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Starbucks: Tarnished Gold

If you asked my opinion of what I considered to be one of the best (or best branded) companies in America my answer would be easy : Starbucks.

I jumped on the Starbucks bandwagon long after the craze started but quickly became addicted to everything that Starbucks represents. It has such a positive vibe. I love the company’s philosophies and community involvement… not to mention great coffee and amazing baristas.

A typical cup of dark roast.

A typical cup of dark roast.

They have a solid brand and business model, a quality product line — and create a friendly, laid back, in-store atmosphere that feels like home. What could be better than that?

How about a rewards programs for frequent customers?

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’ve been a Gold Card Rewards member since October of 2011. The kids at school seldom saw me without a cup of joe in my hand.

30 stars (purchases) and you’re a gold card holder. Then every 12  you get a free drink or food item. Beautiful!

So imagine my dismay when early last May, they swiped my card and it came up ACCOUNT DOESN’T EXIST! Imagine the confusion and embarrassment! Especially, since I had just reloaded my card the day before.

What’s the deal Starbucks?

It seems that all that glitters, isn’t gold. Or at least in my case, the gold was somehow tarnished. My account was frozen… and so was my cash. So what was the deal?

As it turns out, when you sign the agreement for terms of service on the rewards account, you are also agreeing to not purchase any cards or e-certificates from third party vendors. But what exactly does that mean? (They don’t consider Facebook, Target or other retail stores third party!)

Well, after several months and a half dozen calls to customer service, I still don’t have a clear answer. The best I could gather is that if you buy a card or certificate from anyone but Starbucks– you risk having your account frozen. I was merging cards and certificates (even ones purchased directly from Starbucks) and somehow my account was flagged and frozen.

And it’s still not resolved.

The last customer service rep I spoke with (for over an hour), did their best to explain what might have happened. I guess their accounting, card and tracking systems aren’t advanced enough to know whether cards are accurate and purchased legally, so this is their attempt at preventing fraud. But isn’t freezing my money that they let me load on the card a form of fraud in itself?

So here I was, gold card frozen and my faith in one of the current, great companies in America: TARNISHED. It took me some time to process it and decide if I should stop frequenting Starbucks. I really had to look at the situation from both sides.

I had purchased a few cards online from gift card sites that sold them at a small discount. We all want to save money, right? Bottom line is that Starbucks can’t seem to tell whether these cards are legally purchased, fraudulent, or stolen.

Luckily, I was able to get my money back from the website I purchased the cards from– but here it is over three months later and Starbucks still has not resolved the issue and their fraud department has not completed their investigation.

I have repeatedly offered to help in any way I can but they tell me there is nothing I can do and I probably will not see any restitution or reinstatement of my gold card. Not very good customer service.

After my last call, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being, and start a new account from scratch and I just achieved gold status on my new account a few days ago.

What angers me about this is that I can’t understand why a company of this size would treat one of their elite reward members like this. They have made no effort to contact me in anyway regarding any type of resolution, nor did any of the customer service reps apologize for the inconvenience or assure me that I was a valued customer.

On the other hand, the baristas and store managers I have spoken with have been absolutely wonderful. They’ve given me free drinks, apologized for the inconvenience and asked me for updates.

So I’ve decided to give it a little more time but corporate really needs to get their act together on this or I will stop supporting them with my patronage.

In the meantime, I’m cutting back and grinding more beans on my own.

My First Annual Turkey Awards

I’m proud to present my 1st Annual Turkey Awards. (No offense to turkeys intended.) I noticed some other people were doing this, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.

You know the people we’re talking about, right? The ones that say and do stupid things. They make bad and irresponsible decisions, violating the trust of the community.  And yes, I included businesses and groups because as we learned during the election (and apparently the Supreme Court agrees): Corporations are people.

Most of these are off the top of my head but I’m sure you can think of plenty of your own ‘turkeys‘ from the past year. (My list is in no particular order.)

John McCain for being the angriest, nastiest, most vindictive and dishonest man in politics this year.

The Entire Cable and Network News Media for disregarding unbiased reporting in favor of fear-based pandering.

Congress for not putting the best interest of the American people above their own special interests.

School District U-46 for putting cash over class. U-46 accepted a cash donation from a religious organization in exchange for priority use of the school district’s facilities. In one instance, giving them what they wanted pushed the BHS Fall Play out of its normal scheduled spot and shoved it in to the weekend before Thanksgiving. (There was more than a 50% drop in attendance with no classes the following week.) Contradicting it’s own written policies in the matter, U-46 put an outside group, not even based within the District’s boundaries, ahead of school programing.

All 2012 Political Campaigns for spending more than (an estimated) three billion dollars this campaign cycle. Imagine what could be done with that money to help our current economic situation and those in need.

The Obamacare Haters. Top Gobble Gobbles to John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s; Denny’s franchise owner John Metz; and Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel for public threats made in response to the Affordable Healthcare Act. Threatening to add surcharges, cut hours and lay-off employees is not the way to build public confidence with consumers or employees. (Especially if you pay most of your employees minimum wage and no benefits, while you live in a 4o,ooo sq. ft. castle estate.)

Black Friday/Black Thursday Businesses for forcing employees to work on the Thanksgiving holiday, taking them away from their families in the name of profit margin. I, for one, am boycotting any business opening before midnight tonight, for the entire holiday season.

Celebrities Behaving Badly. Take your pick. I think any person that enters the public arena has a responsibility to be a role model to others, particularly our youth. Unfortunately, instead of being chastised and sent off into oblivion, they are given even more publicity and air time.

So that’s my list for this year. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. To all those that have to work, I salute you! Best Wishes!