When Penny-Pinching Defeats Customer Appreciation – A Starbucks Tale of Marketing Woe

Let me start off by saying I love… I mean LOVE… my local Starbucks. I have written half-a-dozen books and a veritable boatload of copywriting projects for clients while sitting at my favorite corner table. I sip my latte (grande, with just a pinch of raw sugar) and occasionally look up to chat with my favorite baristas.

Tonight I walked in, said hi to Max, tossed a loose coffee bean at his head, and ordered my usual. Before ringning me up, he says, “I’ve got something for you.” He disappears for a moment, then emerges with an envelope – greeting card sized – with my name on it. It wasn’t large enough to contain anything that would jump out or shock me, so I opened it.

Ahhhh, a card…! And not just any card.

Splashed across the top is the message, “Thank you for brightening our day.”

Inside? The message, “Congratulations on being chosen as one of our greatest guests.”

So far, so good, right?

A little slip of paper fell out as I opened it, which I pick up and read. “Our Passion is Your Reward. Please enjoy a 12oz Starbucks beverage of your choice with our compliments.”

That’s pretty nice, right?

It was, until I learned that a 12oz is the “small” (also known as “tall”) drink. Ugh.

I’m very particular about my caffeinated beverages, and I’m not a “tall” drinker. So instead of being left with the warm, fuzzy feeling I started out with… enjoying being recognized and appreciated… I am left thinking: “What penny-pinching fool had to ruin this experience by not wanting to give up an extra few cents and let me choose whatever size drink I wanted.”

I guess it seemed like a good idea to whoever pitched and approved it. But, in the real world, they are going to end up with a lot of people disappointed, like me, instead of raving and evangalizing.

Of course, I’ll still be back tomorrow with my usual order.

That’s one nice thing about intelligently building a relationship. Once established, people will let “little things” slide they never would otherwise. But it can also be a downfall. Because when the bar for our relationship has been set as high as the great crew at my local Starbucks have done, stuff like what happened tonight can be a true letdown.

(And it continues… Check out Part II of Starbucks and Customer Appreciation.)

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous February 26, 2008 at 10:40 pm

Well, it’s been almost four years from this post.  I hope you have received the customer appreciation you deserved in that time.  My Starbucks has been wonderful to me and not only have they complimented me many times with free coffee, the employees have begun saving my “usual” table for me on a daily basis.  I truly love my Starbucks and their employees!

Reply

2 Anonymous February 27, 2008 at 3:40 am

Well, it’s been almost four years from this post.  I hope you have received the customer appreciation you deserved in that time.  My Starbucks has been wonderful to me and not only have they complimented me many times with free coffee, the employees have begun saving my “usual” table for me on a daily basis.  I truly love my Starbucks and their employees!

Reply

3 Anonymous April 3, 2004 at 5:04 pm

Penny-Pinching or Nit-Picking
First, I want to introduce you to a new blog – An Entrepreneur’s Life. It only been up a couple of days, and it is putting up quality stuff. I had to link to this morning’s penny post – “When Penny-Pinching Defeats Customer Appreciation – A Starbuck…
——-

Reply

4 Anonymous April 3, 2004 at 10:04 pm

Penny-Pinching or Nit-Picking
First, I want to introduce you to a new blog – An Entrepreneur’s Life. It only been up a couple of days, and it is putting up quality stuff. I had to link to this morning’s penny post – “When Penny-Pinching Defeats Customer Appreciation – A Starbuck…——-

Reply

5 Anonymous April 2, 2004 at 12:04 pm

Stop the Penny Pinching
Michael Cage thinks you shouldn’t penny pinch when it comes to customer service. It seems his favorite Starbucks tried to reward him, but it was…

Reply

6 Anonymous April 2, 2004 at 5:04 pm

Stop the Penny Pinching
Michael Cage thinks you shouldn’t penny pinch when it comes to customer service. It seems his favorite Starbucks tried to reward him, but it was…

Reply

7 Anonymous April 2, 2004 at 9:04 am

When a business gives out customer thank yous and rewards, it’s important that they be seen by the customer as fair value. In this case, you are a regular “grande” customer. Your expectations for a reward were set at that level. To receive a “tall” was less than your expectation of a gift comparable to your patronage. In fact, you would have been happier to have received no “gift” at all, than one not meeting your established level of patronage.

Reply

8 Anonymous April 2, 2004 at 2:04 pm

When a business gives out customer thank yous and rewards, it’s important that they be seen by the customer as fair value. In this case, you are a regular “grande” customer. Your expectations for a reward were set at that level. To receive a “tall” was less than your expectation of a gift comparable to your patronage. In fact, you would have been happier to have received no “gift” at all, than one not meeting your established level of patronage.

Reply

9 Anonymous April 1, 2004 at 8:04 pm

About a year ago I was in Peets coffee and their coffee grinder broke while they were packaging my 1/2 pound of Major Dickason’s Blend. After a few moments of trying to figure out what was wrong, they moved to a different grinder and started over again. When they handed me my coffee, they also handed me two cards for the drink of my choice.

I later used one of those cards to order a large drink with extra shots and they didn’t charge me a thing. A $3 beverage was a small price to pay for my loyalty and satisfaction.

Reply

10 Anonymous April 1, 2004 at 5:04 pm

Might be a bit of a flub, I agree. A Grande wouldn’t exactly break their bank grin

Reply

11 Anonymous April 1, 2004 at 10:04 pm

Might be a bit of a flub, I agree. A Grande wouldn’t exactly break their bank

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: