Starbucks' controversial new rewards program convinced me to download the app --  and I'm not alone

When Starbucks announced it was revamping its rewards program, the news was met with outrage, as once loyal customers threatened to stop shopping at the chain. However, the new program convinced me it was finally time for me to sign up for Starbucks Rewards.

Customers’ biggest beef with the new program is that they are now rewarded based on the amount of money they spend at Starbucks, instead of earning one star per visit, no matter how much money they spent. While once thrifty customers could spend $24 and get a free drink after 12 cups of plain Starbucks coffee, they now have to spend $62.50 to get a free item. That’s 32 Starbucks runs.

I — like most Starbucks customers — do not go to Starbucks to buy plain coffee. I can make coffee at home, or get it in the office.

If I’m going to go to Starbucks, I typically get an iced coffee, or occasionally a latte. About half the time, I’ll also get some food, pushing my purchase firmly into the category of one that would be more “worthwhile” under the new, per-dollar rewards program, as opposed to the per-trip program.

In fact, I don’t go to Starbucks all that often in general. With the old rewards program, it would take me about six months to visit Starbucks 12 times and earn a reward. There is no way that I would be able to earn the required 30 stars in a year to gain Gold status.

The infrequent nature of my Starbucks trips and my general laziness had convinced me that joining the Starbucks rewards program, via app or registered Starbucks card, was just not worth it.

While taking an impromptu trip to Starbucks, it would occasionally occur to me that I should download the app, but by the time I placed my order, it was too late. The thought would then leave my mind until the next time I decided to make a Starbucks run.

The straw that broke the camel’s back and convinced me to follow through with the download was the news that Starbucks is upgrading customers to Gold rewards status automatically if they make a purchase using their Starbucks card or app between April 12 and May 2. Clearly, this was the best chance I had for ever getting Gold status.

So, one day after Starbucks rolled out its revamped rewards program, I downloaded Starbucks’ app for the very first time.

As a Starbucks Rewards rookie, most of my experiences with the revamped app aren’t groundbreaking. Mobile and Pay was great, especially since it let me skip the line. The ability to personalise my order and not worry about being misunderstood was nice.

The newer aspects of the redesigned app were fine — the stars display is straightforward (though I can see how the near empty cup of stars could be dispiriting for long-time users), while the “Now Playing” Spotify feature is unobtrusive for someone who has no plans of using it.

I’m not the only person who has been won over by Starbucks’ new rewards program. Since the changes were announced in February, the company reports that more than 500,000 customers have signed up for Starbucks Rewards.

That doesn’t mean that the new Starbucks rewards program is good news for every customer. Many users ran into a host of technical difficulties while downloading the new app, and the revamped new system is intrinsically worse for a number of customers.

If you’re a former-rewards program lover who visits Starbucks frequently to buy low-cost items, then, by all means, quit visiting the store. If you want convenience and low-cost, you can start visiting Dunkin’ Doughnuts (which is countering Starbucks with a new app of its own) or McDonald’s (the coffee is surprisingly good). If you’re obsessed with Starbucks, but angry about the new program, start making the coffee at home with beans, ground coffee, or K-Cups.

Or, just delete the app and quit the program — Starbucks keeps track of its active users, and the company’s digital program is a major point of pride. If customers hate the new rewards program enough to delete, as opposed to complaining online and then eventually adjusting to the change, the company will listen.

However, this infrequent visitor who likes to buy more than the simple cup of coffee won’t be quitting the rewards program any time soon. After all, my birthday is in less than a month, and I’m ready to earn my free birthday reward for the very first time.

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