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October 19, 2011


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I am staggered they'd do a program refresh like this but still insist on using the ink, paper and shipping costs to mail out these free drink certificates. How these free drink offers are not linked to the cards themselves is beyond me, especially since they're reducing the amount of time in which you can redeem the postcards... it's as if (gasp) they don't want you to redeem the free drinks.

Jim Romenesko

I agree -- they could easily credit the cards, but that would result in a 100% redeem rate, which SBUX doesn't want.

Jeff Tom


Agreed, but this is also an Accounting issue. Drinks do not cost the same in all markets, and there is no guarantee as to where a person may redeem said coupon. I travel a lot, so I earn my stars all over the place, and redeem them all over the place.

It is a silly tax issue that SB could resolve by either making all drinks the same in all markets or.... updating the system so that a drink has a default value of X regardless of market price.

Since SB's system does not do this last part it would actually be (ridiculously) expensive to modify how the system to accomodate this, as would it be Corporate's ERP (accounting package) to account for it.

livin' la VIA loca

I'm so sure this will not work at the store level...the "just say yes" policy will prevail. We already have Gold card customers coming in with expired postcards for free sample of petities, oatmeal that "demand" their freebie and we write off the product to keep them happy. Plus the Birthday/Free Star postcards don't come with specific codes that when entered in the register are denied b/c they are expired- they are generic. So relax, you'll still get your free drink...


Beforehand the coupons had an expiration date, but the discount code we punched in was still the same, so you could still use the coupon long past the expiration date. How are they changing the ringing procedure? Is there going to be a barcode?

I did not receive my birthday card this year or last year. I should probably call and check on that.


Yes there is a cost associated with sending those postcards and it may be more efficient to attach the reward to someone's Gold Card, but there's two things in play:

1.) The tactile experience of receiving a gift card printed on a premium paper stock.

2.) The possibility (even before the reboot) that you'd lose or forget about the card. If you lose the card, Starbucks benefits from #1, ends up spending nothing on a drink and you blame yourself for losing it. Total win for them.


Except, um, no. That's not how Gold status works; in no way is Gold status connected to any card - it is connected to your online account which can have any card associated with it. For example, I use my product(RED) card and receive Gold status benefits.

"Are all Starbucks Cards eligible for My Starbucks Rewards benefits?
All registered Starbucks Cards are eligible. This includes customized Starbucks Cards and mini Starbucks Cards. Cards purchased or registered outside of the United States and Canada will not earn Stars or My Starbucks Rewards benefits. "


That comment was directed at @Mark and partially to @livin' la VIA loca, whose posts hinted at misconception of the program ("Gold card customers" and "card," respectfully).


@Jeff Tom,
I am pretty sure that it is not an accounting issue. You are only taxed on the cost of the beverage. The coupon code reduces the cost of the beverage to zero dollars and zero cents. No tax must be paid on the beverage as there was no monetary transaction.


Free drink coupons that don't have expiration dates cost the company more than coupons that expire in 30 days. Think about airline frequent flyer miles and how they now expire in a year.

Starbucks has to record a liability for unused free drink coupons and that liability is much lower if the coupons expire in 30 days.

I <3 music

Just saying yes to an expired coupon is what we do. Its not a big deal in the big picture. Sbux makes plenty on the mark up per transaction. If you spread the actual cost of one drink (no matter what drink really) over what sbux makes on their way to a free drink its not much. Sbux also makes money off of all that cash loaded on cards. We collect on that being in our account.

Most important you can't put a price on loyalty and making those costumers happy.


As I see it, and I am a loyal customer, if the drinks continue to be inconsistent in quality the way they have been in the past year, it won't matter what rewards they have. Baristas are not being properly trained and the drinks have been quite horrid at my local Starbucks. I think every one there is a hard worker and friendly, but something is wrong in the training. There has been huge turnover as well. Point? Worry less about reward expiration and more about drink quality.


It's not a change, they are just making sure everyone is one the same page to enforce it.


@sadsipper that would be a your cafe issue, as that's not true everywhere.


Yes, it is partly REVENUE RECOGNITION but at the same time it IS over levering the statistical model the a certain percentage of physical coupons go UNUSED and if you shorten the redemption period an overwhelming MAJORITY go unused. I find it ridiculous that the company can pour capital/resources into the mobile apps, but they can't simply put the free drink credit on the APP? Why not? Because THAT would make it too easy to redeem and redemption rates would increase and therefore there would be lost revenue/opportunity costs. I swear, it gets worse everyday. I'm pretty much about to either move to Peets or abandon coffee alltogehter


I'll be honest... I never check the expiration dates on these. I just make the drink regardless.


@Waltie, and all other level-headed partners who know how to treat customers, you are right. JSY will prevail. I take any coupon someone gives me. Grocery store for 1.50 off a pound of coffee, expired coupons, someone wants a venti drip instead of the tall from the CPG whole bean bags from the grocery store? Yes yes yes. They'll be back. And they won't badmouth my store for saying no. If you're an SM and you've seen your targets for FY12 you know you need all the positive advertising you can get.


One other thought...true, the initial thought behind this move MAY be financially motivated, i.e., to decrease the amount of redeemed coupons or to reduce the amount of targeted/acceptable discount dollars on a store's P/L, but. However, a possible unintended (or perhaps intended, though I highly doubt it) consequence is that it will allow us to exceed a customer's expectation more often. "Oh, this is expired. You probably can't take it can you?" "WELL SURE WE CAN!!! NO PROBLEM!! AND HERE'S A SAMPLE AND A CAKE POP AND WOULD YOU LIKE A SANDWICH THANK YOU VERY MUCH??!"


While I do understand why Sbux has refreshed their coupon policy, something tells me the company is just scared to say the words " we are phasing out the 'just say yes' policy". I have seen the JSY policy abused so many times over the years, it's unreal!! I don't think this new coupon policy will help much.


All things considered, this "new" policy means nothing, since I'd be willing to bet that most partners don't look at the expiration dates anyway. I wonder if customers even know these things expire.

Georgia Latte

It's been proven that customers associate more "value" to a rewards program when they receive coupons for items rather than just a credit on their cards. I wrote a paper in college on loyatly programs.

I know many customers get excited about getting their "cards" in the mail.


I admit that I will always honor whatever card someone gives me. It isn't work the irritation not to. Also I don't care about the "wasted paper." Coupons are fun. Get over it.


As a previous poster noted above, with our new targets, those of you complaining about the JSY policy better get with the program. If not I suggest you start looking for a new job.


So long as the discount code works, just say yes.


Actually I have never seen an "expiration date" on a post card, just an "enjoy by" date. I'm more than happy to not enjoy my daily caffeine after the date. I think of that date as a suggestion, not an invalidation date. I also don't like the idea of bringing in a post card with my home address on it, and that date is right above the address. *snip snip*

James Connolly

I can count on one hand the number of times I've looked at the date on the card. It's really not that big of a deal.


@sbuxchick I just had a second month barista tell me the same thing about training or rather the lack of in the company. "Throw you to sink or swim". When I was trained in 2007, a trainee spent their first 7 four hour shifts in training with a trainer on a position. Now they are the opener or closer on their 3rd day making the same tip rate as all the others that work there. Do they know enough about it all on the 3rd day? Not bloody likely. I'm sure not every new employee is trained exactly the same, but training hours were taken away long ago, never to return. This is what comes from the result of less costly training, a cheapened product, but that's the point of bottom line capitalism, the cheapest cost.
The epiphany especially shows when a former customer becomes an employee and realizes that it's not just about a cup of coffee anymore. There are 100,000 combinations to Starbucks beverages, if anyone thinks they can just jump in and easily do the job, I'd pay to see it, talk about a train wreck in action.

@gc (green cup) just because I know your going to weigh in on this, don't bother.

Halloween Is For Adults

Oh, PLEASE - anyone crying "I don't want to receive a postcard in the mail! I want it credited on my card! I want convenience! Waaahh!!!" is a WIMP.

Are people that sissified that they can't get their mail and hang onto a card? Unbelievable.

I like the cards. They're a nice thing to get in the mail.

Also, every time I've handed over the card for redemption, the barista has NEVER stopped to look at the expiry.


Is this really such a big issue? I don't think the typical customer is going to cause a big scene over the card having an expiration date and if they do JSY...if they are getting the cards they are loyal customers who support the program and give us job security.....I just wish the reward stars were given per drink and not transaction to avoid people having you do separate transactions for same order....but then again, I guess that makes our numbers better, right? Geez....there will be hitches no matter what.:)


It seems like training is worse in the US or something. I'm a new partner in Canada and all of us had proper real training for crafting beverages.

Come to Canada Starbucks customers; our drinks up here are consistent. xD

Halloween Is For Adults

Can the barista refuse to ring up items separately on a star card? I intentionally ask them to ring up my drink, and if I get one, a scone separately to make my star total go faster. Do baristas care if you do that?


As long as there's not a long line of people behind you, I've never had a problem with people requesting separate transactions. Even if there is a long line, JSY, but you might be complained about later, depending on what other shenanigans customers pull. 30 extra seconds isn't that big a dig deal in the grand scheme of things, so unless you're rude about it, I doubt most baristas will mind.

Halloween Is For Adults

Thanks, Jazzhands for the info.

It actually didn't even occur to me to do that until one recent visit and the barista asked if I wanted each item at the time rung up separately (as she said with a wink). I said hell yes!

Coffee Drinker

re "Are people that sissified that they can't get their mail and hang onto a card? Unbelievable."

Yes, I am that sissified. I'm traveling and my mail doesn't come directly to me. I have then pay to have it forwarded.

Am I supposed to now pay overnight shipping charges so Starbucks can reach me before they expire?

Oh wait...Starbucks owes me at least 3 coupon cards right now; they run 6 - months behind...that is, until I call them. Then they apologize and remember I've been a customer for 30 years.

But that's just me. ; )

I'm sure everyone else is at home with the parents or rooommates or spouse and someone is there to wait by the mail every day to ensure they get the cards on time.

And let's not forget those folks in wheel chairs, the disabled, those in the hospital, perhaps even in hospice. You see, it's not really that simple for everyone to just stroll on out every day and get the mail.


I usually look at the expiration date, and then promptly ignore it. My job is stressful enough. Anytime I can not only avoid stress, but have a customer leave smiling and guranteed to have a positive experience, I'll do it. That also goes for customer voice receipts that used to say "free tall beverage" (I think in spanish it still does)...if I know the customer is going to give me a good score, I'll damn sure give them a venti if that's what they want.

Halloween Is For Adults

@Coffee Drinker:

What a silly response from you.

You also forgot to mention all the agoraphobes and people who live in fear that there are evil spirits living in the mailbox.


regardless of whether or not the barista looks at the date and denys the drink, from an ACCOUNTING standpoint starbuxs can reduce the carried liability from a revenue recognition standpoint and increase earnings faster. It makes money sense.

Coffee Drinker

Dear Halloween,
There was a time when I could not go to my mailbox; then I could barely make it on crutches. Not everyone lives at home with mommy, who brings in their mail and buys their food.

My intelligent reply makes sense to those who think outside the mailbox.

Thanks for the reminder of agoraphobes, I've never been that way but I hear some are and they wander the internet as trolls. If that helps them feel better, I'm all for it.

Meanwhile, Starbucks needs to realize that not everyone has access to a mailbox at all, and for others it's difficult. Some folks live in rural areas...one could go on all day.

The cards are fine for those in busy urban areas with reliable mail service and honest mail couriers, for people who are always home and have time to dig through all their junk mail every day...I say put the freebie on the card, use of which is what generated it in the first place...and be done with it.

This the last silliness I've to say on the issue.

Coffee Drinker

Thank you to all the baristas who allow use of the card despite the so-called expiration date.

When I travel my mail gets held up, or forwarded. More ways for it to be lost, not delivered, stolen, and delayed.

In the past I was in the hospital several weeks, another time burying my mother...these are times when a "free" coupon to Starbucks is so welcoming, but would be expired after I returned; so again, thank you for "just saying yes" and not giving people a hard time. None of us know what our baristas and customers have been going through.

I like that Starbucks "yes" sees the best in people ; )
I find the coupon good for Starbucks because I use it to try new drinks; if I don't care for them I still by my bold drip.

I used my birthday coupon for the Salty Caramel thing, not usually liking sweet drinks but they gave me a sample. It was truly one of the best desserts I've ever had, anywhere! The pumpkin spice last year didn't do it for me; the Salty Caramel I'd buy even over my once-a-year eggnog latte!

Halloween Is For Adults

@ Coffee Drinker:

Could you make any less sense with each (eyes rolling) "intelligent reply" from you?

It's safe to say that most people who have the star card also use credit cards to reload them. And guess what you have to have in order to have said credit card: that's right, a mailing address - so don't give us this nonsense about Starbucks customers not having a mailing address. Even homeless people have access to postal service by way of receiving their mail via "General Delivery".

And right: Starbucks has thousands of locations in rural areas. Wow, you really are reaching on that one.

Would you care to embarrass yourself further by adding another reply? You said it's the last "you'll have to say on this issue", but I doubt that. You'll come back and check to see if I've replied, and you will respond.

Coffee Soldier

I think the best way to solve this problem would be an option on your settings on the rewards site asking would you like to receive your free drink coupon in the mail or would you like your card to automatically make your 16th drink free! That way all the complainers about the paper waste will be happy and the people who like the postcard will also be happy...but then all the people who get a tall latte for 15 drinks then get a 8 shot venti carmel machiatto will be #itching that they lost count and they don't want a tall latte they want the expensive drink.


The problem with making the 16th drink automatically free with the card is that most customers want to pick their free drink. A more complex system that would allow for customers to choose their drink would require an entirely different POS system, one that would allow baristas to actually access an account and would require constant internet access and updating. As of now, partners cannot even tell you your name, status level, or number of stars from the POS. It's a whole can of worms that doesn't need to be opened.
Also, plenty of customers enjoy buying their drinks and treating their spouses or kids to a free one. The cards allow for this in a way that a digital reward cannot.


@ @

Um, POS does have some form of connectivity. Normally on an eight hour shift, if you are at POS, it will update and refresh the database multiple times during that period of time. Also, if it did not have such constant connectivity, how can you explain the fact that balance checks can be done on Starbucks cards? ;). Panera has something in effect that would be useful however I am not too sure how it would be implemented (as I have never worked at Panera); with a MyPanera card, you gain 'points' and after X amount of points you gain rewards which are associated with that card and you can use them at will (after a certain period of time they expire, I think a month, and are unassociated with the account).

Just saying, if Panera can do it, so can Starbucks. ;).


I had a rather rude barista in a SBUX along I-70 in Kansas refuse to accept my card. Fortunately I also had a current one with me.

That's the first time I've ever not tipped when getting a free drink.


Again...where else other than Starbucks would you EXPECT someone to accept your EXPIRED coupon?


Are you talking to me, javagirl??? I'm a longtime partner who does always accept those free drink cards. That's why I was stunned to find a barista who (rather rudely) would not.

And technically, it is not EXPIRED - as someone else pointed out. At my store, we JSY.

Please don't lecture me.


@usorthem not true in all cafes. We still do the full training and don't crucify the newbies #standards


@coffeedrinker you have got to be kidding me. Because if you are in a hospital or a hospice you are doing starbucks runs all the time right? Lamest argument EVER. Get over yourself and grow some big girl panties.


There's another reason for SB not to use an ecard for the rewards. Quite often, when I am using a free drink card when I am buying something else, the barista "forgets" to apply the card and charges me for the drink. Beyond this, I have to watch the ring-up like a hawk at the stores I frequent or I end up being charged for a grande instead of the tall I ordered and received, or charged "accidently" for two mini-scones when I got just one, etc. These things happen often enough that I've wondered whether it was done purposely.

Coffee Drinker

Dear Sbuxchick, I've made startbucks runs for sick, disabled and others. When they get their cards in the mail isn't my business usually. And if they're sick or distracted they may forget things. And that's fine and appropriate in all of life, and we go on, lol.

I was merely pointing out that one size panties doesn't fit all. It seems some folks think every SBUX customer has easy access to mail and Starbucks all the time; life ain't that way for everyone.

In my case, when my mother died and I returned home after all that...I found as I paid bills late and other things, that people on the other end were quite understanding and compassionate, and I heard "yes" from many unexpected places.

I don't expect SBUX to cater to these rare situations; I don't EXPECT anything. Expectations only lead to disappointment and anger.

Starbucks is free to do whatever they wish with their program, and I wish them well.

Thanks to all the baristas who continue to JSY! You are at times, and angel to someone who needed a tiny kindness to make their day livable. (no not for the COFFEE, let's not go there. You know what I mean!) When my family died, Starbucks legendary baristas got me through it, day by day...having no idea what their smiles and competence meant after I'd been at the undertaker minutes before.

These are the kinds of thoughts big girls deal with. YMMV ; )

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