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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.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not total admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 09/13/22   95,151,379   5,290,756   1,045,559   844,294   143   11,427   506,189   34,540   2,978   1,758   (40)   16 
 09/06/22   94,645,190   5,256,216   1,042,581   842,536   183   11,411   534,380   30,772   3,526   1,762   (8)   20 
 08/31/22   94,110,810   5,225,444   1,039,055   840,774   191   11,391   600,148   35,692   3,297   2,434   (44)   32 
 08/23/22   93,510,662   5,189,752   1,035,758   838,340   235   11,359   655,186   38,778   3,198   2,550   (51)   20 
 08/16/22   92,855,476   5,150,974   1,032,560   835,790   286   11,339   719,100   40,762   3,375   3,561   (92)   77 
 08/09/22   92,136,376   5,110,212   1,029,185   832,229   378   11,262   937,985   42,621   3,822   5,729   (69)   41 
 08/01/22   91,198,391   5,067,591   1,025,363   826,500   447   11,221   828,560   43,943   2,695   28,360   (5)   16 
 07/26/22   90,369,831   5,023,648   1,022,668   798,140   452   11,205   905,096   45,024   3,072   5,468   (61)   41 
 07/19/22   89,464,735   4,978,624   1,019,596   792,672   513   11,164   890,226   42,620   3,035   7,077   (20)   37 
 07/12/22   88,574,509   4,936,004   1,016,561   785,595   533   11,127   912,596   44,750   2,575   8,611   78   67 
 07/05/22   87,661,913   4,891,254   1,013,986   776,984   455   11,060   683,630   30,500   2,476   8,713   53   34 
 06/28/22   86,978,283   4,860,754   1,011,510   768,271   402   11,026   809,381   33,856   2,580   6,189   (8)   36 
 06/21/22   86,168,902   4,826,898   1,008,930   762,082   410   10,990   648,857   30,459   2,040   8,081   95   41 
 06/14/22   85,520,045   4,796,439   1,006,890   754,001   315   10,949   757,093   29,971   2,630   9,809   42   40 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
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