China, City Wall, Xi'An

Starbucks Loyalty Program – a Strange Situation

Starbucks Loyalty Program 

The Starbucks Loyalty Program has been under a lot of criticism (in my understanding) from customers for many reasons.   Articles in several media outlets talk to the issues there.   What I discovered just this week is something very nonsensical and strange in this day and age.

China, Shanghai, Starbucks
Starbucks Shanghai new mega store – from

I have been living in Shanghai (again) for a while now.  This week I ended up buying a large number of Starbucks coffees on multiple occasions due to some project work.   So, I decided “Oh, let me use my loyalty card and gets some points in my account…”  

I pulled up the Starbucks APP on my phone and proudly offered it to the counter employee….only to be told with a very nice smile – Oh, this is not a Chinese Starbucks card – we cannot use it here in China….The US cards are not used here – you need to have a Chinese loyalty card….

I found that very surprising so I looked on the bottom of my receipt and saw the statement “contact with any questions..”

Well, I certainly had a question 🙂  So three emails later – I still do not understand why I have to have 2 different accounts in order to get loyalty points in the US and in China….

The very cheerful statements from Starbucks customer care was “…We also hope to create a culture of warmth and belonging…”  – Yes, true – just do not cross borders….(My interpretation…)

Then this evening I listened to an interview with the CEO of the company – Kevin Johnson – who made the statements “…Starbucks innovates on digital mobile connections with our customers…”  and given my email exchanges with the company’s customer care department I decided it is time to write about my experiences and the fact that eventhough 

  • Starbucks is focused on innovation in digital…
  • and the customer care organization is focused on creating culture of warmth and belonging

I had to have two different IDs to collect a few loyalty points….

Then I decided “Eh…not worth it….” I will just drink some other coffee…!  If a company that is focused on digital innovation and warmth is having difficulty with linking their OWN IT systems in two  huge consumer markets — may be their coffee machines are also NOT that great….Technology is hard … for some….

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