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Starbucks brews trouble with new loyalty program


The coffee company has announced changes they say address the “no. 1 request we heard from members.” (AP)

Starbuck has got its over-caffeinated clientele in a stir after the chain changed its rewards program.

On Monday, the coffee company announced that they addressed the “no. 1 request we heard from members”-- rewarding on dollars spent, not number of visits. But it didn't take long for the changes to anger another batch of customers—the ones who go in to get just a regular cup of coffee.

Starting April, instead of gaining a star per purchase regardless of price, you'll gain 2 stars for every dollar spent. It'll also take 125 stars to accrue a free treat, versus the current 12 — that's nearly a $40 difference.

Starbucks' move follows that of the airline and hotel industry who have been switching from miles-based loyalty schemes to dollar-based ones. But the move has sparked fury with customers who say they're being forced to buy food and other things they don't want. 

Yet, the changes addresses some problems with the current plan, says Starbucks. For example, customers got only one star, even if they were buying for a friend, or one star if they were buying pastries and coffee for the office.  Also about 1 percent of all purchases were by customers requesting additional stars by asking to ring up multiple items in an order separately. This was making wait times longer.

Starbucks is no stranger to controversy. It weathered a recent storm during the holidays with its plain red cup that some say didn't represent the true Christmas spirit.  In that case executives didn't change the cup and stood behind the design.

It's unclear if the switch will make a difference to the company's bottom line. But its never good to alienate customers who consider themselves loyal by making frequency of the visits less important than about how much you spend.