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Published on Monday, February 29, 2016

Is It Getting Too Complicated to Remain Loyal?

Starbucks coffee cupsHaving heard so much about the recent change in the Starbucks loyalty program, I was reminded why I decided to quit drinking coffee over 10 years ago. It just got too complicated.

 

No one seemed to be ordering a straight cup of coffee anymore. It started to include “shots” of this, “halves” of that and “skinnies” of those. There were coupons and punch cards and reusable travel mug discounts.

 

When I was confronted with getting a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I started to rebel, refusing to order a venti, grande or mucho grande, or whatever. I made baristas and regulars groan under their breaths as I called for a medium or large. I avoided Dunkin’ Donuts when they felt they could satisfy my cream and sugar requirements with pumps of syrup, and not pours and packets.

 

Coffee syrupsWell, yeah, maybe there was the urging from my doctor that it would help keep my blood pressure down or my obsession with looking for single-estate sourced, organic beans from Sumatra. These reasons, along with the realization I was paying more per pound for my coffee than prime-aged rib-eye steaks, gave me the non-caffeine induced wake up call I needed to finally put the coffee down (see an earlier blog).

 

I quit when it became too complicated. I really just wanted a simple cup of coffee.

 

The question I ask is, why does anyone need a loyalty program? Isn’t delivering a product, service or “customer experience” at a fair, honest and consistent price enough? Haven’t we evolved as consumers to identify that there really is no such thing as a free lunch? Businesses understand that the cost of that “free” item, is amortized over the cumulative purchases to get to that magic, freebie moment.

 

We get that, don’t we?

 

Fabric graphic trade show displayPrairie does. We strive to deliver a quality product, at a fair price, every time. No rewards program required. Really. Not complicated.

 

There was a time, when one of our supplier/partners introduced a pseudo-frequent buyer rewards program. The more of a specific product we sold, the more points we could earn, which resulted in rewards. Our supplier could invest in more inventory, and we could share rewards with staff. Since Prairie is in the business of providing specific solutions that meet the needs of our clients, recommending a product that would benefit us and not necessarily the client, seemed counterintuitive. We decided not to participate. The program didn’t last long, and has not been revived in our industry.

 

Peanuts and beerBack when I was single and after work drinking was an acceptable practice, I would stop at a bar down the road from my condo (walking distance in case you are wondering) on Tuesdays. From 4:00 to 7:00pm, they would put bowls of salty peanuts on the bar and pour the cheapest draft at 50% off the normal price. So what happens when you’re dehydrated from a day of drinking crappy office coffee, then devour sodium-laced nuts? You get thirsty. So thirsty that you drink twice as much watered-down beer than you normally would. After drinking enough, and bartender Molly determined that you’ve made her a tidy profit and fed her tip jar, she poured you a free one.

 

Now that was an easy to follow and use, reward program, right?

 

Happy hour signWell, it turns out that no one actually drank the cheap beer brand at even the normal price because it was so bad. The bar owner was able to get barrels from her distributor for a song, and was actually making more profit between 4 and 7pm, than if you showed up at 7:01 and sprung for a few higher priced imports, even without the nuts.

 

After awhile of this routine, I simply got tired of the bad beer and falling asleep at 8:00 in the evening. It got too complicated, when all I really wanted was a good, cold beer at the end of the day.

 

Starbucks rewards cardSo now, Starbucks wants their mocha-frappa-latte junkies to spend more to receive their freebie and, according to news sources, the minions are not happy. Starbucks wants to make it more difficult and more complicated.

 

Craft beerMaybe it’s just time to put the coffee down and find a good single-malt, craft-brewed, pale, wheat, organic, hard-corn-cidered, aged in used-scotch barrels, gluten-fee beer.

 

It’s much less complicated.

 

Steve Moskal

 

Chicago Craft Beer 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steve Moskal
Steve Moskal

Steve Moskal

Other posts by Steve Moskal
Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Steve’s journey in the trade show and event world started in 1983 with one of the original Nomadic Display sales organizations in North America. In 1994, he co-founded Prairie Display/Chicago.

Steve was an Allied Board Member of TSEA (Trade Show Exhibitors Association) from 2007 to 2011 and recipient of the TSEA President’s Award in 2009. He also served as Financial Chair of the Midwest Exhibit and Event Professionals (formerly the Chicago chapter of TSEA) and as a commissioner with the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission from 2011 to 2016. Currently he is Vice President of Education for the Addison/Elmhurst, IL Toastmasters Club.

When not working with customers and co-workers at Prairie, you can find him trying to spend more time biking and pursuing other creative endeavors. Steve lives in Oak Brook, IL with his beautiful and equally understanding wife of 26 years, Shelley.

Steve is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a B.A. in Journalism and a Fine Arts minor.

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