retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post reports that Starbucks is rolling out a beta version of a "tweet-a-coffee" program: "The conceit is simple: send a message to @tweetacoffee to buy a gift card for a friend. In reality, this is a pretty big deal -- think of the potential if every major company monetized Twitter that way."

The Post notes, however, that the program is more complex - and even invasive - than may be immediately apparent:

"Both senders and recipients must have an account on Twitter, and the sender must have an account on Starbucks.com. After linking the two accounts and entering credit card information through Starbucks, users can tweet a “coffee” -- i.e., a $5 Starbucks gift card -- to friends and strangers of their choice, initially using the program’s Web site and then with tweets sent directly from Twitter. The recipient then gets a message from @tweetacoffee, with a link to an e-card she can redeem by phone or print-out.

"This all sounds very convenient and fun, of course, until you get into the details of how Starbucks benefits. On the most obvious level, it's leveraging social and mobile media to sell more coffees with less friction -- a move not dissimilar to the way you can donate to charity by text.

"But Starbucks is also collecting lots of user information. Notably, both the sender and the recipient of tweeted coffees have to grant Starbucks broad access to their Twitter accounts, including the ability to post tweets … By going to Starbucks.com and creating an account, furthermore, consumers share personal information with the company."
KC's View:
For an entire generation - for better or for worse - providing this kind of information won't be a problem, as long as the benefits of providing it are demonstrable. Make my life better, more convenient, more pleasurable … then I'm okay with it. Abuse the privilege, or offer irrelevant benefits, and all bets are off.

That ought to be the rule for every data-based benefits program.