Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Starbucks Pisses Me Off [and is forgiven]

I have been a VERY loyal Starbucks customer for many years, as anyone who knows me will attest. I say good things about them.  I am a brand ambassador for them.  I go to Starbucks every day, though I took a few months off for health reasons at the end of last year.

My drink for the past couple of years has been a "triple short no-whip mocha" which seems to fall into the cracks of their policies, because I like a small amount of milk, but it costs as much as a Venti with 3 shots.  I pay $4.65 for an 8-ounce coffee drink.  Every day.  By conservative estimate, I spend about $1500/year at Starbucks.

But that's not what I'm pissed about.  That's just background.

A few years back, I bought a Gold Card when they cost $25.  It gave me a 10% discount on all purchases.  I loved it.

Since then, I've watched as they changed the "rewards program" to reward me less and less for my loyalty.  First they got rid of the 10% discount in favor of a free drink every time you bought 10 drinks, but they mailed you a post card to redeem to freebie, knowing that few people would get it together to redeem the post cards. Then it was 12 drinks, now I think it is up to 13 drinks.  But it gets worse.

There now is some kind of minimum threshold you have to meet to maintain "gold status", which is 30 stars within some time frame.  As if somehow I am no longer a "gold customer", which by most retail standards I certainly am.  They have my history in their little computers, since I always use my card (now the app) for my purchases.

Here's what pisses me off.  Yesterday I was getting close to a free drink, I noticed in the little app.  Two more stars to go.  Woo hoo!  Today I bought a $4.65 mocha, a panini sandwich, and a water, and used my app to pay....

I got an incredibly unfriendly alert that popped up and said, "You have failed to meet the minimum criteria to maintain membership.  Your reward stars have been reset to 0."

I stared at it in disbelief.  This is how they reward their best customers!  Gamification is one thing, but actually penalizing me for not earning 30 stars in some arbitrary amount of time -- and how exactly am I supposed to do that if you reset my count to 0?

This is appalling to me, and actually made me upset, right there at the cash register.  I got totally, completely pissed off at Starbucks, and vowed to boycott them.

Is that what you want with your "Rewards" program, Starbucks?  To piss off one of your best customers with your little star program, to the point where he doesn't want to come back into your stores, and will be considering Peet's or some other worthy competitor from now on?

Congratulations to your brain-dead rewards marketing team for totally screwing up what once really did feel like a "gold" program, and made me happy to buy coffee at absurdly inflated prices.  No more.  No more.

[Epilogue/update: 5/2/13]

A friend happened to post something on Starbucks wall at almost the same time yesterday that I posted this, complaining in almost the same way about no longer wanting to remain loyal to Starbucks.  I put a comment on her post, mentioning this blog entry.  I think a Starbucks employee must have read my comment, and this blog post, because I got the below email today.  I am undecided whether or not this suggests great customer service and I am happy again (a possibility) or whether it is impersonal (no actual contact from customer service, just this email) and lame and would not have happened had I not complained publicly.  Whether or not I am Gold is somewhat beside the point -- they need to seriously revisit the reward system because it is not, in fact, set up to reward actual loyal customers; it's more like a video game where you can periodically get a "game over" screen and have to replay the whole level.  Who wants that in a coffee rewards system?

My Starbucks Rewards? Rewards Status Check Balance Reload a Card Send an eGift
Here's to another glowing year at Gold. Raise a mug to celebrate.
Thanks for staying. The 30 Stars you earned keeps you at the Gold level another year. Here's to another year of rewards galore.

You're on a roll, so keep earning those Stars. Another 30 within a year keeps you at Gold level for yet another year. We're hoping this will be a happily ever after type of thing.

[Epilogue/update: 5/22/13]

I've decided I forgive Starbucks, and have reloaded my card twice since posting this article.  The baristas are great, and overall it's a great company.


John said...

I switch to high and third wave coffee at home with an aeropress and never looked back. It's less expensive than Starbucks and way better.

John said...
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