Why would I buy a $4 coffee? Customer Engagement. That’s why.

It’s difficult to sit here and cite specific examples of “what I learned in college” and how it relates to the real world. To be quite frank, I was one of those kids that smashed all of the information in my brain for that test and that semester then off it went into the stratosphere. If there was anything that stuck, it was purely by choice and a slight Christmas miracle. In my consumer behavior class, an elective I took primarily due to my liking for the professor and the distaste for anything requiring addition or subtraction, I learned something I still remember today. We read a book called Predictably Irrational and if anything can top Freakonomics, which is difficult, it’s this book written by Dan Ariely.

In chapter 2, The Fallacy of Supply and Demand, Ariely addresses Starbucks v. Dunkin’ Donuts and all other “wannabes.” The brilliance behind the Starbucks brand is they have found a way to divert their customer’s brains to everything other than price. As noted by Ariely it’s the ambiance – the way you order, the food offerings, the décor. It’s unique and up scale. Why wouldn’t you pay $4 for the coffee? Buying a coffee at Starbucks is an experience not a daily chore. When in all reality, I have an entry level job and if I bought a $4 coffee each weekday for an entire year (which I do not, I try to be reasonable now and then) it would cost me just over $1000. I’m predictably irrational, I could use that $1000 on something other than coffee clearly… yet, I choose to buy over-priced, you guessed it… coffee.

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Now let’s get down to the real reason I wanted to discuss my coffee buying habits or obsession rather, the coming of the Starbucks Reward card. Enter big data. Take any gift card you bought for yourself at Giant Eagle to earn fuel perks or that you received from your gracious friends who know it will go to use immediately, and register it online.

I naturally have done so, electing to offer my personal information to the twenty-fifth website and creating another username and password… for what? Starbucks Rewards, that’s what. Some perks include free refills on brewed coffee, a free coffee on your birthday, free music downloads, and “other promotions.” Let’s just say the other promotions don’t come around too often.

However, with your Starbucks Rewards card you can now download the Starbucks Application on your smart phone, manage your account online, pay with your phone and ditch the plastic card. In summary, I get a free coffee on my birthday (yes, once per year), free refills on brewed coffee (I don’t order their brewed coffee), download music (if it’s popular music they probably aren’t handing it out for free) and a free promotion now and then (that usually requires you to buy something first then get money back – spending money you otherwise wouldn’t).

And yet, here I am at 7:10am lining up and getting my coffee. I am fully aware that Starbucks is conning me into thinking I am so great for belonging to their club and sitting on the edge of my seat until I reach the Gold Card status and the best part is? It really doesn’t bother me at all. I’m going to have my Gold Card, pay with it on my iPhone, smile, and walk away content. Buying my $4 coffee is interactive and flat out cool.

I’m a predictably irrational millennial, armed with caffeine and an iPhone ready to take on the day.

What irrational purchases have you made?

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