Starbucks Changes the Game of Rewards

As a public relations student I am continuously striving to stay current with news. Even when there is no time to grocery shop, a journalist must always know what it happening in the world. This week, Kathryn gave us prompts to write about for our blog posts. As a coffee connoisseur, the topic that caught my eye was Starbucks recent change in the beloved rewards program. The article posted by the New York Times, Free Coffee? Starbucks Saves Its Loyalty for Big Spenders, inspired my question: what is in it for the tall medium roast coffee drinker?

Since the initiation of the Starbucks rewards program customers have happily counted their gold stars until they reach 12. And at that point they then receive a free drink. Starbucks wants to see its loyal customers; not just the ones who generate the most profit. Now, Starbucks is changing the game. On Feb. 22 Starbucks announced that beginning in April they will be transiting to a rewards system based on dollars spent rather than times visited. Customers are unhappy with the misleading justifications of this rewards program overhaul.

The company states the initial goal of the rewards system back in 2012 on the Starbucks Idea blog.  “At Starbucks, our rewards program comes from a different philosophy,” the marketing manager Justin Tidmarsh wrote, explaining why the company does not give more stars for buying more items per transaction. “At its simplest, we like seeing you, regardless of whether your purchase is a short-brewed coffee or four Venti White Chocolate Mochas. My Starbucks Rewards is designed to show our appreciation simply for stopping by.”

So why did Starbucks change the system? According to Fortune, Starbucks officials say that this new system will decrease the lines. Customers have been requesting cashiers to ring their items up separately in order to get more stars ( one star per item purchased). Now, you'll get two stars per dollar spent. For customers who purchase deluxe drinks that are priced at around $5 the time it takes to get a free drink is roughly the same, about 15 drinks. However, for the customers who order small house coffee it will take significantly longer. A free drink will be granted after 125 points are achieved, which comes out to be about $62. Customers asked for more stars and Starbucks certainly delivered – at the customers expense. Here are a few customer reactions to the change. 

Of course not all comments were negative. Some opposing customers said they liked the idea of more stars and that it never made sense to get one star when they bought several drinks. Starbucks insists this change will increase value to the rewards program.