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"Murphy was an optimist!"

Dear Starbucks, we have an issue… March 11, 2011 9:07 am

Posted by Doug McCaughan in : Of Interest
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Recently, Starbucks introduced its iPhone app which allows you to associate a Starbucks gift card with the phone and a credit card with the application. When I make a purchase from Starbucks, I simply show them the QR Code (bar code) on the phone and I’m done. Plus I get bonuses like a free drink after so many uses. I can also put more money on the application with a couple of taps of the screen. Almost too easy. And I get annoyed. That’s right ANNOYED!

See, your wonderful application has made it easier than ever for me to spend money at Starbucks. I calculate my expenditure at Starbucks since installing the iPhone app has quadrupled. Where do I get annoyed? It’s your employees. You’ve made it incredibly easy, and almost fun, to make purchases at Starbucks and your employees kill it when I try to hand them my phone and they utter, "I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to touch your phone." Well yes they are. Because I have given them permission and I speak those words, "I give you permission to take my phone." In short, that means I assume liability. If they drop my phone in a sink of soapy water, it’s my fault.

Watching a barista do acrobatics out the drive through window to stretch a scanner beyond the length of its cord because they won’t take my phone in their hand is absurd. To tell me I have to come inside to use the application is counter productive. But, since this seems to be such an issue, I now avoid your drive through which means sometimes I avoid your business altogether. That’s right. You created an application that dramatically increased my business with you. But you are quickly creating an employee culture that is driving me away.

Dear Starbucks, I ask you to do something simple. Tell your staff that if I give them permission to take my phone, they can. And if you really need to cover your ass, just put a sign by the register and at the drive through window that reads "Starbucks cannot be held liable for damage to your phone if you hand it to our employees" then have your employees ask, "Do I have permission to hold your phone?" Thanks!

Update: If I accidentally leave my phone on the counter, does this policy mean that management won’t touch it? Or do they pick it up and put it in a lost and found?

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1. Jay Wigley - March 11, 2011

I wonder what would happen if you just left your phone on one of their counters or tables. Would it sit there until a customer picked it up? Would they refuse to put it behind the counter (in hopes you would return) because that would require some measure of responsibility on their part? This is so much a case of “let’s protect ourselves from a liability claim or even just a simple verbal complaint about syrup on a phone from the 1% of customers who would do that, even if it is an inconvenience to 100% of everyone.”

2. Doug McCaughan - March 17, 2011

Well said!

3. willfull - March 23, 2011

I don’t have the app (I’m trying to be a good boy and stay away from the sweet nectar), but I’m wondering if the QR code is static or dynamic? Does it change every time you make a purchase? Or is it slaved to a serial that is unique to only you? Because, I’m thinking, if it’s only a QR code that’s being scanned, what’s to hurt if you just print yours out (on cardstock, no less!) and just hand it to them — and if they balk, you can show them the screen and how they match up. Just a thought.

But .. then again … if you’re handing them a card with a code printed on it, how is that any different from handing them a piece of plastic with a magnetic strip on it?

4. Doug McCaughan - March 23, 2011

Functionally there is no difference between using the phone and using your starbucks card. The app just shows you the rewards you are gaining (not sure if you get those with the card), and allows you to put more money on the card (you can do that on the starbucks website too). With the app I don’t have to sign a receipt or handle paper.

Really, Starbucks is taking something novel and destroying it because some manager has grown up fearing liability.