They Giveth, and They Taketh Away

Starbucks Rewards animation

Frame from the Starbucks Rewards animation

Earlier this month, coinciding with the end of “The Holidays”, the good people at Starbucks completely revamped their Starbucks Card Rewards. For some time now, in return for paying with a Starbucks Card — and so presumably speeding up the process as well as giving them money up-front —  you were “rewarded”. These rewards took the form of things like a free extra shot, free syrups, or soy milk with the extra charge waived. Also, for people like me who drink freshly brewed coffee rather than espresso based drinks, the reward was a rather generous 50p discount.

The new system is a true loyalty programme in that for each transaction (not each drink you buy, each transaction) you earn a “star”. Get 15 stars and you are rewarded with a complimentary tall beverage.

With the new system, existing cardholders such as myself have been automatically given “Gold” status in the new rewards scheme. Mere mortals who get a Starbucks card from now on will have to use it 50 times to get Gold (as I will in a year to keep Gold). The perk of having Gold is that you are given extra rewards, such as  a free extra shot, free syrups, or soy milk with the extra charge waived. Sound familiar?

Except that anyone who drinks good old fashioned black coffee gets rock all.

So by paying £7.50 more than I used to, I get a “free” drink worth £1.10. Wow, thanks Starbucks. That’s loyalty for ya.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the 50p discount was not only very generous, but also had to be unsustainable. I just think there is a middle ground in truly rewarding repeat customers. Even at McDonalds  it only takes SIX coffees for a freebie (Ssssh! Don’t tell anyone I drink McDonald’s coffee!).

So that’s the taking away. What Starbucks have given is a refreshed iPhone App, the killer feature being able to pay with the phone… the future has arrived.

By signing in to the App, all the Starbucks cards I’ve ever registered (complete with the not-quite-paltry sums I’ve allowed to lie dormant on some of them) are available to use at the cash register, despite the fact the cards themselves are completely lost somewhere at home**. Tapping “Touch to Pay” brings up a barcode representation of the card which you wave under the  scanner and you’re good to go.

Actually, the first time I used it, the Barista had to take the phone off me and wave it several times under the scanner before it worked, but I put that down to teething trouble. That said, it didn’t seem to have been the first time this particular Barista had accepted payment this way as she was totally unfazed by it. A colleague, however was, as they asked me what App was needed to do it. On hearing my reply a third Barista was amazed; “You mean there’s a Starbucks App? That’s great“. Maybe a bit of internal communication needed Starbucks?

So that’s the Good and the Bad. I’ve emailed Starbucks to moan, er, observe, about the Bad (with my suggestion to make it better), and as far as the Good is concerned, well, they get this blog post!



** – And by completely lost somewhere at home, I of course mean neatly preserved in my extensive collection of Starbucks cards from around the world!

Tagged ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: