Do You Have Coffee Insurance?

I’m very sensitive to how much liquid one must take in each day – 8 glasses of water, etc. – and I’d have to double my intake if I couldn’t count all of the coffee I drink. I’m an ersatz coffee snob, in that I like something better than the regular pot-o-joe that is usually percolating in the lunch room, but I’m not so rigid as to require a certain balance of North European and Guatamelan beans to reach caffeine nirvana. But I’m clearly in the marketing target area for the new ‘coffee cards’ that most major chains are hawking.

Hawking is probably a generous word.  Whoring might be more appropriate.  The idea that life is somehow better by having a piece of plastic dedicated to my coffee habit is ludicrous.

I’m not a cash lover by any stretch of the imagination.  The only kind of money I do not like to carry is paper: give me a pocketful of Sacagawea dollars (or Loonies in Canada or pound coins in England) and I couldn’t be happier.  But if they’re not to hand, then leave me and my plastic alone.  I’ve sufficiently modified my purchasing behavior so that there is rarely a need to use an automated teller machine (ATM).

But I cannot fathom making a cash deposit in the coffeee shop bank!  That’s what you’re doing, in essence, when you make that $20 infusion into Starbucks, Caribou, or Seattle’s Best.  Not only do you no longer have that $20, earning interest in your account, but it’s stuck in a financial limbo until it emerges, drip by drip, with each purpose.  You’re stuck with that investment with that single coffee seller, the only benefit to you being a piece of plastic to enable you to have an expensive coffee when you have neglected to manage your cash well enough to have enough in your pocket.

It is not just a matter of trying a card out, either, which might not be so bad, or investing in one as a gift certificate equivalent.  The terms and conditions on these cards are surprisingly tough if you don’t use them frequently enough.  For example:

  • Value placed on the Seattle’s Best card will not be replaced if the card is lost, stolen, damaged (so it won’t swipe) or used without your permission, unlike most other plastic bank cards;
  • If you don’t use your Seattle’s Best or Caribou card for 12 months and there’s a balance on it, you will start being charged $2 a month until you start to use it again or exhaust the balance (Starbucks has just discontinued this policy);

Registration schemes may allow you to “freeze” your balance if you lose your card and report it.  The coffee sellers are changing their policies, but the modifications just bring them into line with other bank cards.  So why bother to put the money elsewhere?

I used to be a frequent visitor to the many coffee shops – most of which are national chains – in my area but the over-the-top marketing, the neverending stream of nonsense coming from these companies, has quashed my enthusiasm.  Starbucks hit a new low last week when they distributed, with the local newspaper, a guide on the different coffees, “modifiers”, and other parts of an order at Starbucks to better enable a quick order, right down to having a cheat sheet so you can write down your ever-so-very-complicated coffee order.

More power to them.  If their regular customers are such stupid sheep as to participate in those types of programs, then there really must be “one born every minute”!

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