The news was delivered over email. Not face to face, or even by phone. Over email. They may as well have texted.
Starbucks demoted my Gold Card to a Green Badge.
I’d been a Gold Card Member for nearly five years. It saw me through my Master’s thesis, the writing of three manuscripts, and the release of my first book. It was in my wallet when my fiancee (now husband) proposed, and when we asked our limo driver to stop for a venti pike coffee on the way from the church to the wedding reception hall. (My guests wouldn’t have been surprised if I gripped the Starbucks cardboard cup as I walked down the aisle, rather than a peony bouquet.)
We grind Starbucks beans for home brewing. I suggest Starbucks runs when we’re away, and my web browser suggests Starbucks.com when I type “St”. (Sorry, Stubhub.)
But five years of commitment and devotion means about as much to Starbucks as it does to Timbaland’s wife.
They lowered me to the Green level two months ago, and took the stars I’d earned toward a free beverage or food item with them (I should have signed a prenup). I don’t know how many stars I had; I didn’t get to say goodbye. I submitted a customer service email in which I demanded the return of my stars, but it has so far been unanswered– the silent thieves.
The one thing they didn’t take from my trembling over-caffeinated hands is my physical gold card which, like a nouveau-broke who still wears family furs, I’ve used to disguise this recent demerit in social status. It still swipes. It still sparkles beside my driver’s license. But that just goes to show you: all that glitters is not gold.
Being degraded to the green level means, not only can’t I earn free items, but I also no longer receive special offers.
Last week, my coworker said, “Oh, look. Half-off espresso beverages now through Sunday.”
And across the office, my boss chirped, “Yup, I just got that too!”
I clicked to my inbox. Empty. “Weird,” I said. “I didn’t receive that coupon.”
“Huh. That’s odd,” my boss said. “Don’t worry, I’ll forward it to you.”
I approached the barista, carrying the forwarded coupon offer. “Grande skim latte, please.”
The barista punched in the order, and then extended his hand for the coupon and my gold card. He typed the code into the register and swiped the card. His forehead furrowed. He retyped the code and swiped my card again. His lips pursed. He retyped the code and–
“There might be a reason it isn’t working,” I said in a burst, unable to watch him struggle with my worthless gold card a third time. “Just charge me full price.”
Now when my coworkers announce their deals, I echo their delight, although my inbox is empty. I’m ashamed to admit I’m now a class below, that I’m a pauper dressed as a Starbucks princess.
My family used to call me a coffee snob. They would mock me in the morning as I brewed a separate pot of coffee in addition to the already steaming pot of Folgers. “I can’t drink that coffee,” they said in a sneer, because apparently cafe aficionados have high-pitched and whiney voices. “It isn’t freshly ground. And it isn’t my beloved Starbucks.”
Now they don’t say anything. They watch me grind my beans, their heads tilted in sympathy. And when I catch them staring, they avert their eyes.
They know it and I know it: I am a fraud. I’m no coffee connoisseur or Starbucks savant. Without my gold card status, I don’t know who I am anymore.
But Starbucks is quick to tell me. I’m a greenhorn. No, a Green Badge. When once I was java royalty, now I have the esteem and inexperience of a Girl Scout.
Anybody want a Peanut Butter Patty?