Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lucky Green Stamps

The cover below, mailed from Scarborough to Stratford, March 3, 1969, was franked with a 5 cent Centennial definitive and a 1 mil ( 1/100 cent) "Lucky Green Stamp". The domestic letter rate was 6 cents.

The letter was taxed two cents (double the deficiency).

What was a Lucky Green Stamp? Those of us who were around in the late 50s and 60s can remember how popular they were. In 1959, the Loblaws grocery chain introduced its trading stamp program. When making purchases, customers received "Lucky Green Stamps" which were pasted into saver books and redeemed for gifts.

The Loblaws website provides a brief description of its "Lucky Green Stamp" program:

Featured on its saver books is Miss Lucky Green, a bright-eyed, pony tailed little girl. With wand in hand, she points the way to the "Magic World of Gifts" that awaits Loblaws shoppers. The Loblaws Lucky Green Stamp Gift Catalogue, with hundreds of household items to choose from, becomes a mainstay in many homes.

Miss Lucky Green doll

Legality of Lucky Green Stamps

In 1905, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended making "trading stamps" illegal. (see below for excerpts of the Parliamentary debates). The Criminal Code trading stamp provisions were in effect when Loblaws introduced its Lucky Green Stamp program. Loblaws (Manitoba) was charged with unlawfully giving trading stamps to a customer, contrary to s. 369(2) of the Criminal Code. The case was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada which held in its 1961 decision that Lucky Green Stamps were not trading stamps as defined in the Criminal Code.

Since the trading stamp provisions remain to this day in the Criminal Code there is a possibility that some of today's "loyalty programs" could be illegal.


The following is an excerpt from United Dominion Promotion Sales v. Shaw [1957] N.B.J., in which Judge Keirstead quotes the sections of the Criminal Code dealing with trading stamps, and provides excerpts of the Parliamentary debates dealing with the issue.

Section 322 of the Code defines "goods" and "trading stamps". I quote the section:
"322. In this Part,
      • "(a) 'goods' means anything that is the subject of trade or commerce; and
      • "(b) 'trading stamps' includes any form of cash receipt, receipt, coupon, premium ticket or other device, designed or intended to be given to the purchaser of goods by the vendor thereof or on his behalf, and to represent a discount on the price of the goods or a premium to the purchaser thereof
      • "(i)
        that may be redeemed
        • "(A) by any person other than the vendor, the person from whom the vendor purchased the goods, or the manufacturer of the goods,
        • "(B) by the vendor, the person from whom the vendor purchased the goods, or the manufacturer of the goods in cash or in goods that are not his property in whole or in part, or
        • "(C) by the vendor elsewhere than in the premises where the goods are purchased; or
      • "(ii) that does not show upon its face the place where it is delivered and the merchantable value thereof; or
      • "(iii) that may not be redeemed upon demand at any time, but an offer, endorsed by the manufacturer upon a wrapper or container in which goods are sold, of a premium or reward for the return of that wrapper or container to the manufacturer is not a trading stamp."
5. Section 369 deals with the issue and sale of trading stamps. I quote s. 369:
    • "(1) Every one who, by himself or his employee or agent directly or indirectly issues, gives, sells or otherwise disposes of, or offers to issue, give, sell or otherwise dispose of trading stamps to a merchant or dealer in goods for use in his business is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
    • "(2) Every one who, being a merchant or dealer in goods, by himself or his employee or agent, directly or indirectly gives or in any way disposes of, or offers to give or in any way disposes of, trading stamps to a person who purchases goods from him is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction."
6. I quote the following from Martin's Criminal Code, 1955, p. 612:
    • "These provisions appear in the Criminal Code Amendment Act, 1905, c. 9. The Bill was introduced at the insistence of many Boards of Trade and Retail Merchants' Associations throughout Canada.

    • "The trading stamp scheme originated in the United States about 1895 and was imported into Canada about 1900. The operation of the scheme as it affected the customer was described in the House of Commons as follows (Hansard 1905, Vol. 5, column 9432):
      • "'MR. KEMP: Certainly some remedy should be applied to this abuse. These trading stamp companies, small and insignificant as they are, are permitted to do what no other kind of financial corporation can do. They are permitted to circulate money. This trading stamp resembles a postage stamp. They are sold at five dollars for a hundred dollars face value. The merchant hands them out to his customer and they get into circulation that way. When a customer gets a hundred dollars' worth he can go and exchange it for some article valued at from twenty-five cents to a dollar. He never gets anything worth five dollars. A greater evil is this, that a great amount of these stamps are never redeemed, very few people can get a hundred dollars together. The people who have been deceived into taking these stamps are generally poor people, and it takes them a long time to collect a hundred dollars. Where the tremendous profit of the trade stamp companies comes in is due to the fact that the stamps are never redeemed. Then -- when people present the stamps at the store, they will be told that the store is out of goods but some are expected in a few days, and in the end the trading stamp agents get away without paying anything.'
      • "In 1901 and 1903 the Legislature of Ontario amended its statutes so as to enable municipalities to pass a by-law prohibiting the use of trading stamps and in 1903 the Legislature of Quebec passed legislation to the same effect. In subsequent litigation there arose a conflict of decisions, the Court of Appeal in Quebec holding that the provincial legislation on the subject was ultra vires, on the ground that it dealt with trade and commerce. On the other hand, it was decided by the Court of Appeal in Ontario that the legislation was constitutional. This conflict of decisions was referred to the Supreme Court of Canada and appears not to have been decided when the Criminal Code Amendment was brought before Parliament. The Bill provoked lengthy debates both in the House of Commons and in the Senate, those supporting the Bill arguing that the use of trading stamps was an instrument of fraud and thus more than unfair competition. The Bill was opposed on the ground that the advertising company which promoted the scheme was incorporated under Dominion Charter and also on the ground that no distinction could be drawn between stamps issued by the vendor of goods himself, redeemable on his own premises by himself, to which there seemed to be no objection, and trading stamps issued to be redeemable by a third party. (Par.(b) of c. 322, excluding certain offers from the definition of trading stamps marks this distinction)."
7. At p. 613:
    • "During the discussion in the House of Commons the following took place (at column 9433, Hansard 1905, Vol. 5):
    • "MR. R.L. BORDEN:....I would recognize legislation against the principle of lottery as very wise, but it does not seem that this legislation proceeds on that basis. It is not framed from the standpoint of the purchaser, but from the standpoint of the vendor, and its object is to prevent the trading stamp proprietor from receiving a portion of the vendor's profits. I am not objecting to that. The evil may be so great as to require legislation, but let us understand the principle on which we are acting. If it is intended to prohibit lotteries we should go further.
    • "SIR WILFRID LAURIER: I do not now dispute anything stated by my hon. friend (Mr. R.L. Borden). But we are dealing with an evil that exists. It may be that if we dealt with all covered by this principle, we should go further than we are now going. But we are now dealing with a lottery which has invaded every city and town in Canada, in the form of these trading stamps. The object of this legislation is to reach this form of lottery; and we think we have done it and will stamp it out. If any other evil....
    • "MR. R.L. BORDEN: In what way does the right hon. gentleman (Sir Wilfrid Laurier) say the principle of lottery is involved.
    • "SIR WILFRID LAURIER: It induces people to pay money with the prospect of a chance to draw a prize.'