This is an excerpt from Please Like Me, BuzzFeed News’ newsletter about influencers and internet culture. You can sign up here. In our column, Niche Drama, we discuss online community micro dramas.
Dunkin’ Donut customers were sent into a caffeinated rage after an update to the brand's loyalty program means a “free” coffee will now require at least $10 more in spending.
On a subreddit dedicated to America’s beloved hotspot for budget-friendly baked goods and coffee, customers voiced their frustrations at the switch from DD Perks to Dunkin’ Rewards. The change means a difference in the way points and free items are calculated.
Beef is brewing, with some declaring that they will boycott the brand.
“I need NINE HUNDRED point for a free drink. I was 5 points away from a free drink then the next day in the updated app I was over 500 points away from a free drink. That is ridiculous,” one user wrote.
Under DD Perks, customers earned five points for every $1 spent and were able to get themselves a free drink of choice for as little as 200 points, which was the monetary equivalent of $40 worth of points.
With the new program, Dunkin’ Rewards, members earn 10 points for every $1 spent and rewards start from 150 points. However, a free basic coffee starts at 500 points and ranges up to 900 points for a premium beverage like Dunkin’s signature latte.
To break down that Dunkin’ math, customers now have to spend $50 to earn a free basic coffee and $90 for more premium hot drinks like a latte.
“Dunkin just drove a wedge into their customer base and has opened a window of opportunity for another company to step in and take market share..who will step up? My coffee relationship status is now single and looking,” another commentator said on Reddit.
Similarly, on Instagram, the company's most recent posts have been flooded with complaints from customers who called out the company for its attempt to frame the new system as more beneficial to customers.
Reward programs have always proven to be useful positive reinforcement for brands looking to foster brand loyalty. That warm, fuzzy feeling of bagging your hard-earned “freebie” as a pat on the back for your custom keeps you coming back.
But when those customers feel cheated, it elicits a much stronger response.
“Dishonest greedy company, gutting their rewards system to make it significantly worse while standing behind the narrative that this is ‘better’ for us. I detest marketing like this,” a disgruntled customer wrote on Instagram.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Scott Murphy, president of Dunkin' Americas, insisted that customers would be better off.
“Change is always going to be an adjustment, but in the long run, Dunkin’ loyalists will benefit even more,” Murphy said.
The company explained how under this new rewards regime, customers would be able to access more deals that weren’t previously available under DD Perks. This includes being able to redeem their reward points on food, as opposed to exclusively coffee.
The decision to change, Murphy said, was “driven” by member feedback.
“When we set out to improve DD Perks, we asked our members what they wanted to see in a new program. They told us three things: flexibility, variety, and recognition,” he said.
But right now they want coffee, coffee, coffee.
Customers aren’t just venting their frustrations online, either — store workers are feeling the brunt of their anger, as one employee posted on Reddit.
“What are we supposed to do when a customer is frustrated with us over something that’s out of our control? We apologize for the annoyance but there is virtually nothing we can do about it,” u/hiirai said, before pleading with customers to spare workers who were just trying to get through the day.
Now disgruntled Dunkin’ customers are running to find a new place for their pumpkin-spiced beverages this fall. Who will catch them?