An army of loyal Dunkin’ fans has risen up against their favorite coffee chain after it rolled out a new rewards program that they say makes it more difficult to earn a free drink of their choice.
The previous DD Perks program offered a free drink of any kind at $40 spent. The new Dunkin’ Rewards system, unveiled last week, requires customers to spend $70 to get a free crafted drink such as an espresso, cold brew or refresher. Customers also no longer get a free drink on their birthdays.
Such changes ignited a rowdy discussion on the /DunkinDonuts subreddit, where users vented their frustrations and vowed to ditch the coffee brand they said they were once loyal to.
“I no longer run on Dunkin,” wrote one Reddit user, referring to the chain’s slogan: “America runs on Dunkin'.”
“Rip dunks, it was nice while you were actually rewarding, even tho you only got my drinks right 1/3 of the time,” the same user added, using an emoji of a gravestone.
Though it has thousands of locations scattered across the United States, Dunkin’ has long held onto a loyal customer base in the Northeast, where it is headquartered. It’s so beloved there that the recent closing of two Dunkin’ locations in Stow, Massachusetts, left the town in mourning. Since its inception in 1950, the chain has become a go-to for many across the country who rely on it as an affordable coffee fix.
Dunkin’ has seen the backlash online, but it appears to be sticking to its new plan.
“After a few years, it was time for a change,” the official Dunkin’ account tweeted, in response to one user asking why the company enacted a different rewards system. “We listened to our members’ feedback and made several new enhancements like redeeming points for rewards on food and drinks!”
In a statement to NBC News, Dunkin’ president Scott Murphy elaborated.
“Change is always going to be an adjustment, but in the long run, Dunkin’ loyalists will benefit even more,” Murphy said. “Dunkin’ Rewards is all about choice for our members; with a more dynamic rewards structure where they start earning rewards at a lower spend threshold, they can redeem points for a wider variety of food and beverages and choose when and how they use their points.”
He also referred NBC News to the original press release announcing the rewards.
Still, many Dunkin’ devotees say they are ditching the brand for good. Some in the Reddit forum said they’ve already uninstalled the app in favor of making coffee at home or switching to a different chain.
“I might just make the switch to Wawa or Starbucks just out of spite,” another Redditor posted. “Thanks Dunkin.”
Others have made posts breaking down the math of exactly how the two programs differ as customers express outrage about the company advertising Dunkin’ Rewards as an upgrade when, to many, it seemed to be the opposite.
“Honestly, this is what pisses me off the most,” a commenter posted. “The changes to the reward program are one thing, but the attempt to gaslight customers into thinking they’re getting a better deal is sickeningly unethical.”
The backlash has spilled over to Twitter, where people continue to rally against Dunkin’ as they lament that their daily coffee is no longer worth buying.
Ryan Gonzalez said he has gotten his coffee from Dunkin’ for eight years. But in the days since its new rewards program took over, the 21-year-old college student has been looking elsewhere for his daily caffeine fix.
Gonzalez, who attends school in the Boston area, said he visited Dunkin’ frequently enough to earn a beverage of choice at least every other week. But now, instead of waiting longer and spending more money for that same free drink, he’s been getting his coffee from the dining hall or making it at home.
“Dunkin’ was always the more affordable, true-to-their-roots coffee chain, especially compared to Starbucks, which is more of a premium coffee chain,” he said. “It’s Dunks. It was a lot more simple. But now it feels like Dunkin’ is trying to become Starbucks and it’s just kind of losing its identity as the brand that I love.”
Knowlton Anderson, who lives in New York City, said where he gets his coffee on any given day typically depends on whichever rewards program will benefit him most.
Anderson, 22, said Dunkin’ and Starbucks are equidistant from his apartment, but that he’ll be choosing the latter a lot more, as well as trying out more of the city’s local coffee shops.
“I think there’s been such a strong reaction online because Dunkin’ kind of positions itself as the people’s coffee, and this feels very much like a move to drive out the everyday consumer to try to elevate their brand,” Anderson said. “It’s trying to position as if you’re getting more access to better options through this new upgrade, but if you break down the math, it’s pretty clear to see that you’re not.”
Latiesha Perritt, 30, said she would pick up a Dunkin’ coffee three to five times a week on her way to work, often earning a free drink every week. But Peritt, a Sterling, Virginia, resident, said after Dunkin’ made its announcement, she’s planning to roll back how often she buys her coffee rather than making it at home.
Having worked at a Dunkin’ before, Perritt said she’s seen firsthand how strong the customer base is. The same faces returned to the store day after day, she said, so losing their loyalty might come with costly consequences for the company.
“It’s kind of like a slap in the face as a customer,” she said.
Many of those lashing out online say they just hope for a return to the old Dunkin’ plan.
As one Twitter user joked, “i need us all to collectively manifest the downfall of dunkin rewards so they bring back dd perks.”