Starbucks Not Inspiring Loyalty Program – Huh…?

Starbucks Not Inspiring

It is very interesting how companies lose touch with reality…Starbucks not inspiring loyalty program is continues to be weird in how it deals with its loyal customers.  Yesterday, I published my views on how strange the way the company deals with global travelers is, and today I got another message from the Starbucks (lack of) customer care department.

If you have read my previous posting you have realized that if you travel overseas (to multiple countries) you cannot get points on your US card for buying products from Starbucks in those other countries unless you get a local account and card…!  Friendly ?  or is it?  

I vote NO

After notifying Starbucks of the (what appears to me and several of my friends) crazy recommendation of needing to have a local China card in addition to my US one… I sent another email highlighting how ineffective the recommendation is – this morning I received another “cheerful” email from Customer Care…Here is the new great feedback:

  • Starbucks calculates rewards in a different way in different countries
  • Cards from Germany, China, France, etc may be used only in the country issued

Here are the many things I find ridiculous with this amazing two days of emails:

  • All I asked is that my purchases in China be counted to my Starbucks points
  • I do not care how those points are computed
  • I am perfectly fine if the point calculation is different for each country…. I do not even know what the calculations are for the US…
  • In today’s technology empowered world not being able to link accounts and IT systems of the same company in two different countries is border line crazy and surprising
  • The customer care department at Starbucks is pretty ineffectual and actually the fact that every one of my emails was answered by a different person was a sign of the non-care aspect of it…

All in all, the financial aspect of my request is minimal to none.  But the optical effect of the hassle is pretty big…Oh, well, this has been a good beer (not coffee) conversation with friends in Shanghai….

Since I had some time on my hands I decided to check on-line whether there are more issues with the customer experience at the coffee shops — and was surprised to find quite a few.   I quick reference to a Slideshare posted project summary was very telling — customers at Starbucks are not very happy – long waits — yes they are even longer in Shanghai as the simple black coffee that you can get in 2 minutes from the drip machines in the US, is made based on expresso shot which is than diluted with hot water….bad and you have to wait long time…See others’ views here:

Starbucks, customer experience
Interesting observations….

Interesting to see that others have noticed the customer satisfaction gap — and the notion of Starbucks not inspiring the greatest loyalty

Good luck Starbucks  – hopefully the wonders of technology one day catch up with your operations for the happiness of your customers…

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….

Double 12 – Alibaba’s Drive Beyond China

Double 12

Have you heard of 12-12 or Double 12?  I bet you have not…Neither has most of the world – but Alibaba is driving hard for that to change.  Less than a month ago, here in China, was the now famous Shuang Shi Yi / Double 11 or 11-11.  The biggest (I think) shopping day in the world.  During the 2017 event on November 11, consumers spent US$25B in one day!  Amazing, isn’t it?  Well it did happen.

China, Singles Day, Alibaba

The graph above sourced from shows the super fast growth of Alibaba’s revenues from Singles Day…

Now Alibaba is driving the next best thing (for the e-Commerce giant) a second event with a goal to become a major shopping holiday — the Double-12 or 12-12 (December 12th)

China, Alibaba, Double 12, eCommerce

The advertisements for it are all over Shanghai and globally.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post — and is NOT shy at all to use its editorial as advertorials to promote its agenda and Double 12 as well.  It is a bit disappointing, but hey, what can you do….

Now, why am I spending time to write about it on this blog?  Because of Alibaba’s relentless focus on growth – it is fascinating – at least for me.  The company, which I think started around year 2000, has been on a tear – introducing a number of innovations – e.g. AliPay to drive electronic payments in China and more importantly making it a very successful platform which together with WeChat has enabled very seamless transactions processing across the country.  I must admit I am a firm believer in the technology and a satisfied customer and user…

The other fascinating aspect of Alibaba is their drive for global expansion.  They did create the largest single day commercial event – the double 11, and now are focused on expanding via Double 12 (linking it to the December holidays) in multiple countries – namely Hong Kong, Thailand, India, the Philippines.

So, in summary, watch out world retail players — Ali (as the company is often referred to in China) is coming…!


Shanghai, Winter and Holidays are Coming

Shanghai Winter and Holidays

This weekend the temperatures in the city dropped down significantly.   So, I thought to myself – the Shanghai Winter and Holidays are coming….finally!  So I grabbed my camera and off we (my wife and I) went to see how the cold weather and upcoming holidays are changing the city.

First we had to check out the local park – it has quite a number of ginko trees.  Those trees change colors in a beautiful, gold-like way… No, surprise – the ginko trees did not disappoint:

China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
The Ginko Trees in our local park in Shanghai
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park
China, Shanghai, Ginko Tree, December
Shanghai, Ginko Trees in our local park

Then took some pictures of the rest of the park – the weather has made the trees go into all sort of reds and browns…Nice overall

Shanghai, Neighborhood Park Shanghai, Neighborhood Park

Then we had a visit (and a very nice brunch) in one of the old Shanghai hotels – currently the Waldorf Astoria on the Bund.   No disappointment there either – we were greeted by a very nicely decorated Christmas tree — a nice start to the holiday season for us.

Shanghai, Christmas Tree

Next in line was the first of the Christmas markets we are visiting this year…But more on that one tomorrow….Enjoy the holidays

Hong Kong – What is the Latest Impression Compared to Shanghai

Hong Kong and Shanghai – trading places

Hong Kong is expensive !  How do I give you an idea about what that means?   Well, think of it in relative terms:  Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to this city.  We wanted to spend some time there and see how the city has changed and grown.   What we determined was actually rather surprising.  There were quote a few aspects that made us think of how this part of the world — Hong Kong and Shanghai — is changing.

The price of the flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong and back was US$500 for two people…. The price of a descent hotel room in the intercontinental in Kowloon was $480 per night….Hm….!    This is pretty wild.   Makes me thing about the economic competitiveness of the city.  If it is relatively cheap to get to Hong Kong (we bought the tickets with a 3-day advanced purchase) but the cost of getting hotel accommodations is so high, how can Hong Kong be competitive and attract talent and be a good (cost wise) place to do business…?

We came here with the experience from more than 10 years ago and the inputs from friends of ours – who believed Hong Kong is well organized, efficient, offering great food – but expensive.

Our assessment:

  • The city has become VERY overcrowded.  You do not want to be on the MTR in rush hour;   Queen’s Road Central and Wellington Road in Central are a ZOO – on a Friday night we had hard time walking together….two of us…

China, Hong Kong, MTR

  • We decided to eat in one of the local small restaurants – on Wellington road – Mak’s Noodle (Mak Un Kee) 77 Wellington Street, Central;   While the food was not bad – it was not great either.  We spent about HK$180 for a couple small of noodle dishes and a bowl of shuijiao (soup dumplings)….I.e. the proverbial Hong Kong fast food.   Not low cost and not a complete meal either….
  • Signage was pretty bad – relatively non-existent.    Not sure why?  For a city that prides itself on having tons of tourists come and visit, the degree to which various landmarks were easy to find was very bad!
  • We were shocked at the line of people waiting to get to Victoria peak.   12 years ago my family and I had visited so this time we decided to recreate the trip… Well, not so fast!   We saw the line waiting for The Peak Tram – asked about the wait time – and when we were told ~1.5-2 hours we lost the desire to go.   Afterwards I thought, may be we came at a busy time…?  Turns out the wait was normal…. So, another question then – why if you are so tourist friendly, would you create the infrastructure to have a massive crowd of people waiting for 1.5 hours to get on a tram and spend another hour getting to the Peak?  Beats me….

This brings me to the overall assessment – is Hong Kong losing its competitive edge and attractiveness as a regional mega hub?   

I think it is…!  Don’t get me wrong – Hong Kong still looks and feels very cosmopolitan, with great architecture, and its skyline is still interesting and making a solid impression on tourists 

China, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Island at Night


China, Hong Kong, Skyline
View of Hong Kong Island

We live in Shanghai, and this Chinese city is doing all possible to be residents and tourists friendly.   The subways are bright and relatively uncrowded, the streets are well signed and clean…the list can continue longer and longer…

Greetings from Hong Kong – Back in Town after 12 years

Hong Kong

My family and I spent some time in Hong Kong back in the fall of 2004.  Since then I have transited through Hong Kong on numerous occasions while traveling to Shenzhen, but in all cases I did not spent any time in the city.   So now that we are living in Shanghai, a long weekend trip here seemed the next best thing to do, plus get the opportunity to revisit some of the sites and enjoy this dynamic city.

Well, so we hopped on Spring Airlines flight from Shanghai (I will post a separate article on the airline — as it was memorable – for its utterly uncomfortable seats!) and came for a 3-day weekend.

Getting from Hong Kong airport to the harbor was very easy – we used the Airport Express – the second stop was in Kowloon.   The ticket cost is HK$150 for a group of 2.   Yes, if you are traveling at least 2 of you – you can purchase a group ticket which saves you some bucks… But you can get only one way group ticket…. Strange but oh, well, it is fine

From the Airport Express stop in Kowloon we went to the area with Free Shuttle Buses — and found one that stops nearby our hotel (as our hotel – the Intercontinental Hong Kong – did not have its own stop).   The stop at the Sheraton (in Kowloon) was just 5-8min walk to the hotel we were staying in….

Getting around – the MTR

Well, this has become quite the experience!   Hong Kong is overcrowed!  No question!   Why so many exclamation points ?   Well see the photo below and you will be able to tell and judge for yourself.  

China, Hong Kong, MTR

It is an incredible situation and very difficult to navigate.  The MTR is very low cost but has become very busy and appears well under capacity to handle the huge influx of people in the city.    That was not the case in 2004…

You can download MTR map with stations etc from the Apple Apps Store.. There are multiple apps that are free.

Now, off to explore in the city – so more writing later.



Flights in China – Do Not Rely On Airline Linkages

Flights in China

If you care about accumulating miles when you take flights in China, you need to ready the summary below.

So you bought a ticket as Air China, which is being operated by Junyao airlines. Your thinking is “Well, I am flying on Air China, and will get the benefits of the Star Alliance…”

Not so fast! It turns out, based on personal experience with exactly that case, Junyao does not care about your status on Air China or the Star Alliance…!

Too bad you paid for a CA (Air China code) flight 50% higher price than the same exact flight if purchased through Junyao.

This happened to me today. I tried to reason with the Junyao personnel at the Shenzhen airport – no luck… the nice gentleman I spoke with – who was sort of floor manager, told me “I understand your point, but in China the rules are different…”

My comment was – “…I understand but I wish that was disclaimed on the ticket or at time of purchase…”

The reality is that in China, product clarity is still a lot to be desired. So do not assume! The fact that you bought an Air China ticket does not mean you are getting the services associated with Air China. period!

Live and learn…!


Piece of advice to Air China – you will eventually get the wrath of unhappy passengers who will vote with their wallets –
That will be me on the next Shenzhen to Shanghai flight — not on Air China (or rather the “fake “ Air China) flight

That brings me to the other point associated with clear product definition in China. Fakes are a major topic in the country. People and industry are trying to eliminate them – but here you have it – a major airline failing to disclose significant detail….! Border line fake product….

Enough ranting – hopefully this will help you to protect your self from such a case

Happy travels!

China Air Pollution – Shanghai and Beijing

China Air Pollution

China air pollution does not appear to improve.   I have lived on and off in the country for many years and this issue continues to be a major problem.  It pains me to write about it as the postings seem to repeat themselves.  You can see the earlier ones which include pictures, which are very similar to the ones I took earlier this week in Beijing and this morning in Shanghai.

The air pollution is a very well recognized problem in China.   It is talked about in many media outlets.  Dealing with it is underscored as a priority by the government.  It was included in the targets set by the 19th Congress last week in Beijing.   Li Ganjie, minister of environmental protection, described targets set for 2035 — see here

China, Shanghai, Air Pollution Until then – this is what you will have to face on days when the air quality is less than desirable…!

There are days in both Shanghai and Beijing, when the index shown in the phone snapshot here is much better.   This morning we woke up to an index which is out of the sky.  Literally, very often we may get hazy skies – but as you can see from the metrics on the page here, today is special!

 Included here is a photo from the Beijing Olympic Village area – as I saw it from the window of my hotel on a recent trip there

  China, Beijing, Air Pollution




So, in this posting I will include the comparisons of the good days here in Shanghai and the bad days (i.e. today) – you can see the side by side similar photos taken by me — no photoshop here….

China, Shanghai, Air Pollution
Shanghai Smog and Not…Same vantage point…
China, Shanghai, Air Pollution
Shanghai Smog and Not…Same vantage point…

All in all, this is something the country and its leadership must deal with soon.  it is tough to breathe the air and notice the pollution.  Having said that, China has made great strides in cleaning up many aspects of the cities and environment.  The air pollution must be dealt with next….

Beijing Snapshots – Xin Ao Shopping Center and Around

Xin Ao Shopping Center

If you are in the area of the Beijing Olympic village you may want to visit the Xin Ao Shopping Center.  The area is a good place to go walking and get some city sightseeing exercise.  The shopping mall is actually sort of hidden under an artificial lake.  The address is No.9 Hujing East Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing.

The shopping mall also includes some very good restaurants.  I ate in the Yunan Food restaurant (Yun Nan Cai) — worth the visit.

How do you get to the mall?  You can take the number 8 metro – the metro station exits right in the shopping mall – very convenient.   Parking is available on the near by surface streets. 

In the evening while walking around I took some photos and then took some from my hotel room – I stayed at the near by Intercontinental BeiChen hotel.

The area outside of the mall is very lively in the evening – you can encounter people dancing, singing…all sort of group activities.  Great people watching overall….

China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area China, Beijing, Xin Ao Shopping Area




Shanghai Markets: Shanghai Insect Market

Shanghai Insect Market

What is the Shanghai Insect Market?  Traditional markets are quickly disappearing in Shanghai.   As I posted earlier on this blog, the Dongtai Road Antique Market is now gone, closed forever – at least according to the locals in the area.   There is still one of the very traditional markets here though — the Flower and Bird Market (also known ast the Shanghai Insect Market). 

China, Shanghai, Insect MarketIf you are looking for it on the map you can search for Dongtai Road and XiZang Road and near a subway station Lao Xi Men – on line 8. 

The map on the left shows the market circled in red.  If you were looking for the Dongtai Road market, then once you go looking for it (it is GONE) then when you get to Liuhekou road and walk along it towards XiZang Road – across it you will see the entrance to the Flower and Bird market.

When you walk into the market, you will hear a whole lot of animal and bird noises – yes, this is an insect market – but there are some cats, bunnies and quite a bit of birds for sale and they do make a lot of noise….

Then you will also see all sort of other strange creatures – tons of turtles constantly trying to get out of the acquiriums they are kept in…. Many creatures for sure….

Well, I won't write a lot – you probably have already seen that on this blog – I like to show you things via photos.  Same in this post – this market is for sure one of the things you won't get on a Shanghai tour, but you should consider it as a way to see yet another part of real Shanghai.

China, Shanghai, Insect Market, Flower and Bird Market China, Shanghai, Insect Market, Flower and Bird Market China, Shanghai, Insect Market, Flower and Bird Market





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