Taking on Starbucks and their wooly FAQ

I’m not the world’s biggest coffee drinker. I like White Chocolate Mocha, when it’s done properly and stirred before the milk is added. I also like technology, so when Starbucks came up with an app to pay for your coffee, by scanning your barcode on your iPhone I was right there at the front of the queue.

However, Starbucks decided to add some reward levels to this new payment method to reward it’s loyal customers how top up their cards/app and therefore gift Starbucks their money before they need to spend it. It’s like a savings account with no interest but coffee as your only form of withdraw.

When they instigated this Green and Gold level of reward, they gifted the Gold level to anyone who had an account for the first year. To maintain your gold level you have to get 50 stars (1 star = 1 transaction) before your gold level anniversary date.

I missed the 50 transactions but the anniversary date (I had 35 stars) and I got dropped, quite rightly, back down to green level. I am not complaining about that at all. I think it’s right and proper that people who spend lots of money in Starbucks get rewarded for their loyalty to the brand. What I do have a problem with is that on my anniversary date I lost all my transaction stars too. Even more galling is that in the FAQ in the iPhone app (v 2.5.3) it states the following:

Do my Stars expire?
Your Stars will remain on your account as long as you have any activity in the past two years. However, if you do not qualify for the Gold level again by your anniversary date (the date you qualified for the Gold level), your Stars will no longer be applied toward helping you earn free drinks, but they will count toward helping you re-qualify for the Gold level.

So this is a bit different to the experience I have seen in my app.
On the phone to Starbucks customer care and they said that I have experienced what they expect to happen. What? Really? You expect customers to work towards a goal and then have it all taken away from them if they don’t make it.

Sure I can earn another 50 Stars to get me back to Gold level, but the 35 I had are gone?
How on earth is that good customer service. It’s a smack in teeth to anyone who is anywhere near the 50 transaction limit. I bet there will be a lot of pissed off people who have 45+ Stars on their account and have seen them wiped out overnight.

What is more troubling is that when I called to ask what’s happening, the member of staff I spoke to, did not have access to the iPhone app, or even the contents of it in a reference book. I’ve had to send in screen shots of my phone to show them what their FAQ says.

Just one more thing. The website has different wording to the iPhone app and even that is not clear if the Stars expire or not. I’m no legal expert, but this clearly does not say one way or the other what happens to your Stars.

Do my Stars expire?
If you are Green level your stars will remain on your account as long
as you have any activity in the past two years.  However, if you are
Gold level and you do not qualify for the Gold level again by your
anniversary date (12 months after the date you qualified for Gold
level), you will revert to the Green level. If you earn 50 stars again
within 12 months you’ll move from Green right back to Gold. This does
not affect the stars you are collecting for your free beverage, which
keep adding up until you get your next free beverage.

So I wait for Starbucks to come back to me and tell me what they are prepared to do about this little disturbance in the space-time continuum. I’ll keep you posted.