If you're a Starbucks Rewards member, Starbucks will give you any beverage or food item you want on your birthday, free of charge, as a benefit of the program.
When the birthday reward was first introduced, members would be given a credit for a free drink that arrived in their accounts at the beginning of their birthday month, and the credit could be used any time the customer saw fit.
At some point, though, the company decided (for whatever reason) it would be a good idea to impose some limits on when those birthday rewards could be redeemed.
And so the "birthday policy" was changed: instead of being able to use the reward at any time, the birthday credit could only be used on the day before a customer's actual birthday, the day of the actual birthday, or the day after the actual birthday.
That new policy wasn't as great as a beverage that could be redeemed at any time, but it still allowed for some flexibility; if you weren't able to make it to a Starbucks on your actual birthday, you still had two other days on which you could enjoy your birthday reward.
That's no longer the case.
These days, your birthday reward can only be redeemed on your actual birthday. And if you can't (or choose not to) visit a Starbucks on your actual birthday? Too bad, so sad... but there's always next year.
As it happens, today is my birthday.
I wasn't planning to leave my house today, so I'll likely forgo my free birthday beverage.
And in the big scheme of things, my forgoing a free latte is a tiny, tiny problem.
But my choosing to do so means this birthday reward won't do anything to foster any loyalty to Starbucks.
In fact, just the opposite: instead of feeling grateful for a "free beverage", I'll feel somewhat annoyed the company expected me to alter my birthday plans in order to claim something I feel I've earned as a longtime member of the program.
Ironically, this loyalty program benefit has actually made me dislike the company a little bit more than I did yesterday.
And it shouldn't be that way.
There are several legitimate reasons a company might put restrictions on a customer reward.
But the goal should be to implement as few as possible.
After all, do you think customers are going to appreciate being told when, where, and how they can use a reward they feel they have earned?
Especially on their birthdays.