Property: This card game is no big deal

Loyalty cards are all the rage. It is now almost impossible to conduct any transaction without being requested or advised to proffer a piece of magnetic-stripped plastic as an essential companion to your purchase.

The pace set by the airlines' frequent flyer programmes is now being matched by frequent shoppers, frequent eaters and even frequent pool player programmes. The only safe haven from this enforced obsession with the accumulation of points, miles and eight-balls has been the property market. Until last week, that is.

Through my letterbox popped a most remarkable missive. It was a personalised message from one of my local estate agents urging me to sell my property through his good offices. As regular readers of this column are aware, there is a slight problem here. I do not have a property to sell. Au contraire, as we Europeans like to say, I want a property to buy.

I refuse steadfastly to name names out of a sense of moral dignity and fear of spiteful retribution. Suffice it to say I was less than gruntled. To rub salt into my wounds, the letter went on to explain that this was a marvellous time to sell as there was still a shortage of properties in my area. I do not need an anonymous property consultant in a white envelope to remind me of this unfortunate fact of current life.

At this point, I would have chucked the letter on to the brazier and used it to eke some last vestiges of warmth from my dwindling fire, which was doing little to protect me from the icy blast of winter. But it was then that I noticed an unusual addendum.

Glued to page two of my letter was my very own Estate Agents Privilege Card.

This could not be serious. Buy a house and win a Mini Metro. Buy a street and win a Mercedes Maybach. My heart sank. I am not an accomplished loyalty card user. In my frequent eater programme, for instance, I am still six miles short of a burger. I am the loyalty card equivalent of the Norwegian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest - all my statements say nil points. The prospect, then, of qualifying for special Estate Agents Privilege Card platinum status was remote, given my singularly unsuccessful foray into the property market.

A close analysis of the card's terms revealed less onerous terms than I had imagined, and indeed less extravagant rewards. I had to sell only one property through this particular estate agent by the end of March to qualify for a Harrods hamper.

All I can say is that it is probably easier to buy a Harrods hamper than a three-bedroom semi - and, I suspect, a little cheaper.

Now there's a thought. If I bought a big enough hamper, perhaps I could convert it into a modest town house. Or if I bought enough hampers, could I qualify for a house?

I will shortly be introducing a frequent reader card. All you have to do is stick 30 columns together and you qualify for ... well, a sheet of wrapping paper. Collect enough columns and you will have a roll of wallpaper.

Does that seem daft to you? Well, so is the Estate Agents Privilege Card.

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