Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Starbucks Rewards Official Mailing

The details of this plan had been a bit dodgy for awhile, but I now have the official mailing to confirm all of the changes to what tries to be a customer loyalty program.

The similarities are the birthday drink, the 2-hour WiFi, and "offers and coupons." I don't remember free soy milk, but I might be wrong. The big difference is the loss of 10% off all food and drink. I don't like this and I'll explain why.

The Gold Card cost $25, which means that to pay it off, I'd have to spend $250. For a heavy Starbucks user, let's assume a drink and sandwich per day. For the drink, we'll put it right in the middle, the $3.10 grande latte. For the sandwich, the $3.25 artisan roll sandwich. That's $6.35 per day, and let's say three times per week. That's $18.05 per week. 52 weeks in a year puts total cost at $938.60. So we lop $93.86 off the cost, subtract $25, and we're left with $68.86 in savings. For a heavy Starbuck's user, that's a good deal. And if you use it for groups, offices, friends, or just a quick dinner, the discount piles up. In 2009, I estimate that I saved over $250.

Let's look over the details:
  • The "exclusive offers" and such amounts to very little.

  • The free drink with coffee is good, but if you're drinking that much at home, you don't spend a lot of time at cafes, and for real coffee fans like me, they already get their beans locally.

  • I couldn't care less about soy milk (but I would like some free fucking extra shots!)

  • Free re-fills are decent

  • The two hours of WiFi is a continuing example of Starbucks' cluelessness

  • The free drink every 15 stars doesn't come close to matching the 10% discount when its applied to food and drink.

I can understand some of the motivations behind this. Starbucks doesn't want to cut too deeply into margins of heavy users, their profit base, and wants to find a way to involve lighter users for whom the Gold Card made no financial sense. Still, taking value away from the big fans is a bad way to go about this. Instead, they should have found a way to increase value for light users while leaving heavy users alone.

UPDATE 2/12/2010: As if this silly program didn't have enough people annoyed with it, I have just been informed by a Starbucks barista that to get the discounts associated with the card, you must pay with the card. As in, you must either associate a credit card with it or charge the card with cash at the register.

First off, I just want to say that I liked my old Gold card. I also didn't mind this card, even though I preferred it before. I now hate this card. In the previous system, Starbucks had two cards. You could buy the Gold card, or you could register a gift card as a "Starbucks Card," or something along those lines. Each card had different benefits. Before the Gold Card came out, I had one of those cards. It was incredibly annoying because I had to pay with the card to get the benefits of free extra shots and free syrup.

This resulted in the laughably stupid situation where I had to first give cash to the cashier, have them put it on the card, and then pay with the card. Or, if I had $10 on the card and didn't want to go through that whole rigmarole, I restricted myself to a $10 visit.

Why didn't I just associate a credit card with it? Because I didn't want to. If Starbucks is all about choice, why make that choice so problematic? I simply don't like spreading my credit cards about. I have it associated with an Amazon account, and that's it. It's not being paranoid, it's simply being prudent with potentially valuable data.

So now, here we are. Back again to the situation that was supposedly fixed last time. I have this ridiculous middle-man between me and my purchase. Frankly, I'm probably just going to stop bothering. It's just not worth the trouble.

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