Monday, April 25, 2016

Friends and Patrons: Available on iBooks for Free

Last year I started a GoFundMe to visit a hotel in western Missouri, the subject of a short story I was writing. Every person who donated money got a special short story written just for them. I compiled the shorts into a collection and called it, Friends & Patrons. Just last month I distributed it to everyone who had been so generous as to help me pursue my story.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Starbucks Rewards: Doing the math on the new policy

UPDATED:
As stated below, I was receiving 6 stars per $2.01 transaction. However, that has ended. I now get 3.7 stars per transaction, meaning tax doesn't even count in my favor anymore. It also means it will cost more than my previously estimated $63 dollars to receive a free drink. Very disheartening.
----
You probably drink coffee, and you do, you've probably been to Starbucks. I personally used to work there (part-time moonlighting) and have been drinking their coffee for years. A couple years ago I got wise to their reward program, registered my Starbucks gift card, transferred it to my iPhone app, and boom! I'm getting free drinks. Not bad.
As things stood with the old program, I needed to have gold status to earn free drinks. This required me to make 30 purchases with my card (regardless of the cost) to earn 30 stars (the system's measurement tool) which gave me gold status for one year. As long as I made another thirty purchases during that year, my status would be renewed for an additional year.

As you may know, Starbucks coffee ranges in price, from a reasonable $2 for a small (tall), plain coffee, to $7 for a large (venti) latte with syrups and extra shots of espresso. While I like a good latte, the tall size runs around $4.50 per drink, and that is just too expensive for me if I'm gong to maintain a daily habit. So, I buy the tall coffee, black, dark roast (if they have it on tap) for my morning routine. At my Starbucks, this is a total of $2.01 per day I buy.

With the old system, I would but twelve coffees to earn twelve stars, and every twelve stars (in the gold status) nets me a free drink of any price. This is when I get my $7 latte on. By the math, twelve visits at $2.01 a coffee meant I needed to spend $24.12 to earn a free drink.
What about the people that buy the more expensive drinks? If I was spending $4.50 per drink, it would cost me around $54 to earn my free drink. More than twice as much money in the same number of visits.

It is no secret that the entire world believes Starbucks drinks to be overpriced (despite every other coffee place charging the same amount for a similar latte), and customers have been complaining about wanting rewards to take into account how much they spent, rather than when they visited. I can follow this logic for anyone that buys more expensive drinks, or when I opt for a breakfast sandwich, which adds an additional $3 to my bill without earning me any more stars.
To address this issue, Starbucks has changed their reward plan to account for money spent, rather than number of visits (it went live April 12). Now, you earn two stars for every dollar spent. Not bad, right?

Well, I guess that depends on how you look at it, because they made several other changes as well. Rather than it requiring 30 stars to earn gold status, it now requires 300 stars for the honor. This means you will need to spend $150 (estimated) to be in the gold club.
When it comes to your free drink, rather than going with twelve stars, you will need to earn 125 stars.  As CNN Money points out in their article about the new plan, this is roughly $63 spent. As I already told you, it only cost me $24.12 to earn a free coffee before. This is almost a increase of 300% money spent before earning a reward.

Of course, this had me very agitated, because if you go by the numbers, this is not a better reward plan for guys like me who just get coffee. To gain 125 stars in twelve visits would cost about $5.22 per visit, which is about right if you buy a grande latte every time you go in.

On the surface, going by the numbers (as reported in the CNN article) it will take me 60 visits to get my free drink now, which is five time longer than what it was. However, I discovered something interesting today. Starbucks is rounding up.

Based on the esteemed numbers, I buy a $2 coffee, which earns me four stars. But today I looked at my rewards from yesterday, and it said I earned six stars. How? My drink is $2.01, not $2 even.
So, I got four stars for the two dollars, but I spent more than that, so the Starbucks system rounded up to the next dollar. I got an additional two stars for the cost of a penny. Silver lining, I guess.

With this new math, I find out it will take me roughly 21 visits to earn my free drink, if I buy nothing but my $2.01 coffee. If I add a sandwich, or splurge on a latte, that total drops by several visits in one purchase.

What I am trying to say is even though it appears more difficult to earn a reward, it really isn't when you account for the rounded up math. This effects the total amount spent to maintain gold status as well. I could potentially spend $100.50 to achieve 300 stars, rather than the quoted $150. Thats about fifty visits of buying the cheapest coffee available.

It will be interesting to see how people come to feel about the new program, but I know I feel less angry about it today than I did yesterday. Granted, we are only two days in, it could all change pretty quickly. I'll be sure to post an update if the extra stars don't stick.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus was not a socialist

Socialism is a hot buzzword right now. It's a scare word used by Conservatives and Republicans to convince you not to vote for certain candidates. It's a point of discussion by Liberals and Democrats as to whether or not it can apply in whole, or in part, to our democracy. As a method to combat the negative association with the word, some have been referring to Jesus as a socialist, in a way to say that Conservatives don't truly align with Christ's message of helping others.
While I understand the criticism, I have to contend that Jesus is not a socialist. He wasn't a free market capitalist either, but no one was arguing that point, so I'll stick with the socialism claim for now.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Commitment to Read Writing by Women

Three years ago I was shopping for a mystery/detective story at my Local B&N. I ultimately picked up a book by James R Benn, called A Mortal Terror. I gave it three stars on Goodreads, but that's not what this blog entry is about.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What I hate about writing

I once quipped on FaceBook that I'd like to be a martial arts master, just without all the training and discipline. A joke, yes, but a truth regarding how I feel about most things in life. I very much want to be that cool kung fu guy, just without ever working for it.
I recently watched Sound City, the documentary about a famous recording studio. It was were Fleetwood Mac came together with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Nirvana recorded Nevermind there. Tom Petty and Rick Springfield were staples of the place. I got to see all of these ridiculously good musicians playing music and talking about the process. It was very inspiring, and made me want to get to jamming on my guitar or bass. The only problem is, I'm not very good, and need a lot of practice.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Writing Update: NaNoWriMo, Easter Eggs, a Spooky Short, and Distributing Flash Fiction

November appears to be shaping up as a busy writing month for me. In fact, I'm kind of upset at taking the time to write a blog post when I have two really big projects I'm currently working on.