A Close Up Look: My Starbucks Rewards: The Green Level:

I’ve decided to write a few articles about the  MyStarbucksRewards program.  And, for the most part, I will be focusing in on the “Green” level of benefits.  It only takes five purchases with your registered card to be elevated to the “Green” level.  Here we are at the second of four articles about MyStarbucksRewards.

As a reminder, any registered Starbucks card can earn you rewards.  In the U.S., it is estimated that about 25% of all transactions are with a registered card, and that there are more than four million active card holders.  That’s a lot of Starbucks cards in use!  Give the massive numbers of customers using a registered card (or a registered card on their mobile device with the Starbucks app), understanding these rewards is more important now than ever before

The articles will be published on upcoming Fridays, as follows:

  1. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Syrups and Milk Changes (July 27, 2012)
  2. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Tall Beverage with Whole Bean Purchase (August 3, 2012)
  3. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards at the Green Level – Free Refills (August 10, 2012)
  4. A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards: Areas of confusion at the Gold Level (August 17, 2012)

I am asking that the conversations in these threads stay on topic.  I realize there is a lot to say when it comes to MyStarbucksRewards, so I’m hoping the “Free Tall Beverage” conversations won’t spill into the “Free Refills” thread, for example.

Caveat: This series of articles represents Melody’s understanding of the rewards, and may materially differ from what is stated on the Starbucks website.  These articles pertain only to the U.S. market.  A number of international Starbucks markets have different rewards programs.  At one point, I had tried to get someone from the Starbucks card department to sit down with me, but that never worked out.  So I’m writing a series of articles, and I hope that I closely match the intent of what the rewards program represents.

As many people know, the very first generation of my Starbucks rewards was announced in March 2008, at that year’s annual meeting.  In many ways, the basic rewards haven’t changed much since then.  Back in 2008, there was only one level of awards, and those awards were essentially all the current “Green” level rewards.  Later, the “gold” level was added, and at the “Welcome” level, a free birthday drink was added.  There have been a small number of variations along the way, but in 2012, the current “Green” level benefits are still almost identical to the original 2008 MyStarbucksRewards.


The first point of clarification is that this benefit does NOT require the customer to have reached the “Gold” level of benefits.  I have frequently heard baristas tell customer that you get a free tall beverage “with a Gold Card.”  That implies that you wouldn’t get one with your ordinary card at the “Green” level of benefits.  This is a “Green” level perk.  And please remember, there is never any requirement that a customer switch to the shiny gold card.  All the benefits are associated with the Starbucks.com/card profile, not the actual physical card.

1. Buy a pound of beans, get a free tall beverage:

The obvious and clear benefit is that if a customer buys a pound of whole bean coffee, the register will automatically deduct any tall beverage – whether that’s a tall iced chai, tall mocha Frappuccino, or whatever it might be.

In other words, if a customer is buying a pound of any whole bean core coffee such as Verona, Kenya, House Blend, Sumatra, Gold Coast, Pike Place Roast, Italian Roast, French Roast, Guatemala Antigua, or other core coffee in the one pound whole bean packaging, there is an obvious free tall beverage benefit.

The register barista doesn’t have to do anything to make this benefit work.  Once the card is swiped, the beverage will be free.

2. Buy a half pound of Reserve beans, get a free tall beverage: (Not mentioned on the Starbucks website.)

The MyStarbucksRewards.com website still does not mention this perk.  It’s absolutely clear that it is a perk, and it was added sometime in very early 2011.  Here’s a blog post on it:

New:  Free Tall Beverage with the purchase of Reserve beans at Starbucks.

Since the price of the Reserve beans sometimes can be double that of the core beans, it makes sense that Starbucks added in this perk.  It’s unfortunate, but I routinely meet partners at Clover stores that don’t know about this benefit.  I’ve bought many bags of Reserve coffees at Starbucks, and it’s super clear to me, this IS a benefit.  It’s just not mentioned on the website.

(When the perk was new, I tweeted with a now-former SSC partner about it, and he confirmed that this was added as a perk in early 2011.)

3. Glitches

Starbucks has been known to have glitches in this reward perk now and then.  It normally only happens when new packaging is introduced.  Someone in Starbucks has to add new sku numbers to the system, or at least that’s what I think the problem is.  It has also been known to happen when new coffees are introduced (new skus to add to the registers).

Back in November 2011, I wrote a blog post about this kind of glitch:

Register glitch: New packaging does not give free tall beverage perk.  Shortly after I posted that blog article, Starbucks immediately fixed the glitch.

When Indivisible Blend was brand spanking new, I think there was briefly the exact same register glitch. It’s long-since been fixed.

On the plus side, these “glitches” tend to be corrected super fast by Starbucks.

4. Pike Place Special Reserve Coffee: (This is NOT the same coffee as Pike Place Roast.)

This coffee is in a class all by itself!  It doesn’t fit into any of the above perks.

This coffee can only be purchased at two Starbucks stores: First and Pike Starbucks, and 1912 Pike Place.  (Though I’ve heard that once in a while it’s been offered as a promo coffee in Japan.  And even more oddly, it has been known to show up at a few stores now and then as a mistake shipment!)

There are NO perks associated with buying this coffee.  I find that mildly frustrating, however having bought lots of this coffee, that’s just the way it is.

This coffee is only sold in half pound sizes, so it does not count as buying a pound of core coffee.  And the Starbucks registers do not have the ability to add up two half pounds to make a pound of coffee for a perk.  Furthermore, it’s not a Reserve coffee.  Actually, I really wish the Starbucks registers would add up two half pounds to make a pound, but it doesn’t look like this change is ever happening.

In any case, unless you’re a partner at First and Pike Starbucks and/or 1912 Pike Place, you’ll very likely never encounter this issue.  I notice that the partners at 1912 Pike Place don’t offer a free tall beverage if you’re buying a two bags of the Pike Place Special Reserve, and I stopped asking a long long time ago.  At times, I’ve walked away with four bags (2 pounds) but still, there is NO perk here.  Again, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

5. Custom Blends – Two half pounds of a core coffee:

The registers are not able to add up two half pounds to make a pound of coffee.  There’s no perk for a customer who is buying a half pound of Sumatra, blended with a half pound of decaf Sumatra.  It’s a similar problem to what’s listed above with the Pike Place Special Reserve.

I am not sure of what the answer is here.  I have partners tell me there is a way to ring this up to make it work to give out the free tall beverage, but I don’t know what the mechanics of that are.

6. What’s not covered?

This perk truly is just for a “tall” size free beverage.  A customer cannot buy a smoothie, or any beverage size other than a tall beverage.

Now it’s your chance to weigh in on this perk.  What are your thoughts on this?