Thanks for Nothing, Starbucks: April 2016 Starbucks Rewards Program Changes

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This just in: Starbucks is going to start ripping off their loyal customers even more than they already do. If you follow my blog, or know me in real life, you know that I am a Starbucks lover/former barista. With that being said, I am not above calling the company out when they try to pull a fast one on their customers. I also must add that I understand and acknowledge that Starbucks charges way too much for their coffee. Starting in April, Starbucks will be changing their rewards program, My Starbucks Rewards. This is the second time they have changed it since it started in 2009.

I’m going to assume that if you are reading this, you are either a Starbucks partner or a Gold Card Holder. If not, you can familiarize yourself with the current rewards program. In the current program, Gold Card holders receive 1 star per Starbucks purchase. Beginning in April, customers will earn 2 stars for every $1 spent at Starbucks. At first one may think, “Awesome! I will be earning free rewards faster than ever!” But you’re wrong. You now have to earn 125 stars to gain 1 free reward, instead of the previous 12 stars. To keep their Gold Card status, members  will also have to earn 300 stars per year, instead of the previous 30 stars. Starbucks claims that the average Starbucks customer will earn free rewards (1 food item or drink) at the same speed as they do now, maybe even faster. They also claim that a small margin of people will earn rewards a lot faster and a small margin of customers will earn rewards at a slower pace. (via Starbucks) I will be in the latter category and will be earning rewards at a slower pace. How you ask? Let me explain.

In April, you will need to earn 125 stars to get a free drink. If you only spend $2-$3 per visit then you will have to visit 20-30 times (as opposed to the 12 visits required for a free drink/food item in the current program) before you earn one free drink/food item. Which means you will be getting fewer free drinks/food items per year. I know there are a ton of people spending more than $2-$3 per visit, but there are also ton that aren’t. Those people that are just picking up a hot/iced coffee or an hot/iced tea are going to be pissed. You know why I don’t spend more? Because I worked there for 4 1/2 years. Yes,  I am a Starbucks drinker for life, but that doesn’t mean I am going to blow hundreds of dollars a month there.There’s more…

Currently, you have to visit Starbucks 30 times per year to keep your Starbucks Gold Card status (earn 30 stars.) Let’s just say I spend about $3 every time I visit because I usually just buy a Grande Black Tea Lemonade (or a Grande Vanilla Iced Coffee.) Prices vary from location to location, making my drink, on average, $3. With that being said, I have to spend ,at a minimum, $90 at Starbucks, per year, to stay a Gold Card member. I won’t lie, I’ll buy an occasional pasty/hot bar beverage, but usually I save those items for rewards redemption.

With the new program,  which starts in April, you have to earn 300 stars to stay a Gold Card holder each year. That means, with the new program, I will have to spend $150 a year. I will elaborate. If I earn 2 stars per every $1 spent and spend about $3 each visit that means I will get 6 stars per visit. This will make my total visits per year 50 instead of 30 since I have to earn 300 stars instead of 30. Granted, there will be “special” double star days, but I can’t guarantee that I will go to any of those. Therefore, Starbucks is “making” me enter their store 20 additional times per year so that I can keep my Gold Card status. I’m not great a math, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to be able to figure out the logistics.

Long story short, to customers who are not going every single day, like myself, will not be gaining anything from this new “and improved” rewards program. They will be losing. Starbucks is going to be rewarding those who go to Starbucks every single day and spend more than $5 per visit. These people exist, I promise you. Starbucks wants this new rewards program to encourage more customers to register their Starbucks card, which is all you have to do to start earning rewards. Starbucks “claims” that this is what the customer wanted: to earn more stars per visit. And that is very, very true. What Starbucks fails to mention is that customers really want to earn more stars in regards to how many items they purchase per visit not by how much money they spend.

If I buy a drink and a food item, I want two stars. Currently, you can ask your barista to ring your two items up separately. It is really annoying and holds up a line, but they have to say yes. Honestly, I used to tell people no (I don’t work there anymore so I can admit this.) This new program will eliminate that option. It is a win-win for Starbucks. People are spending more money because they think they are earning stars at a faster rate and they can’t separate their order which will decrease line delays, especially in the drive-thru. The customers Starbucks claims they are trying to attract are already rewards customers, I can almost guarantee that. Most people who go to Starbucks every day (sometimes multiple times a day) register their Starbucks card and have it on their phone.

Phew, if you made it through my whole rant, kudos to you. I feel passionate about the company and I take it personally when they make decisions that are not for the best interest of their customers but make it sound like they are. Heck, I’m still pissed that they removed the free syrup benefit from the rewards program a few years ago. (Although I do understand that they may have been losing money because of this.) The new changes do not make any sense. I wish I could say I’m going to stop going to Starbucks and buying their coffee. But I won’t lie. I also know that Starbucks doesn’t HAVE to offer a rewards program. But if they want to continue to offer rewards and “better” the program, then they have to actually make it better and stop lying about it. As you can tell, their new changes will not be making it better for the majority of customers. I also highly doubt it will encourage more people to sign up. I can’t even imagine a Barista trying to explain the new program to a Starbucks gift card user, new or old. How do you even spin it to make it positive? This is what is going to slow down lines, not ringing items up separately.

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You can read more about the Starbucks reward program here (official Starbucks rewards information.)

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