IT SEEMS every time I go into a shop these days I can’t buy anything without the person behind the till asking me if I have a “loyalty” card - or whatever adorable brand name their employer has chosen.

It happens all the time in Sainsbury’s and Boots but when – as last week – the shop assistant in Waterstones asked if I had a card proving my devotion to that book store, I started to worry.

I always thought of book shops as slightly genteel places where commercialism was less rampant.

But regardless of the shop I happen to be in, my answer is always the same: no, I do not have a loyalty card. I do not feel loyal to your shop, this is just where I come to buy things.

Some of you may consider me foolish. Think of all the points you’re missing out on, Barry. You could have had a free bottle of HP sauce by now.

Well, even in these difficult economic times, I can live without it.

I have two problems with these cards.

Firstly, as we say in Yorkshire, you don’t get owt for nowt. These shops are big businesses, they aren’t just giving you points from the goodness of their hearts.

It’s a trade: they give you some money off and you give them repeat custom and, perhaps more crucially, information about your shopping habits.

My other objection to loyalty cards is more personal.

For me, the day I start walking around with 20 different cards in my wallet and getting excited about double points on marmalade is the day I become middle-aged.

And, despite my receding hairline, that’s not something I’m ready for yet.