Today, on my way into work, I dropped by the Starbucks in Pacific Place.  It’s attached to the Pacific Place shopping center downtown, but has its own entrance on Sixth Avenue.  Some readers might remember that I mentioned that some customers might have more rewards than expected on their cards.  I mentioned it here.  For me, this meant that on October 16, 2012, when the new rewards launched, I had just over 20 free drink/food rewards awaiting me.  I’ve been using them like crazy.

At about 8:30 in the morning today, I stood in a line in the midst of this Starbucks’ morning rush, and ordered a tall Sun Dried Sumatra from the Clover, and stated that I would like to use one of my rewards.  The barista swiped my card, and told me that I had no rewards.  The register was telling her that my rewards were “expired.”  I was shocked.  I knew that I had not used 20 free drink rewards in one week, and I didn’t think they could already be expired.  The barista at the register (whom I had never met before), apologized that there was no rewards available for me.  I explained that I had over 20 rewards available on October 16th.  The barista, whose name I didn’t catch, said not to worry, and offered me a free drink anyway.  “We’ll take care of it.”  And I persisted that I’d be happy to pay, and she insisted on giving me my beverage at no charge.  And then she attempted to explain to me, “the rewards have just gone digital.”  And further she asked me, “Have you heard about our new rewards?”  I explained that I knew all about the new rewards.   So I got my breakfast wrap, and coffee, and headed out the door.  This whole experience was just a few minutes from start to finish.

Later, when I had a moment at my desk, I double-checked my rewards available as per, and saw that I still had an abundance of rewards available.  I was puzzled about what had happened this morning.

The funny thing is that this episode, however brief it was, reminded me that Starbucks is unique.  It’s an organization where every barista is empowered to make things right, and that is exactly what I felt this morning.

I rarely write about my day-to-day Starbucks experiences.  I think it would start to sound boring.  I run into Starbucks before work and/or during lunch.  I say hello to friendly baristas.  I get a beverage. And I leave.  That is repetitive.  But I think it is important to remember how every single barista can make things great, and I definitely experienced that this morning.

I still have no clue what glitch happened early this morning.  Much later in the day, I caught up with my friend Elly, who happened to want to meet at the very same Starbucks.  I ordered a Cool Lime Refresher and asked to use my rewards.  At the register was Sammy, a partner who has been at that store for a very long time.  There was no problem, and my grande Cool Lime Refresher was no charge, and the reward went through the register without a hiccup.

Thank you to the barista at 8:30 this morning, who surprised me with a free drink. I think this is exactly what Starbucks is doing right: every partner can create great customer experiences.  And that was my Starbucks experience today. 🙂