Tough Customer

The Public Is Scandalized by Starbucks’s New Rewards Program

Only 30 more visits to go for that freebie.
Only 30 more visits to go for that freebie. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Starbucks has upset an impressive number of people this week: Italians are busy comparing the chain’s imminent arrival to the Apocalypse, and now a survey shows U.S. sentiment toward the chain is seriously cooling in the aftermath of the decision to make its popular My Starbucks Rewards program way less rewarding. A YouGov poll of recent customers shows that just eight days after it said free drinks moving forward would be based on dollars spent instead of number of visits, Starbucks’s so-called “Buzz” score slid to 29, from a near-high of 60 before the announcement. Some customers have even hinted at the possibility of defecting: Among those who visited in the last 30 days, the number who say they plan to make their next coffee purchase at Starbucks dropped by 9 points, from 80 percent to 71 percent.Starbucks had said the change was the No. 1 request from customers, but the company may have drastically underestimated the loyal cheapskates in its midst. Reward-program members — arguably Starbucks’s most valuable customers — lashed out immediately to the news, complaining about how they’ll now have to spend $62.50 to get that free triple Venti latte, as opposed to just ordering a cheap tall coffee a dozen times.

A Starbucks rep implied they aren’t so sure people should trust YouGov, incidentally one of the few outfits to nail Obama’s share of the 2012 presidential vote. “While we cannot speak to the leading methodology of the survey, I can confirm that we have seen an increase in new member acquisition since we announced the updates to our Starbucks loyalty program last week,” she tells CNBC.


Starbucks’ New Rewards Program Is a Debacle