Personal experience ruins Starbucks card "innovation"

About three weeks ago Starbucks rolled out their "Get more of what you love with a Starbucks Card" campaign. Simple enough: register your Starbucks card and get free syrup and milk for your coffee. Since I tend to get soy mochas this meant saving 40 cents every cup. Easy sell for me.

So I immediately registered my card. That was easy.

But these last several weeks has been a poor experience for me. At every Starbucks since (about 8 to 10 times since registering), I have had to remind the barista about the program. Three times I did it after they rang it up, not realizing that the register card program does not go all the way to Starbucks point of sale system and "know" to not charge me for the soy milk... Each barista was very helpful and refunded the 40 cents, but the process took about 5 min because of the "refund to card" process.

After three times I started to advise the barista that I had a registered card before the sale. This confused several baristas as they did not know about the program. After I showed them the promotional material sitting on my side of the cash register, they had to figure out how to ring up the order then account for the soy milk being "free". This took several minutes and in some cases a manager/team lead had to assist. At least twice the barista gave up on the process, refunded the whole drink, and gave it to me on the house.

This is not an "Ah Ha" innovation but more of an incremental innovation. The design of the card campaign is not that revolutionary. Certainly it will capture more customer loyalty and data about people from the registration. And it offers real value over time to the customer at little cost.

However, this straight forward incremental innovation fails in the experience. I dread having to tell the barista about something they should already know. I feel irked that the technology of the card should already "know" my card is registered and make the transaction invisible. And for the baristas the experience is one of frustration as they try to live up to their mission ("Apply the highest standards of excellence to the purchasing, roasting and fresh delivery of our coffee.")

Innovation score
  • concept: great
  • design: good
  • execution: so so
  • experience: irk-some

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5 Responses:

email from m aunt:

> Went to your innovationcreations website to see what you were up to --
> Interesting post about the Starbucks card registry -- then the next day or
> so, I went to said coffee emporium and at the drive thru, the barrista was
> promoting the card registry and that it would save me the up-charge on my
> soy == so I mentioned your post - she said by the 17th or some such of June,
> all the computers will recognize a registered card and you won't have to
> mention it. She also said to wait until tomorrow to register my card, cause
> after that they're giving those who register a free drink or something..
> .....she said there had been a lot of confusion initially. So! Just
> thought you'd be interested......

sorry how do o even get the registered starbuck card?

Get a card at any Starbucks, go on line and register at

This was true when they first started the program. Now the computer will check if every starbucks card is register upon charging and apply the discount automatically.

The downside is all starbucks card transactions take about twice as long to process.

-- former starbucks employee

I have had several tell me that they "do not participate in that."