A close up look: My Starbucks Rewards – Free Tall Beverage With Whole Bean Purchase (2 of 4)

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?





Related Posts


  • denise r

    I think THIS is probably one of the most confusED ‘reward’. SO often the partners think it’ just a ‘tall coffee’. As we know, just order it, and it’ll come off….as long as you order the drink before the partner on register hasn’t already closed out your coffee order.
    I can’t remember…..did you mention a 12pk of VIA? (that also gets a free tall?) and I’m not sure if it’s implemented yet, but have read the K cups will also count, but don’t know if that’s been done yet.
    This series re: ‘rewards’ is a good one to have for sure. I only wish the partners were (GENERALLY) more aware.

  • Melody

    @DeniseR – I don’t think that a 12=pack of Via gets a free drink. I’ve never heard that. Starbucks has done free drinks with Via as temporary promos, but that’s it as far as I know.

  • Rebecca

    As far as ringing in the custom blend, that ability went away when we launched the new till system. The only way to do it now is to ring it in as one coffee or the other, which doesn’t totally account for our inventory, and in the case of mixing regular and decaf Sumatra, also doesn’t account for the fact that one is more expensive than the other. Honestly, because this is something that our tills used to do no problem, and something I believe that they will fix at some point (but there are definitely more pressing issues than that, haha!) I usually just give away the free tall beverage.

    I believe Denise is right about the Via (though I’m second guessing myself now that I looked at the website and it doesn’t say that), and also the K-cups, as this is supposed to be one of the perks of buying it in-store as opposed to Walmart or Costco or something :)

  • Melody

    @Rebecca – That’s totally interesting. I didn’t know about the register change so that there is no more way to ring as a custom blend.

    As for the website, it’s weak. That’s about all I can say. As I go through all four of these articles, there are lots and lots of small things that are missing on the website. It doesn’t even mention the Reserve benefit.

    I really am not sure about the Via perk or KCup. I’ll buy some Via soon and test it out.

  • GAStarbucksGirl

    Thanks for clarifying this. I’m interested to know about the VIA and K-cups. At my store we give every customer a free tall coffee when they purchase a pound of coffee <——— long standing Starbucks policy, but like you say, if they've reached that green level on their registered Starbucks card they get a free tall ANYTHING beverage, which many people (even Partners) are unaware of.

  • Rebecca

    I was just thinking that I will have to test that myself next time I am at work – I’ve been waiting for someone to buy K-cups with their registered card, but so far, no one has – all cash/other cards/

    As far as the website, I think it’s a bit of a symptom of having such a complicated rewards program. (Another reason I think it could use a bit of shoring up – if they feel it’s too complicated to explain fully on the website, how do they think I am going to be able to explain it to a customer fully? Or make sure my partners understand it completely? Anyways, I digress…) The way they have it set up though, I think they could expand the ‘see more’ option, and attempt to explain things a little better there!

  • MagicKat

    @Rebecca are you using something other than Simphony? I know that Star had a neat custom blend option that was a set price/lb, but with Simphony you can ring in any combination of ‘scooped’ core coffees and it will sort out the pricing for you. It’s also completely accurate for inventory purposes (more expensive though).
    Via doesn’t currently offer any benefits when purchased in store, but that changes pretty often with new promo goals. I haven’t had any experience with the K-cups, most of the boxes leaving my store are partner markouts. 😉
    @Melody the Pike Place Special Reserve is 8.8oz which is the only reason I can’t get two for my markout… lame. I wish they would make it an even 8oz just so I could have more of it!

  • Rebecca

    @MagicKat I am using Simphony, and yes, I do know that I can ring in the the 1/2, 1/4 lb options – I was just noting the lack of the neat ‘custom blend’ button, and that you can no longer ring in these option as a full pound for the purpose of the free tall drink reward (which used to be offered with the custom lb before – I have a very regular customer who gets one, and noticed it within 2 days of our switchover, haha) :) So that’s what we do – ring ’em in accurately, and then if it adds up to a lb, give them their free tall beverage. And since we’re not one of the Pike stores, we don’t have to worry about the special reserve

  • denise r

    Well, we all know we cannot rely on Sbux MSR site for these reward faqs…..they’re not up to date, generally. I know I read the VIA thing somewhere……which only makes sense. and that the K cup..I believe I read from a mod. on msi, is on the way. (free tall w/K cup pckg) That’s the best way (obviously) to keep customers buying those in Sbux, as opposed to another store. I don’t know…that’s my impression. Will have it tested in Sbux tomorrow.

  • Rich Hanlon

    Rumor that new coffee bean bags say return for free drink

  • Becca

    Hi Melody,

    You are right VIA and KCups do not qualify for this perk.

    One thing to note: you said the barista doesn’t need to do anything to ensure the reward is delivered. I disagree, if the barista rings in anything but a tall the perk will not work. There is no way to discount the tall amount if the customer wants to make it Venti. The barista has to decide if they should just say yes and put it as tall or say no.

  • Melody

    Hi Rich! I’m very curious about that. Are you referring to the bags of coffee bought in the grocery store, or those coffees bought at a company-operated Starbucks? As I recall, there has been a program where you bring in an empty bag (from the grocery store) and it would have a coupon on it for a free drip coffee.

    That free coffee program on the grocery-store bought coffees is actually part of the confusion with the perk listed above. I have met MANY partners who think that a pound of coffee gets you just a free drip, based upon the other promotion and/or think that there is no perk if there is no coupon on the side of the packaging.

    This right here is the OTHER promotion, which no doubt causes confusion with the MyStarbucksRewards program – Two totally different promotional schemes. (1) Free tall beverage with a registered card at the green level = My Starbucks Rewards
    (2) free tall brewed coffee with empty bag of grocery store bought coffee

    I think that the 2nd promotion is intended to drive foot traffic into the company-operated stores, since if a person already likes Starbucks enough to buy a bag at his or her local Safeway, if he or she comes into the stores, he or she might find even more products that they like.

    Hope that makes sense. Sorry so long.


  • Melody

    @Becca – I agree with you that it is JUST a TALL size beverage.

    Since the registers seem to default to “grande” (from what I can see), I have had on a few occasions partners ring my drink as a “grande” and then it does not come off as a perk.

  • Nathan

    I really wish, as you said, that the registers could add two half pounds to make a whole. Since the feature coffees often come in half pounds as well as whole pounds, there’s no reason (that I can think of at least) that a customer should not be entitled to the free tall beverage when buying two half pounds of coffee.

    And I’m almost certain you are right, VIA and K-Cups are not included. Which makes sense, because at least where I am, they are about 4 dollars less than a pound of coffee.

  • denise r

    After looking around and sleeping on this, I think the VIA free tall was not correct….I do think maybe I read it as an “idea”. However, feel pretty sure that the K cups are at least on their way to also receiving the free tall. The K cups are not much less than a lb of beans here, depending on which beans.
    Re: the register and the free tall….. I don’t know how they ring it but generally the partner works it out so that I can still get my grande quad doubleshot, if that’s what I want…. which makes sense since it’s one of the least costly drinks I might choose.

  • Rebecca

    I did go to my store and test this, and it was indeed NOT free. *sigh* I’m fairly certain at one point it was, so it must have been a promotion. Apologies for the rabbit trail :) And glad that I now know so I won’t inadvertently train partners/customers incorrectly!

Leave a Comment


Join the StarbucksMelody.com mailing list to receive a weekly email with new posts: