I’ve got a golden ticket

By Stephanie Haven

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To some, coffee is simply a drink. A means of staying awake after just a few hours of sleep. Or even a mild addiction. But these phrases don’t come near to explaining my obsession with this caffeinated beverage.

Next to the cash register at the Westbard Starbucks, there’s a box of pamphlets about the rewards program. Photo by Stephanie Haven.

While the rest of America was feasting on turkey and spending time with their family last weekend, I was in line at Starbucks waiting to purchase my thirtieth beverage on my registered gift card.

After a few months of bi- (sometimes tri-) weekly visits to Starbucks, I had purchased enough drinks to earn Starbucks’ exalted status-symbol, the gold card: a shiny, gold Starbucks card with my name engraved on it. While some could see this as a desperate cry for help, I prefer thinking of it as one of the best days ever.

We caffeine-fueled homework insomniacs are no stranger to the Starbucks on Westbard. We flit in and out, gulping up what some may call “overpriced” beverages. Some even carry a gift card that they can whip out to pay for their mocha-java-pumpkin-chai-half-caf-skim-latte (to prevent any confusion: that’s not an actual drink).

But only a select few of us know the rewards a gold card grants. Ever notice the pamphlets in Starbucks that advertise the “My Rewards” program? Well, the seemingly under-publicized feature actually saves a lot of college-tuition money that’s frequently shelled out for drinks.

On this fabulous thing we call the “Internet,” you can register your Starbucks gift card and earn “stars” with every purchase. With five stars earned, you’ll get free syrups and milk (i.e., you don’t have to pay extra for the vanilla syrup in your vanilla latte), free refills for brewed coffee and tea, and other free offers.

Then, after 25 more Starbucks purchases (not orders — more than one drink in one transaction won’t earn any more stars), you’ll get the card and find yourself with a disappointing lack of “congratulations” from the barista even though he most likely knows your order by heart. But you at least will know that you’re the owner of a personalized card, coupons for the drinks you buy the most (Starbucks: as creepy as Facebook?) and a free drink with every 15 stars.

As long as you receive all 30 stars within a year, you qualify for the card, so even those infrequent coffee-drinkers can rock the gold.

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