America, we’re rewards sick. It’s intoxicating. I’m sure if I dig through my wallet, and look through this apartment, I’ll find rewards and loyalty cards for the Body Shop, Fred Meyer’s, Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, QFC, Pagliacci Pizza (that’s an actual paper stamp card – but yes, I have a weakness for great pepperoni pizza), Subway, Nordstrom, Papyrus, Staples, Eddie Bauer, and more.

Every business has some kind of rewards or loyalty card these days, or so it seems. How did it become such a thing that we Americans became so attached to the idea that spending money at a business entitled us to a reward? Was the original sin the Blue Chip Stamp booklets of the 1970s? I remember filling up a book (obviously with my mom’s help) and redeeming it for a kid’s version tool kit.

Is this what “loyalty” is? Is getting a freebie back is the deal breaker?

But it sure seems like America has become intoxicated with plastic (or paper) cards. Withdrawal can make you dope sick …. er, I mean rewards sick.

It seems misplaced to do your shopping centered around the idea that you’re entitled to a freebie back. We’re pretty entitled, aren’t we? Sure seems like it. They say if the shoe fits, wear it.

I don’t do my shopping based around rewards. I sure love Fluevog shoes, and shop there – there’s no loyalty program. I’d fly Alaska Airlines even if the CEO called me up tomorrow and said, “Melody, we’ve decided that we’re going to exclude just you from our airline miles plan.” I’ve had good experiences flying Alaska and as a practical matter, they’re nearly the only airline to offer lots and lots of non-stop service (for years on end) between Seattle and John Wayne Airport. That’s my main travel destination. (I  double dare you Alaska Airlines CEO, whoever you are. ;))

I pick my shopping choices based on many things: Brands I like; Quality products; Location close to home; Good customer service; Convenience and personal taste. Any rewards program is just icing on the cake.

Starbucks has announced a new rewards program, to begin this April.

So to be honest, I found myself a little surprised at the anger customers are expressing over the new Starbucks Rewards program. Many are threatening to not come back in April when the new program takes effect. I find this odd. Do they not remember when there was no loyalty program at all at Starbucks? When Starbucks got rid of free syrups, soy, and a tall beverage when you bought a pound of coffee, people were in an uproar. However, they didn’t seem to stop going to Starbucks. I’m a little surprised when a person picks a retailer only because of rewards. I like coffee. I like tea. I like the partners I meet at Starbucks. I enjoy experiences like an impromptu coffee tasting of a Guatemalan coffee. My own loyalty is not bought and sold over stars. What is loyalty really?

To be brutally honest, I’m not totally sure why some customers believe that the pace they earn rewards should be the same whether they’ve spend $2 on black coffee or $80 on a Teavana Modern Tea Maker. How in the world is it fair that both earn you the same the rewards? Is that ‘entitlement’? I’m entitled to the same rewards as the person who spend 40 times more than me in one purchase?

Either way, I don’t care. Rewards are the icing on the cake.

Last but not least, don’t take your anger about the new Starbucks Rewards program out on the barista at the register. It wasn’t their decision. If you must get angry at someone, call Starbucks Customer Service: 1-800-782-7282. At least they’re designed to handle those calls.

Cheers! Enjoy your coffee or tea.