Starbucks card – the new money

It’s the more convenient way to pay for your coffee. A huge hit across the world – America, Canada, Australia and Thailand all have Starbucks cards, and now the UK does too. On November 15th 2006, the latest of the UK loyalty cards seems to have missed the mark a little bit though, or maybe I’m just not getting it. I go to Starbucks quite a lot, so when I heard about this new piece of plastic genius I thought it’d be great to maybe get a penny for every pound I spent. Why, I’d be able to get a free coffee almost every year at the rate I drink. Or perhaps it would even be as cool as the Subway Stamps (R.I.P.). Again, a free coffee every two weeks is far better than no free coffee at all.

So today, I almost jumped for joy at seeing the shiny plastic cards all laying on the counter. Part of it is clear, which is certainly a step up from the Boots Advantage Card, because it looks like the card has been brought back from the future. Unfortunately, in the future they don’t give out free coffees. In fact, I can’t actually find anything that my Starbucks card is good for. A bit of research on-line, and I discover to my horror that it’s just a gift card cleverly disguised as something that might provide huge bucket-loads of added value to me.

Starbucks suggest that it’s much easier to pay with the card, than by money. But you still have to top-up the card in store, by using money (or with a credit card, that also looks suspiciously like one of these Starbucks cards, it’s even the same size). Ah yes, but you can put 150 pounds onto these evil shiny Sirens which would mean many trips to Starbucks that don’t involve handing over money at all. Which means you won’t get interest on your 150 pounds from your friendly bank. Or you can’t decide maybe just this once you’ll go to Costa, because it’s closer. Or spend the money on Christmas presents. Or that you’re sick of Starbucks anyway.

But is it more convenient? I suppose it’s true, you won’t be rooting around in your wallet for all that money that can also be exchanged for things other than coffee. Instead you’ll swipe the card, and your coffee will be bought in seconds, rather than multiples of seconds. And you’ll still have to wait just as long while they make your coffee, but it’ll seem like longer because you’re standing at the end of the counter for all of those extra seconds…. And you’ll still spend those extra agonising seconds staring dumbly as the last seat in the whole shop is taken by two Suits talking about the latest development in the City.

None of which is the fault of the poor Starbucks card of course. Anyway, it’s a great idea this gift card. But say it like it is, especially coming up to Christmas as we are. Starbucks gift cards, a great gift for the coffee lover. “Here, have 4 coffees on Grandma next week. You like coffee, don’t you?” “Uhhh, yeah, but a sweater would’ve been better”. There’s a certain art of the unknown and unexpected of the gift-giving seasons. That’s why at Easter everyone gets chocolate eggs instead of say, Shepard’s Pie or a train ticket. But that’s not the point, the point is that Starbucks should be selling a Gift Card, as a Gift Card. Not “faster, easier way” to buy coffee.

Anyway the moral here is, if you don’t actually try and sell something for what it is, you just end up looking like a tit.

Leave a Reply?