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Starbucks customers react angrily to loyalty scheme changes


Starbucks has come under fire from its customers after changing the terms of its loyalty scheme.

The coffee shop chain's existing rewards card has been altered, offering a free drink for every 15 transactions but axing other incentives such as discounts on filter coffees.

Hundreds of customers have flocked to complain, using the chain's Facebook site to make their views known.

But Starbucks says there has been a "positive movement towards the My Rewards scheme" which gives customers a "star" for every transaction. Customers, however, say it is proving to be a PR disaster.

The old rewards scheme gave customers 50p off a refillable filter coffee and offered a free drink when buying a bag of ground coffee.

These have now been scrapped with the other previous offers of free espresso shots, soy, syrups and whipped cream being offered only to those who have amassed 50 Gold stars.

And while existing users are automatically made Gold members, to retain that status in 2013, they must make 50 transactions.

"I have decided to put my Starbucks Card through the shredder and send them in to customer services! That is what I think of their rewards scheme!," wrote customer Imran Khan on Starbuck's Facebook website.

Jonathon Greenhow wrote: "Been a massive fan of Starbucks for years - my friends all know about it and everything - and yet I've never been more disappointed by this change. £1 filter coffee must come back - I end up buying food there! Not any more."

Another, Chris Jeanes, expressed surprise that Starbucks was posting the free drink vouchers to customers. "It surely costs time, effort, paper, ink, postage, environmental impact to generate these vouchers," he said.

Starbucks UK, which has also produced an iPhone app that allows people to pay for their food and drink using their Apple smartphone, told Marketing Week that most of its customers buy lattes and cappucinos and it says the majority of drinkers will gain greater benefits under the new scheme.

A spokeswoman for Starbucks said: “We appreciate that a small number of customers on social media are being very vocal, in our stores we’re seeing a positive movement towards the My Rewards scheme and record traffic on our site for people registering cards and opting in to offers. by far, latte and cappuccino are our best sellers and only a small percentage of sales is filter coffee. The scheme looks at rewarding a lot more people than the previous niche offer.”

Ian Cranna, Starbuck's vice president of marketing for the UK & Ireland, said the number of people using their Starbucks cards has risen over the past few days.

He said it gave the company confidence that it has a programme which rewards the loyalty of all of its customers and he vowed the company would listen to feedback.

In 2009, Starbucks also began to offer free wi-fi to its reward card-holding customers, opening that up to all customers, including non-rewards card holders, last October.

Starbucks raised prices in America by one per cent last week, saying it expected the increased cost of coffee, milk and fuel to eat into its profits.