On the front it says: "Brian Hines Cardholder since 2008"
Wow! That's two years ago. I deserve this prestigious card! Well, semi-prestigious, considering all I did to get it was use my old Starbucks rewards card 30 times.
What that means is, periodically Starbucks emails me a notice of a customer survey that I'm supposed to fill out online. It takes about 5 - 10 minutes.
I don't get anything for answering the questions. But that's what cults are good at: sucking people in, then getting them to serve The Cause. My last Passion Panel experience involved a lot of questions about potential oatmeal toppings.
I was pleased to spend some of the remaining minutes in my life, which rumor has it are decreasing steadily, pondering how much I'd enjoy a fruit topping on Starbucks oatmeal compared to (ugh!) chocolate something or other.
In my more rational Starbucks-related moments, I wonder why I'm so committed to a mega-business that I used to view as disgustingly corporate and sterile compared to Salem's independent coffehouses.
And why I love to whip out my Gold Card, point it at a friend's face, and wiggle it back and forth while warning them that if they don't close their eyes, the bright laser'ish light reflecting off its surface could be blinding.
I guess the marketing department at Starbucks knows its stuff. For some reason I'm happy to load my card with $25 of VISA-supplied value, then let Starbucks enjoy an interest free loan for a month or so until I use up the balance.
Via their iPhone app, I then get a thrill out of reloading my Starbucks card.
Eventually I'll probably be able to use that app to order and pay for my coffee myself, thereby providing Starbucks with additional gratis cultish service (and adding to the company's profit margin).
I'm seriously committed to having baristas place a sticker on each of the eight "bold" coffees featured weekly. To get my sticker, all I have to do is hand over my Gold Card and have $1.85 subtracted from the balance for a Grande bold whatever-it-is that week.
Getting a sticker for some accomplishment was free when I was in elementary school, but otherwise the experience feels the same.
Recently I've taken to asking the barista at the downtown Salem Starbucks to be extra careful when she places the sticker on my card, so it lines up just right with the box where it is supposed to go.
Week #8 starts on April 26. Just six days away! Ooh, ooh, I can't wait! Once I've collected my eighth sticker I'll be able to take home a free pound of bold coffee.
Well, yeah, it'll have cost me $1.85 times eight, or $14.80.
But when you're a Gold Card member of the Starbucks cult, who cares? When I pull out my card to pay for coffee, aiming it at the light for maximum dazzling of other customers in the store, I feel like I'm special, a member of the Starbucks inner circle.
Which is a pretty damn large circle, undoubtedly.
Hmmmm... if I keep on buying coffee several times a week at Starbucks, maybe a Platinum Card will arrive in the mail one day.
Ah, something to hope for. It's great to have goals. Thank you, Starbucks, for making my life so meaningful.