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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

A Starbucks Slip-Up

In 2023, your Starbucks stars are going to be worth less.

If you're part of the Starbucks loyalty program, you may have received an email recently with the subject line: "Our Terms of Use are changing".

If you opened the email, it had "WE’RE UPDATING OUR TERMS OF USE" in big green letters at the top...

... but if you wanted to know what was actually changing, you had to click the "New Terms of Use" button and visit the website to read the legal fine print.

As it happens, I'm one of those people who tends to read the legal fine print.

So what's changing?

Put simply, everything will cost you more of your stars.

For instance, today, you can get a brewed coffee, hot steeped tea, or bakery item by redeeming 50 stars... but in February 2023, the cost of those items will increase by 100% to 100 stars.

A handcrafted beverage, hot breakfast item, snack box, or parfait? Today, you would need to redeem 150 stars for any of those items... but that's increasing by 33% to 200 stars on February 13th.

A lunch sandwich today costs you 250 stars... that's "only" going up by 20%, which means you'll need to redeem 300 stars for lunch.


I'm not at all surprised Starbucks is taking what is essentially a price increase on their loyalty program... to be fair, can you think of a company that hasn't increased their prices over the past year?

But as a former Starbucks partner, what surprises me is how this information was communicated.

Back when I worked at the company, a change like this would have almost certainly been communicated via a "personalized" email sent on behalf of Starbucks founder Howard Schultz.

The email would have clearly outlined all of the program changes in the email itself and would have included some rationale for the change, even if the reason was simply "our costs have increased substantially over the past year, and we need to raise our prices to continue delivering the experience you've come to expect from us."

But that's not what happened here.

The email wasn't personalized or sent on behalf of new Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan. It was a "Terms of Use" email sent three days after Christmas... when most of us are ignoring our inboxes and spending time with our families.

The email informed us that changes were coming, but didn't actually outline what those changes would be; to learn about them, you needed to click through to a website... and, really, who does that?

It's not the "what" that bothers me here... it's the "how".

Starbucks used to pride itself on its transparency.

But perhaps transparency at Starbucks these days is like a Pumpkin Spice Latte...

... it's great when you can find it, but it's not always available.


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