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Starbucks Says They Listened, But Did They Hear Right?


Looks like Starbucks is in some hot water with their customers.


Citing the voice of the customer, Starbucks is changing their rewards program starting April 1st. If you haven’t seen the changes, Starbucks shared the changes on their website:




In looking at this, I’m not sure they really heard what customers were saying, even though the company states that this change was made because a rewards program based on amount spent was a top customer request.

While this may be true, it’s important to segment customers – those who are regular visitors buying more complex beverages and those who have less expensive, simpler purchases. With this new model, they are sending a message to the lower spending base – spend more to earn the same rewards. Say, as an example, someone visits daily and purchases a regular, no frills cup of coffee for $2.00. With the old system, in a 30 day month, they will receive 30 stars, receive two free rewards, and reach Gold Status. With the new system, at the end of that same month, they will have 60 stars; double the stars, but still over a month away from a free reward.

The company says that even though customers are spending more to reach the same levels as before, they have incorporated additional ways to gain more points.

It also meets a need of the customer who, until now, has split purchases because they wanted more than one star when making bigger orders. With this new system, no order splitting is needed, which is a time saver for the customer and staff.

It’s not all bad, but it definitely has customers up in arms. It struck me that the company states this was a result of customer feedback, which is great, but it may be a case of listening and not hearing exactly what customers are saying.

I have no idea what steps Starbucks took between collecting the voice of the customer and developing this new program, but my hope would be that they took a step back in between the two to learn more, perhaps surveying their loyal customers and segmenting the data by spending patterns. From there, creating a system that works well for all customers would ease the “pain” that comes with any new program or procedure and not alienating one group or another.

Customer sentiment on this issue will be interesting to follow once April rolls around – maybe it will be the case that it’s not as bad as customers fear, and the sentiment will quickly change to the positive. Only time will tell on this one.


Check Cashing Scam: A Plea to Banks, Walmart, and MoneyGram


It’s not new, but it continues to live on, and for unsuspecting folks, it can put them in a bad financial situation.

The check cashing scam continues to make its rounds, and unfortunately I have received plenty of calls in the last few weeks from people who received a check ranging from $1,000-$3,000 posing as a “mystery shopping assignment.” If the recipient deposits the check into their bank account, and wires money as instructed, their own hard earned money is long gone, because that check is not worth the paper its written on.

Now, I will say that most people can tell it’s a scam right off the bat, but there are many that fall victim and don’t do research until it’s too late.

As a consumer, there are always tried and true rules of thumb:

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Do your research BEFORE heading to the bank – as an example, we have a disclaimer on our home page that provides information to those who may have received a check in the mail.
  • Always be suspicious of unsolicited emails/offers
    • look for an email address that is hosted by a company (not AOL, gmail, etc) – companies typically have email addresses that correspond with their company.
    • Do NOT click on any links in any email – it’s best to do a Google Search for the company in question and search that way – clicking on links may lead you down a bad path.
    • Do not give any personal information in an email reply unless you know the person. Even then, proceed with caution.

As I’ve fielded phone calls, I realized that there is more that can be done by companies to help those who are about to fall victim to this scam.

  • One person attempted to wire money at their local Walmart’s MoneyGram station. The employee asked a simple question – do you know this person you’re wiring money to? – and, when the person replied they did not, the employee told them it was likely a scam and refused to process the wire transfer.
  • I received a call from a check cashing facility. The employee wanted to verify a check, which was of course part of the scam. She said that she had heard about the scam and she was taking an extra precaution before cashing it. The person was not allowed to cash the check, and was informed it was likely not real.
  • Another individual attempted to deposit the check in the bank. The banker noticed the high amount of the check and looked into it, only to learn that the check was not real.

In these three instances, employees took an extra step to try to save someone from becoming the next victim.

Since this is a well known scam, it would be advantageous to educate staff across banks, credit unions, check cashing facilities, and even Walmart customer service staff who deal with MoneyGram. Education and employing simple steps in the customer service process can go a long way. Below are some simple suggestions:

  • Banks & credit unions – look for money orders or cashier’s checks for large sums of money, and be extra cautious about them. Ask the customer questions about the sender of the check. While some may feel that this is intrusive, the ones that are about to fall victim will certainly thank you! If your staff explains the reason for asking, customers should be more understanding about the intent.
  • MoneyGram/Western Union/Walmart – I include Walmart because the majority of letters I’ve seen instruct people to go to their nearest Walmart to wire funds. I have reached out to Walmart Corporate, and have not yet received a response. There are a couple of things to look for and ask here:
    • Often times, though not always, the scam instructs people to wire money to the same person twice. This should be a red flag that something may not be quite right.
    • Include a question that asks the customer if they know the person they are sending funds to. Again, customers may feel this is intrusive, but it could save a person or two from sending their money away to scammers.

Unfortunately, these scammers are good at what they do, and strive to be as realistic as possible. We can all work together to educate the public while employing simple questions into customer interactions to potentially save people from becoming victims.