminded me of the 1974 movie “Sugarland Express,” which is most notable for me because its co-star, along with Goldie Hawn, was an actor named William Atherton, with whom I went to high school and who, not surprisingly, was usually the lead in the plays and musicals in which I typically had a much lesser role. (Though I did get to sing a duet with Bill in “The Music Man.”) More to the point, and despite the fact that the song has nothing to do with trading stamps, the title is absolutely perfect for this week’s prompt.

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