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Ask the Slot Expert: Starbucks takes page from casino marketing

14 September 2022

I received an email from Starbucks a few weeks ago. The subject line was "We've made changes to Double Star Day".

I was immediately on alert because of my experience with slot club changes. Anytime a slot club sends an email about changes to its program, the news is always bad. (Well, it's always been bad for me, at least. Maybe in the early days of slot clubs, changes could actually be good for members. Today it seems like clubs are just taking away benefits or making them harder to earn in their "new and improved" programs.)

One benefit that slot clubs have always put a hurdle between the benefit and the player is a point-multiplier promotion. The clubs make you visit a kiosk to activate the multiplier before they give it to you.

Does anyone know a reason why the casino wants you to activate the multiplier instead of just giving it to you automatically?

I've done plenty of promotions in which I watched a short video or completed a survey in order to get an Amazon or Dunkin credit or a coupon for a freebie or three free bagels (Oops. Only two now. Inflation.) with a purchase.

Each interaction was transactional. I gave them something they wanted. They gave me something I wanted.

The point-multiplier promotion is transactional too. I don't get the benefit of it unless I play. I give the casino action. The casino gives me extra points. If the purpose of the promotion is to get me in the casino in front of a machine, why make me jump through an additional hoop to get the benefit?

Call me a cynic, but the only reason I can see for a casino to make you activate a point multiplier is that the casino is hoping that some percentage of players will forget to activate it.

If you leave the casino without activating it, you're out of luck. What if you play a bit before you remember to activate it?

Rules vary by casinos. At one casino I play at, you can activate the offer anytime during your visit. The multiplier will be applied retroactively to any play you've already given. At another, the multiplier doesn't take effect until you activate it. Any play you've already given will not be multiplied -- although I know people who have thrown themselves on the mercy of the booth rep and received the extra points along with a warning that giving them the points was an exception to policy and they shouldn't make a habit of forgetting to activate the point multiplier.

You can probably guess the change that Starbucks made to Double Star Days. Instead of automatically giving you double stars on your purchase, you now have to activate the offer in the app or by clicking the link in the email they send announcing the Double Star Day. I guess if you don't have email or a smartphone, you're outta luck.

Breaking News: I just received an email from SmashBurger announcing its new loyalty program. ("Ruh-roh, Reorge!")

Sure enough, along with a new app that makes using your benefits in the app easier, SmashBurger, well, smashed the benefits.

You still earn points at the same rate (10 points/$), but a free soda increased from 250 points to 350. That free entree that used to cost 1000 points is now 1500 or 1800. Ouch. The situation is even worse if you had achieved gold or platinum status, which reduced the points required.

Oh well. At least they also smashed the requirements for moving up in tiers. Gold status required spending $100-$499 each year and platinum $500+. Now you qualify as a Super Smasher after only three visits and you can enjoy "exclusive offers, rewards and challenges; and VIP benefits like early access to seasonal burgers, shakes and more!"

I don't know how often the average SmashBurger patron visits, but it seems like three visits is an awfully low bar to clear and the vast majority of its patrons will be Super Smashers.

I checked the FAQ page.

Yep, we changed the program for the better, making the rewards you receive more personalized to your preferences.

Makes me wonder if there's a loyalty program manual with a list of phrases to use to sugarcoat that fact that you're making your program less generous.


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John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots