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If you live on America’s East Coast—or date Ben Affleck—chances are you have an affinity for Dunkin’ Donuts. Even if you don’t like their baked goods or hate their coffee, you still know that brightly-colored logo as a sign that you’re home. Same goes for the yellow checkerboard pattern of Waffle House in the South or the golden In-n-Out arrow out West. People feel brand loyalty to the Dunkin’ name. Or, well, they did until this week.
Actually, the problems started two weeks ago, when the breakfast food chain swapped its consumer loyalty program, DD Perks, for a revamped one called Dunkin’ Rewards, “designed to help keep you running all day long with the best that Dunkin’ has to offer.” Sounds amazing, but there was one problem: Coffee drinkers can do math. Soon, folks realized that, under the new program, they’d have to get twice as many points to get free drinks, and their beloved free birthday drinks had disappeared.
“What idiot do you think I am, Dunkin’?” wrote one Reddit user. “This reward system is CRAP,” wrote another. Someone called the removal of the birthday drink “a slap in the face.” In an excellent dig, a redditor with the handle PeepnSheep said, “Good thing I live 5 mis from a Starbs lol. RIP dunks, it was nice while you were actually rewarding, even tho you only got my drinks right ⅓ of the time.” There were calls for boycott; people were encouraged to submit complaints.
All told, it felt like the kind of consumer revolt only the internet can pull off. In meatspace, familiar restaurant signs unite people under a common love of “animal style” burgers or Mexican pizzas. Online, they come together to share their disgruntlement as well as their fandom. In recent months, chains ranging from Subway to P. F. Chang’s have altered their loyalty programs. Amidst a recession when rising food costs are leading people to look for ways to save, the internet is a place for them to mobilize when their loyalty becomes less rewarded. It’s also no surprise that a lot of the chatter on the Dunkin’ subreddit involved people just trying to figure out how to get the most out of the new Rewards system.
It’s unclear exactly what will come of all this. Maybe Dunkin’ will revert back to its old system; maybe customers will just give up on the chain and never come back. No matter the outcome, it’s a helluva way to ring in Posting Your PSL on IG season.
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