I'm a big fan of Starbucks - that's no secret.
I don't mind the mass appeal of their products or their overcommercialized stores and brand. I still think that their concept is cool, and ubiquity is simply a product of their success and consumer demand.
Yesterday, I saw that Starbucks launched two new iPhone apps:
- Starbucks Card Mobile is an interface to reload a registered Starbucks card, check balances, and even use your iPhone as the actual card as some test locations out west (which is pretty sweet).
- myStarbucks is a pretty comprehensive app that uses GPS to locate nearby stores and give product information about practically anything they sell. Want to see which nearby locations are brewing coffee using the Clover machine? They have that.
I downloaded both apps and used Starbucks Card Mobile to reload my card with $25. It worked seamlessly, and they awarded me with an extra $5 since I used my Visa card on my first reload and they were running a promotion. Sweet, I figured. I needed to buy a pound of beans, as I was flat out.
Now, I know the rules. When I buy a pound of beans at a Starbucks, I'm entitled to a free tall beverage. I have always asked for a simple hot coffee, probably out of simplicity.
But yesterday, I felt like a pumpkin spice latte. I don't know why, I just kind of did. I was not 100% certain that more sophisticated drinks were entitled to the freebie upon purchase of beans, but figured that I would never know if I didn't ask.
So after the barista ground my beans, the exchange went something like this:
Her: "Anything else?"
Me: "Don't I get a free drink with that?"
Her: "You do if you use your Starbucks Card to purchase it"
Me: (after JUST having given her my Starbucks Card to pay for the transaction): "Good thing I did"
Her: "What would you like?"
Me: "Can I get a latte?"
Her: "No, just a coffee."
Me (not about to fight to the death...but I know she's wrong): "Why can't I get a latte?"
Her: "Because they are more expensive!"
So I settled for my tall coffee and went on my way. The first time I asked if this free beverage can be anything something other than a coffee, and I'm shot down.
But something just didn't sit well with me. Since she didn't even ask if I wanted a free beverage at the start, I think she was banking on my not knowing the rules. More times than not, when ordering beans from other Starbucks locations, I'm asked what tall beverage I would like.
So I looked up the rules at starbucks.com this morning, and found this:
- Free selected syrup and soymilk
- Free brewed coffee refills
- Free beverage with whole bean purchase
- Free Wi-Fi up to 2 hours a day
You receive one complimentary 12 fl oz beverage at time of purchase of one or more pounds of whole bean coffee. Offer valid at participating U.S./Canada stores and is subject to change.
I hate the inconsistency of Starbucks sometimes. I know it's impossible to give customers a 100% consistent experience given the vast quantity of locations and variable involved. But all I wanted was a free tall pumpkin spice latte with my pound of beans, and I left feeling bad for even asking.