A Starbucks free-drink code leaked, and now the coffee chain is punishing users by docking their stars

  • Some Starbucks app users said their Rewards "stars" disappeared after they used a leaked QR code.

  • The company confirmed it had removed stars from certain customers' accounts.

  • The leaked code, which awarded 200 stars, was meant for attendees of an in-person event, Starbucks said.

Some Starbucks app users are posting complaints online after discovering that their Starbucks Rewards "stars" have slipped into negative territory.

The app typically rewards customers with one or two stars per dollar spent. Stars can be redeemed for free beverages and other Starbucks products. The app's stars typically never drop below zero unless something goes wrong.

But last week, Starbucks docked stars from certain customers who it said used a leaked promo code for free drinks, the company told Insider. The QR code for 200 bonus stars was shared at an in-person event and intended only for attendees. But the code was shared on a Reddit forum last week and could be used widely before it was disabled.

Customers who used the code posted on Reddit and other social media sites to complain and post pictures of their Starbucks apps showing negative stars. One Twitter user joked about owing Starbucks a "star debt."

"I used the 200 star coupon floating around yesterday, had 244 stars, ordered a drink this morning, now in the negative!" one Reddit user wrote. "Starbucks is going to piss off a ton of loyal customers if they put all these people in the negative because they're too stupid to make a QR code for a free drink single use."

Starbucks said it wouldn't redeem the docked stars.

"On Saturday, April 22, a QR code for bonus Stars given to attendees at an in-person event spread online, going beyond the intended audience," a Starbucks spokesperson said. "The stars redeemed through this code have been removed from ineligible accounts. We apologize for the inconvenience."

Starbucks' Rewards program is popular, boasting more than 30 million members, and it has hit some snags in the past.

Last summer, the company faced days of technical issues, including widespread issues with mobile ordering, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In March, the app sent out a test notification to its users, setting off concern about a data breach. The company said there was no breach of customer information.

The company's recent update to its Rewards program, which made it harder to redeem many drinks, like hot coffee, outranged customers earlier this year when it was announced. And when the coffee chain last made major changes to the program in 2019, customers also complained.

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