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Communal Starbucks Card Is No More


"...we were legitimately cheering on this experiment."

For almost a month, Starbucks-drinking iPhone users could use the image of Jonathan Stark's iOS app Starbucks card and get their caffeine fix for free. Although Starbucks initially supported this effort, they ended it last week.

Mashable has more:

Adam Brotman, vice president of digital ventures at Starbucks, phoned Stark earlier Friday evening to inform him that the card would be deactivated. Starbucks, he says, was rooting for the experiment from the sidelines, even though the company’s terms do not permit the use of shared registered cards.

“I’m sad about it, first and foremost, because we were legitimately cheering on this experiment,” Brotman says.

. . .

Friday morning, entrepreneur Sam Odio’s “How to use Jonathan’s card to buy yourself an iPad” blog post lit the web on the fire. Some saw the card exploit as an evolution of the experiment; others saw it as theft. Odio even later offered to return the funds. Once the exploit was public, however, Starbucks felt compelled to deactivate the card.

Here's what Odio said on his blog that spurred the shutdown of this social experiment:

Since I don't find the idea of yuppies buying yuppies coffees very interesting I decided to mix things up a bit. I coded up a script that would alert me whenever the card balance reached a certain threshold (github). And here's the twist: for the last week I (and others) have been using this script to transfer donated money off Jonathan's card and onto our own Starbucks gift cards. It's easy: just head to your local starbucks, pop open your computer, run this script, and when the music plays, cash in.

Through this strategy I've personally netted $625 by spending less than 5 hours at Starbucks. That's enough for an iPad.

I'm not getting an iPad, though. Instead I'm selling the card on eBay and donating the proceeds to Save The Children. Assuming the card sells for face value I'll have fed 20 children for a month. So here's your social experiment: will people bid up the price of the card to face value (or possibly exceed it)? Or am I alone in thinking that helping a stranger find their next caffeine fix is not what we should be worried about in today's world?

Use of the card launched on July 14, giving users the opportunity to not only get "free" coffee with the card but also to donate money and keep the funding going. According to PC World, the balance got as high as $185. Just last week, Starbucks spokesperson Gina Woods told PC World, "We think Jonathan's project is really interesting and are flattered he chose Starbucks for his social experiment."

[H/T PC World]

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