On Losing My Starbucks Gold Card Status


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?


16 thoughts on “On Losing My Starbucks Gold Card Status

  1. Ouch! What could possibly cause this sort of atrocity?! What sort of executive-level tinkering is happening to the bean–client relationship? This is an outrage.

  2. Foolish me, I paid cash all these years never understanding why people whipped out their phones to pay, or maybe because my smartphone has an owner like me that that is challenged by its capabilities. Think of me too stupid to understand the program paying with cash but yet has the app on my phone with money on the it, there is no name for my level beside left behind.

  3. You should celebrate! Upgrading to Non ‘Gold’ Status indicates, you ‘re no longer fooled/blinded by the ‘quality’ that Starbucks markets itself as!

    Whole beans to grind from a neighborhood/local coffee shop (that roasts beans in house) vs. Sbux beans that were shipped in from Seattle?! Your ‘coffee snob’ status has just been elevated!


  4. I had a similar thing happen to me. I had 12 stars that vanished in the wind. It bites too because I was just starting to go back after living a couple years financially strapped. I forgave them but haven’t forgotten what they do if you don’t cross that 30 star line.

  5. As I stroll (rhymes with troll?) through your posts I am stopped. Dead in my tracks by this post. I am a similarly addicted (rhymes with afflicted) coffee aficionado. Except I can’t wrap my head, or taste buds, around Starbucks. As a born and bred New Englander, sans accent thank you very much, I am a DD fan. We’re talking coffee not cup sizes. Although…

    Sorry for that digression. Anyway whenever I head North to visit my aging parents I have to get up at 6 to steal away to DD before mom gets up. When I return with my Extra Large, i.e. 24 ounce cup of coffee I feel guilty. My excuse is twofold. The folks don’t have vessels large enough and she only drinks instant. Yep, been boiling water for 62 years of her adult life to make a cup of coffee. It’s a wonder I’m not in therapy.

    I wish you luck in your gold quest for affirmation. Kinda like my wife with her George Clooney-esque (Up in the Air) status with United.

    I have a Starbucks in my building. I still walk the 5 minutes to DD, even in this cool NJ weather. Tomato, to-mah-to.

  6. Hi Alena — This piece is hilarious. I help curate Human Parts on Medium.com (http://medium.com/human-parts) and I’d love to share it with our readers. Would you be interested in that? I know we’ve published your work on Human Parts in the past, so we can use the same bio we’ve used before (or you can send along a new one, if you want). We’d link back to your blog, of course.

    Let me know! I’m at hsockel@gmail.com


  7. Wow, I hope you made up this sad story 😦
    I have been a gold member for several years.
    In fact, I worked there since 16. Now, 15 years later, I still work there part time along with my normal full-time job. I just really love starbucks. If I ever got fired I would not know what to do.

  8. Reading this article made me lol, literally! I’m a green member with a meager 22 stars, and although I have become a ‘coffee snob’ as well, the temptation of achieving the high maintenance status of gold is outside of my abilities. Thanks for such an entertaining post.

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