I like Starbucks.
I like their coffee. It’s not for everyone, as it tends to be a bit stronger than other coffees. I like the medium brews in the morning, like Kenya or Guatemala Antigua. The bolder beans — such as Sumatra — are my afternoon choice. My all-time favorite is Ethopian Sidamo.
I like the Starbucks vibe as well. Cool, relaxed. The baristas are always friendly and try to accommodate you in any way they can. If you stick around and enjoy the comfy couches or chairs, you can enjoy the free wifi and hipster music.
It was after experiencing a French press at Starbucks that I got one of my own. And a grinder. And I began purchasing bags of whole beans — Starbucks, of course — so I could have it at home.
Like many, we joke about St.Arbucks and how much we like to go there.
In 2007 I registered my first gift card with Starbucks. At some point I got a gold card (cue angel music). Eventually I got the iPhone SB app and kept track of my purchases through the app, so I didn’t have to carry the actual gold card. My gold card was good for tiny perks and savings, nothing big. My gold status remained intact until last month.
You would think after 5 years I would know how the gold card and rewards worked. I didn’t.
I always thought that the rewards were based on how much your purchased. You know, for every so many $, you receive a star. (Starbucks rewards are based on a star system. So many stars earn you a free drink. You have to earn enough stars to retain your gold card status.)
My understanding of the reward system was incorrect. It doesn’t matter how much you purchase, just how often. Every purchase earns a star, whether you buy a $15 bag of coffee or a $2 tiny cup of coffee.
In the past, whenever you earned enough reward for a free drink, a delightful post card would arrive in the mail, showing your reward and the expiration date of the reward. At some point, this system changed. In October I received a notice on my phone that I had earned a free drink. I didn’t pay much attention to it, because I expected the customary postcard in the mail to remind me. It never came. Then in November, I remembered — ooh! I have a free drink! Unfortunately, the reward had already expired.
It was about that time that I happened to notice that my time to achieve the required level to retain my gold card status was running out.
I live far enough away from the nearest store, and the drinks are expensive enough, that I didn’t worry about it. Well, I thought, if I don’t make it by the deadline, no big deal. I still have enough stars that regaining my gold card won’t take that long.
Wrong again. Once the deadline passed, not only was I demoted to a “green card” (Really? Now I’m not even a full citizen?), but I lost all my accumulated stars as well. Back to 0.
Bad policy, SB.
I like Starbucks, but, as I said, it’s expensive. Over $2 for a not-very-grande coffee? McDonalds is currently $1 for any size. And I don’t have to have a gold card for free refills.
And, no, it’s not always the best tasting coffee. Sidamo is still #1, but if I could get a bag of McDonalds coffee, I’d be very happy. Dunkin Donuts brand is good as a change-up.
All the fancy drinks? They’re good, but special occasion only for me. Not only expensive, but fattening, too. (Plus, I now have my own frappe-maker at home.)
Will I be going back to SB? Sure. Hopefully Christmas will bring some gift cards (hint), and I still have a small balance on my gol—er, green card.
But will I go out of my way to go there? No.
St. Arbucks? Hardly. Not after I got excommunicated.
[UPDATE, December 18, 5:10 p.m.
Before I posted the story above, I sent an email to Starbucks customer service. In part, here is their response…
We’re delighted you contacted us. I apologize this wasn’t made very clear when we made the change. We have had plenty of people having the same problem. I hope it turns out to be a positive change that works out better for you.
I did re add your missed reward. Please allow 24 hours for it to show up and keep in mind it will expire after 30 days if not used.
Some of our customers ask the baristas to make separate orders so the can acquire more stars at once.
If 30 purchases are not made within one year of turning gold, your stars will expire and the status of your account will reset. On November 22nd, 2012 your historical star count reset to zero. I reviewed your account and you were at 27 stars on November 21st. I went ahead and reinstated your gold account as a one time customer service gesture. As of now your new Gold membership date has changed, so you will have to acquire 30 stars by December 16, 2013…
The customer service representative went on to explain some of the changes that have been made to their program, both the positives (lowering the amount of stars needed for a reward drink and including both drinks and food as a reward) and the negatives (the elimination of free syrups, etc.).
The bottom line for me is this: I’m gold again! Even more importantly, a very large company showed exemplary customer service for a problem which wasn’t really their fault.
Well done, Starbucks.