The internet (or at least Twitter) lit up briefly this morning when Starbucks announced that they are going to change the way customers earn loyalty program points. Customers were outraged that the company was changing how various “elite” status levels are reached and how much money they would have to spend before they qualified to “get something free.”
Since I moved to the sticks and don’t drive past half a dozen Starbucks locations on my daily commute maybe I feel this change a little less acutely than the average overpriced coffee drinker. Or maybe it’s just a beautifully wrapped case-in-point of everything that is wrong with America today… because customers, presumably regular customers who enjoy Starbucks products and services, are now up in arms because the company is making it just a little bit harder to get free shit.
Let that idea sit with you for a while. Starbucks, a business that exists for the purpose of making money through the sale of coffee and related ephemera, actually wants its customers to spend a little more money before getting something for nothing. I’ll even take it a step further and directly question when we as a society decided that it was our God given right to expect people and business to give their products away. Somehow we’ve managed to take a gesture of goodwill and thanks – a free cup of coffee – and twist it into some kind of entitlement.
I learned from a young age that sometimes life is tough. The world doesn’t owe you a damned thing besides the chance to work hard, scrape, and make something for and of yourself. Past that, you’re not entitled to a thin dime – or a $5 cup of coffee – from anyone else. So when you do get something for nothing, be appreciative instead of immediately taking to the internet to cry that it’s just not enough.
If you think you’re getting a raw deal from Starbucks take your business elsewhere. There are hundreds of businesses that would be happy enough to take your money. Better yet, go get yourself a nice Italian coffee machine so you can cut out the middle man and *gasp* learn to brew your very own java. You’ll save a lot more money doing that than you’ll earn back through any customer loyalty program.
As always, not a sermon, just a though.
On weekend mornings, the background noise in my houses is most often the FoxNews business report. One of their major talking points for the weekend just passed was the impending collapse of Social Security and what it would take to put that program on a solid fiduciary footing. If my calculations are correct, I can retire from government service in 26 years, 10 months, and 23 days. With that kind of time horizon, I don’t know why anyone in my age bracket would even contemplate Social Security in their calculations on what they need to do in order to retire comfortably. Without a massive infusion of cash from a tax increase, a dramatic reduction in benefits, and an increase in the age when the “pay out” begins, the program is, for all practical purposes, a dead man walking.
Even if some semblance of the program is salvaged, those of us in our 20s and 30s can count on receiving only a return of pennies on every dollar we “contribute” to the plan. Since it’s a government program, we don’t have the choice to “opt out” and invest that portion of our retirement into a sector that actually provides a positive return on investment. Effectively, every dollar our generation is forced to contribute to Social Security is a dollar that is lost to us and is nothing more than a tax by another name.
I was asked not long ago what I would do to fix the system… I don’t want to fix it. I want to tear the mother down. Sixty years ago, Social Security was a stop-gap measure that has been elevated to the lofty status of an entitlement. I don’t want to fix it. I want the government to allow me to be accountable for my own retirement planning and stay out of my way. I don’t want to fix it. I want Americans to start taking responsibility for what happens to them.
I don’t know how or when exactly we became a country of whiners, of men and women too infirm of mind to make our own decisions, of people terrified of the successes and failures that come with making your own decisions and being held accountable for them. If you are in the dawn of your career, it is your responsibility to make yourself smart on your options. Contribute to 401k, Roth, or other investment vehicles until it hurts. If you don’t make any provisions for how you plan to live out (and pay for) your golden years, don’t come bitching to me when you’re eating cat food and living under a bridge. I’ll be too busy playing golf to give a shit.