Starbucks announced Monday morning that starting in April, customers in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico who participate its rewards program will start earning points per dollar spent, and no longer per visit as in the current program.
The new system incentivizes higher spending and larger orders. Previously, customers earned one point, or “star” as they are called in the Starbucks system, per visit or transaction, and received a free food or drink item per 12 visits, no matter how much they spent. So if you ordered a $ 2 coffee every day, you could earn a reward after spending about $ 24.
Starting April, customers will earn two stars per dollar spent and will only receive a free item after accumulating 125 points, or spending more than $ 62.
Starbucks said it currently has about 11 million active rewards customers. Nationwide, its U.S. cafes receive 75 million customers each month.
Starbucks global chief strategy officer Matthew Ryan told investors this was “the number one customer-requested update” and “as we switch the mechanics of the program, we are not using it as an opportunity to opaquely weaken the rewards proposition.” He added that most customers spend about $ 5, and “there are a small minority of people who would either be advantaged or disadvantaged” by the change.
That disadvantaged group, however, is not pleased.
“If customers simply continue to engage as they currently do, instead of engaging more as we believe they will, the vast majority of our customers will earn rewards just as fast as or faster than they would today,” a Starbucks spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
Starbucks has been responding to consumer complaints on Twitter and Facebook.
Uber's legal battle to keep its drivers classified as independent contractors rather than employees got off to an inauspicious start this week when a San Francisco federal judge challenged some key evidence Uber submitted as part of its opposition to the case.
During a Thursday hearing, Judge Edward Chen heard arguments about whether to allow a lawsuit challenging Uber's designation of its drivers as independent contractors to proceed as a statewide class action. And he had some particularly tough questions for Uber, which has been opposing the case with declarations from 400 drivers who say they're happy with their independent contractor status and don't want to be employees. Specifically, Chen questioned how Uber can insist that the varying work arrangements of the 160,000 drivers on its platform make it impossible to classify them as a single class, while simultaneously claiming that 400 drivers that provided it with pro-independent-contractor declarations definitively represent all Uber drivers.
“You have 400 declarants — that sounds impressive,” Chen said. “Except when you measure that against 160,000 class members. That measures out to 0.25 percent — not even that. […] You cannot allow a group of 'happy campers' to control the class. You're always going to get some people who don't agree with it.”
Uber, for its part, maintains that 400 declarants should be more than enough to knock the wind out of a complaint brought by a handful of drivers. “Plaintiffs' attempt to certify a sweeping class action in this case must be rejected,” Ted Boutrous, the company's attorney, said in a statement. “… These three plaintiffs do not and cannot represent the interests of the thousands of other drivers who value the complete flexibility and autonomy they enjoy as independent contractors.”
In 2006, an advertising executive named Greg May sat down, like a few dreamers before him, to write a new happy birthday song. Warner Bros. holds a fishy copyright to the standard “Happy Birthday To You,” a fact that has prompted contenders from Stephen Colbert to NOFX to propose less legally consequential alternatives.
But May wasn't joking, like Colbert, or in a seminal pop-punk band, like NOFX. He was serious. “I wanted to be disruptive,” May told BuzzFeed News, “to compete with the original one.” May went big. His song features twice as many Happy Birthdays as “Happy Birthday To You.” It also includes two Feliz Cumpleaños-s, and, as a tribute to May's dog Cinnamon, barked felicitations from a dog.
These are the lyrics to the song May wrote, titled “Happy Birthday”:
Nine years later, May presides over a veritable internet happy birthday empire: a YouTube channel featuring thousands of videos, 27,000 subscribers, and 5.2 million combined views; a comprehensive website, 1HappyBirthday.com, that has been search engine optimized within an inch of its life and receives 35 million visitors a month (and a sister site in Spanish); and Facebook pages in English and Spanish with over 100,000 combined likes.
If you have a usual name, or an unusual name, it's likely that within two clicks you can find a minute-long version of May's song individually recorded with your name, belted with consummate enthusiasm by a professional. (Indeed, a simple Google search of “[Name] + Happy Birthday” usually yields a 1HappyBirthday link as its first result.) If your name was Zoheb, for example, your video would look and sound like this:
The numbers are staggering: 22,000 names, each one individually recorded in the minute-long song. That's 330 hours of individually recorded happy birthday songs, or over two weeks of celebrating good times. On the 1HappyBirthday YouTube channel, each song is available with several different backgrounds; May started out rendering 20 backgrounds for each song, but has now dropped down to three to five because it was simply too time-consuming. Conservatively, that's at least 70 hours, or more than three entire months of happy birthdays.
When May first wrote the song he decided to have it recorded professionally, because, as he put it, “I'm a horrible singer.” He commissioned original electronic music and sound effects, and had 400 common names recorded by a voice studio in Los Angeles. At the time, he had in mind “a business opportunity with the possibility of a Pepsi or a Coke as a global sponsor.” When that sponsor wasn't immediately forthcoming, May simply kept sending new batches of names to the studio, and the scope of his project ballooned.
So did the costs. Though May wouldn't disclose exactly how much he's spent on his project, basic math shows it's a considerable amount. Each song is $ 6 to record. That means May has spent, at the very least, $ 132,000 of his own money on recording. He also spent $ 15,000 for a year's subscription to XMPie, variable data scripting software that works with After Effects to create alternate backgrounds for each video before publishing them to YouTube. That puts the total at $ 150,000, without factoring in server costs and the staggering amount of time it's taken to upload the thousands of videos to YouTube.
That number also doesn't take into account Skype bills. May now learns of many of his new names through user requests — he got 2,200 last year — and he frequently doesn't know how to pronounce them (May sends phonetic specifications to the recording studio). A typical morning might include calls to India, Mexico, and Pakistan.
“I'm wondering when the NSA is going to knock on the door,” May joked.
Though the site doesn't break even (May makes some money off of ads and a donation box on the site), May, who worked as a banker on Wall Street before a 20-year career in advertising, is serene about the money he's spent. “Life has been good to me,” he told BuzzFeed News. Indeed, May said that his primary motivation is no longer financial.
“I saw the song as a way to reach into the life of everyone on Earth. That is a strange and powerful feeling… Now I receive notes and messages thanking me from all corners of the world and it makes me want to extend the reach of the song to even more people.”