Starbucks facing massive backlash over rewards

starbucks public relations

Starbucks managed to slide through the Red Christmas Cup “Nontroversy” with ease, as most consumers and coffee fans realized it was cup ado about nothing. But now there’s news that has Starbucks fans legitimately upset.

The company recently announced it would be changing its rewards program, a move that has its caffeinated fans in a tizzy. Until April, patrons in the program receive one “star” per visit. Now, patrons will receive two stars for each dollar spent. Sounds great, right … especially since each visit likely earns you, at least, four stars.

Well, here’s where the other shoe drops. Starbucks is changing how the points or perks are tabulated. Before the change customers received “gold” status once they earned 30 stars. Basically, go to S-bux 30 times and you’re, at least in this respect, golden.

What’s so special about that? Well, gold members get free stuff after they earn 12 more stars. So, go to Starbucks 30 times plus 12 and you get free stuff. Simple right?

Well, not anymore. Now customers will need a whopping 300 stars ($150 in spending) to reach gold status. To actually achieve anything with that status, customers will have to spend another $60 or more for EACH FREE ITEM.

For folks who drop $5 each visit, they can go 30 times and still get paid. Well, qualify to earn the opportunity to get free stuff, anyway. Customers who just come by for a quick cup of Joe will have to come A LOT more often to earn the chance to begin working toward free stuff.

Doesn’t sound like much of a rewards program now, does it? Nope. And customers agree. Just ask Twitter. The tweet rage has been phenomenal. Folks REALLY hate the new rules, and they’re not at all shy about letting Starbucks know all about their feelings on the matter.

In response, Starbucks doubled down, telling aggrieved customers the decision was based on their requests for a spending-based incentive plan. In effect, Starbucks is telling their customers: You’re unhappy? Well, be careful what you wish for … because we’ll give it to you.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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