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Monday, June 2, 2014

Find books of Green Stamps in your grandparents’ attic? Don’t toss them out

When you work in a post office, you see a lot of surprising stuff. But Shirely Neault, of Hudson, was really surprised recently when a customer told her the contents of a package: books of S&H Green Stamps, getting redeemed.

“I said, ‘I didn’t know those were still around!’ ” Neault said. ...

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When you work in a post office, you see a lot of surprising stuff. But Shirely Neault, of Hudson, was really surprised recently when a customer told her the contents of a package: books of S&H Green Stamps, getting redeemed.

“I said, ‘I didn’t know those were still around!’ ” Neault said.

She was so astonished that she called The Telegraph’s newsroom to spread the word. Her customer found the books while cleaning out an attic and almost tossed them, she said, and she didn’t want other people making that mistake.

“I wanted to let people know they were still worth something,” Neault said.

S&H Green Stamps were a staple of shopping in America for almost a century, starting in 1896 as the first major rewards program for shopping. Participating stores, usually grocery stores, would give away a certain number of stamps per dollar of purchase. Shoppers would paste stamps into books that, when full, could be redeemed for various items listed in the S&H catalog.

S&H stands for Sperry & Hutchinson, the firm that created them.

“We had the books all over the place,” said Bill Neault, Shirley’s husband, looking back on his childhood in Lowell, Mass. “My mom used to religiously do it. I used to go with her to the S&H store to redeem them.

“I remember very vividly the books. To hear that you can still redeem them is rather shocking to me.”

The digital “rewards card” that many grocery stores use has the same purpose: to give customers a reason not to shop elsewhere, which retailers call loyalty marketing.

Green Stamps were so successful that a variety of copycats and spinoffs were created, including Gold Stamps, Top Value stamps and even Plaid Stamps.

The physical Green Stamp business ended in the late 1980s, but a digital version, called S&H greenpoints, is still going strong – and still redeeming books of physical stamps.

“We get calls at least a couple, three days a week,” said Al Smith, senior vice president of operations at ProLogic, the Florida-based company that owns and runs greenpoints. “We do redeem stamps for points on the website.

“We’re always interested in how they were able to get the stamps – their origin.”

The usual story? They were found tucked away in a drawer or a chest, often when a home is being cleaned out by family after a parent dies.

The company shreds the physical stamps, as has always been done so they can’t be reused, Smith said.

Smith said ProLogic has no good way of knowing how many stamps might still be out there, but is ready to redeem all of them.

Its main business is helping retailers with loyalty marketing via data and analytics, offering technology and expertise more than virtual tamps.

He noted that if you find some old stamps, there’s another option: “There is a market on eBay for them,” he said.

For more information, visit www.greenpoints.com.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter @granitegeek.