When signing on for a loyalty card is so much more than collecting points

Oct 10 2017 by
Categories : Society

This summer, ELLE Canada asked our readers to write us a 700 personal essay on "the fashion moment that changed your life". The winner chosen by our panel of big-deal judges, published in the November issue. Jenna's piece was selected as one of our runners up.

Loyalty Cards by Jenna Hazzard

The first thing that I ever bought at a plus-sized store was a discounted, perfectly gaudy piece of costume jewellery. It was a hot summer afternoon and I was on the cusp of my senior year. My mother needed some new clothes for the fall season, so she let me tag along to the middle-class mecca: the outdoor mall that held Reitman’s, Pennington’s and Addition Elle. After wandering through the racks of her favourite plus-sized joint, my mother ended up shut away in a dressing room, refusing to show me anything that she didn’t like. The door remained shut for most of the visit, and I was forced to find my own entertainment.

The discounted jewelry rack was the safest option: one-size fits all and cheap. I fingered through the fine silver chains and the over-sized watches. When I finally selected a thick-chained, black gemmed necklace, my mother was still in the dressing room. I could see her small feet shuffling around the little room. I called out to her, partly to check on her progress, and partly to let the other shoppers know that I was not shopping for myself. Although my body was slowly expanding into the sizes stocked in the store, I could still squeeze into a roomy x-large. I wanted people to know that I was just a visitor; I didn’t belong in that store. The strangers needed to know I was not a plus-sized woman.

I waited until no other shoppers lingered around the till before I went up to pay for the necklace.

“Name?” The cashier asked before I even set the necklace on the counter.

“Oh no,” I said. “I’m not in the system.”

Without looking away from her computer screen, the cashier pulled out a pamphlet with a brightly coloured plastic card glued to the front. She slid it

towards me. “The loyalty program gives you special email offers and reward points.”

“No thank-you.” I practically threw the card back across the desk. “I don’t need that. I don’t even shop here.”

The cashier looked a little taken aback. Her eyes rolled over my body, peeking over her computer screen. My face burned.

“Thanks anyways,” I said, a bit weaker that time. “Why don’t you just put it under my mom’s account?”


For a long time I didn’t wear that necklace. It wasn’t a calculated avoidance, but I never did reach for it in the jewelry box. I suppose I was afraid that someone would ask where I got it. It was the kind of necklace that would garner questions, from both admirers and jewelry purists. And then I’d have to admit that I’d been shopping at a plus-size store.

As I moved through university, I put on another layer of fat like a cozy fall jacket. A purchase here and there at the plus-size stores became a wardrobe of large but beautiful clothes. Over the years, the clothes (and where I purchased them) stopped mattering, and what mattered was what my outfits said about me. The clothes became an expression of my creativity and my personality. That gaudy necklace I bought the summer before twelfth grade became a wardrobe staple. I was stuck in an all conquering ceasefire with my body.

But I still refused the loyalty card that the plus-sized store offered me every time I made a purchase. Every time I had them put the loyalty rewards under my mother’s account. I told myself I was doing her a favour, but that wasn’t it. Really, my loyalty card refusal was the result of a deep seated shame. I was ashamed of plus-sized stores, and by extension, the women, myself included, who shop at them. Bringing that shame into the light and giving it a name, made me realize how many matters of the soul (self worth, morality, work-ethic) I let be dictated by the pounds of flesh on my stomach. I realized that in the end, my body, my plus-sized body and the size clothes it wore, didn’t have to tell me what kind of person I could become.

And so, the next time I found myself adding to my plus-sized wardrobe, I signed up for the loyalty card.

You can read the winner of our competition’s piece here, and check out the essay written by the other runner up, Rebecca Mangra, here.

Categories: Society