Daily Archives: November 21, 2006

On Starbucks cards and coffee

Last week, Starbucks launched a new gimmick, the Starbucks card.

Reader, I picked one up.

I haven’t registered it.

Thinking about this, I wondered why I would want to do it. As far as I can understand it, this thing is like the (equally annoying) Oyster card – a prepay card that you top up with real cash, then use to pay for coffee and cakes but only in Starbucks.

Good deal for Starbucks – you load up cash onto the card; next time you are looking for a coffee you think “ooo, I’ve got money on my Starbucks card, I’ll find me a Starbucks instead of going into this Costa / Cafe Nero / <alternative vendor of your choice>”. You’ve tied up your capital in Starbucks. Oh, and you have to register the card, so they get you on their mailing list, too.

Right now, there’s no benefit to me to having one of these things. They apparently don’t offer discounts or loyalty rewards (if they did, they might sway me, since I walk past a branch every morning out of Shepherds Bush Central Line station). One thing I did discover by reading the small print is that you can use the card in several countries worldwide, I think the US, Canada, Thailand and a few others… so that might be useful… but again, cash or my normal means of card payment seems more effective, no?

Another change that I’ve noticed, although so far this phenomenon appears to be limited to the branch in Guildford high street… they have started to ask for your initials when you order a drink.

I find this quite entertaining. Two years ago I was in Las Vegas and I was asked to give my name when I ordered my coffee. I was totally taken aback, mumbled “Piper”, and then discovered the friendly way in which they call out “double hot skinny extra foam decaf latte for EMMA!” when you order, so offering my surname was a terribly British thing to do. I’m used to it now, of course, so when I’m in the US it makes perfect sense to give my first name. Now, it looks like Starbucks in the UK are trialling the terribly British variation of asking for your initials, instead of your name – amusing, really 🙂

Finally, whilst I’m on the subject of Starbucks – and although this post may appear to bash them, I am kinda addicted – check out this interesting new mashup that shows the location of coffee shops in central London (NB you need to select “London (UK)” from the drop-down at the top right). So many that you can’t actually see the map, in most places. At least I’m never far from my next fix.

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