No such thing as a free coffee?

March 17, 2012

 Now I like coffee. To be honest I am much more of a coffee person than I am a tea person, so when I heard about the free latte offer in Starbucks I was certainly going to make my way to the local branch.

I was somewhat fearful of a queue stretching half way down to the Steine, or perhaps the memo from head office has not actually reached/been sent toBrighton. But my fears were unfounded, the experience was better than expected. I was met by smiling staff who knew exactly what was going on. There was no embarrassment on my part asking for a FREE coffee, and I announced my name clearly – it’s not difficult to say, it’s Paul. I shuffled along the counter and when it appeared to be my turn the young lady serving called out for ‘Latte for Rail’.  Now that was me, I boldly announced it was my free coffee, despite feeling a bit foolish somehow and also slightly sorry for the assistant who could not get my name right.  But, what the hell it’s a free coffee.

The thing is it got me thinking about coffee. Yes really. To be honest I rarely find myself in any of the branded shop nowadays unless I am out of the office and in need of a coffee fix. In Brighton making a coffee in the office seems to be the obvious thing to do!

Firstly the cost. For the price of a take away I can buy a jar that does numerous cups – OK, so I also have to buy the milk too.

Secondly the quality. Naming names, Starbucks in Victoria station has to be the worst. If it isn’t cold, it’s all frothy and half full, so passing by always reminds me why I try to avoid them, Starbucks in particular.

Third the wait.  It’s only a coffee, OK it’s a cappuccino, or it’s a latte or a flat white (who named it that?) or some other poncy name, but it’s really a white coffee.  It seems to take forever to a) get served and then b) actually to get your drink, unless I’ve got a good half hour to spare I usually walk away.

So where does that take us?  Well it seems that the Starbucks offer generated simply huge numbers of twitter page impressions so I suppose the PR team are happy – even if like me quite a few noted the inability for those serving to get customers’ names right.  I’m slightly more positive towards Starbuck now after all they did give me some 50% off vouchers too.  But is this the start of the UK coffee wars?

I suddenly realised how many branded coffee shops there were in Brighton!  Costa alone has so many that it actually double-counts them on its own website!  It looks like there are five or six in Brighton, not including another in Hove. 

So how many more can they all build?  They all seem to stock the same range of drinks, I think they all have flat whites these days too.  Maybe growth now is going to come from stealing share.  Which may mean more loyalty cards, more price cuts and maybe with any luck more freebies. 

If you are asking, the name is now Rail, and anything with a silly name as long as it is full, and tastes of coffee will be just fine by me.


Driving loyalty?

February 14, 2012

I was tempted to join one of these petrol station loyalty cards, on the basis that “why not”. We’re filling up at least once a week, there is no supermarket petrol station in town and if I stick to one brand then maybe I can get some form of reward.

So we signed up and in due course received a nice plastic card and even some discounts.

The trouble is not 12 months after joining, the petrol station in question has changed ownership, and of course the new operator no longer accepts the loyalty card.

Now the company in question here were quite clever. They sent out some money-off vouchers to encourage me to use their next nearest service station which is about 15 miles away. So although I wasn’t going to go there very often there would be occasions that I might be passing and therefore fill up there.

On the first occasion on presenting the money-off voucher the person at the desk explained that they had never seen the voucher before, but were willing to accept them since it was clear to her that they were indeed genuine. A clear case of “didn’t get the memo” or “didn’t read the memo”.

On the second time of visiting, early last week, I was unable to make any purchase because I couldn’t, they didn’t have any, a clear case of “didn’t get the fuel”. Now to be fair there was at least an inch of snow on the ground, maybe even two, but having said that the next petrol station I came to, some 500 yards further into town seemed to have no problems at all getting either petrol or diesel.
Now funnily enough I did try to contact the company in question but their web site kicked me out as soon as I submitted my comment, and I do not believe it actually got through to them.

The result of all of this? Well at the moment I am a little unsure as to how I feel about them. Part of me still feels they have demonstrated consistent incompetence but part of me now just feels a bit sorry for them and want to give them another chance.
I suppose this is another case of needing to focusing on the basics like getting fuel to the forecourt and ensuring you are able to communicate within the organisation, otherwise are you just wasting your time with those fancy cards, web sites and points statements?