Our theme for the month of October is “This Day in History.”

Last October, Dunkin’ made the unpopular decision to change the point system on their app. Not a huge deal, right? Wrong. The change diluted users’ points by 30%. A free drink reward that once only required 200 points now requires 700 (and that’s only for a hand-crafted drink, not even one of their Signature Lattes). 

My (along with other Dunkin’ app-users’ and -lovers’) world was rocked. Friends reached out, asking a week after the change, “Carlisle, how are you doing with the new Dunkin’ update? Has it set in a little or is it still pretty tough?” To explain why I was particularly betrayed by this change, we must go further back.

 Many years ago, before Dunkin was called “Dunkin,” it was called “Dunkin’ Donuts.” Its biggest chain rival was Krispy Kreme—a fight that Dunkin’ was ill-prepared for and losing. The brilliant minds at Dunkin’ Donuts x Baskin Robbins decided a rebrand was called for. It bothered me that Dunkin’ believed it could change from essentially a donut shop to essentially a coffee shop on par with, say, Starbucks. 

But today, the question of Dunkin’ vs. Starbucks is frequently asked (at least it is in my circles). In our lifetimes, I don’t believe we will see a rebrand as successful as this one. Dunkin’ joined the national coffee ranks with Starbucks, while Krispy Kreme remained regulated to donuts and dumpster diving. 

 After my initial resentment towards the Dunkin’ rebrand wore off and I started to develop a taste for coffee-flavored sugar milk (their lattes), I learned the error of my ways. A delicious drink for only $3 that would cost me $6 at Starbucks? I’m in! 

Quickly I learned that strong Starbucks supporters tended to be a bit more pretentious about their coffee drinking. They waxed poetic of different roasts and bean textures. Not Dunkin’ fans. 

Every Dunkin’ drink is like a snowflake: each one is unique. I go to the same Dunkin’ every week. My drink order stays the same, but the taste is different every time. Apparently, some people don’t enjoy that. To quote Twitter-famous Ellie Schnitt, “Dunkin’ is the proletariat and Starbucks is the bourgeoisie and many are not brave enough to say it.” 

Starbucks’ point system was already ludicrous, requiring 100 points for a free, hand-crafted drink, but in February, it got worse. You now need 200 points for the same drink. Points were diluted by about 50% across the board. 

Dunkin serves cheap, delicious-to-me coffee drinks with yummy treats like donuts, sandwiches, tragically discontinued breakfast tacos, and more for incredibly low prices. Their former point system allowed users to get as many as three free large drinks a month, depending on their spending habits. Then came the betrayal. 

For those who have seen Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network, you may remember the scene where Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin confronts Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg for diluting Saverin’s shares of Facebook from 30% to 0.03%. When Dunkin announced they were adopting a points model similar to their rival, Starbucks, I was more than disappointed; I wanted to smash a laptop on their desk, Andrew Garfield–style. 

Despite my anger, I still visit Dunkin three times a week. I budget out a certain lump sum each month for these visits. If I go on the right days and use my rewards wisely, I can usually get two free drinks a month. Their coffee is still sugary sweet and sometimes burnt, but at least I am not paying $8 for a Grande Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew (something with so many different adjectives Tom Hanks would make fun of me for it in a romcom). At least I am still one of the people. 

If you finished this and still think I’m missing something, please feel free to fund my coffee exploration here: Carlisle-Patete on Venmo.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Sheppard Song

    I feel very educated now on the history of a brand I know only from its affiliation with Ben Affleck in ads and paparazzi photos. Thank you, and I’m sorry about the point dilution 🙁


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