Controversy Boiling Over Caribou Coffee’s Card Promotion

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fans of the Minneapolis-based company Caribou Coffee say they’re upset about the way the end of a popular promotion was handled.

Caribou’s Summertime Coffee Club rewarded coffee drinkers with a free coffee after initially buying seven. So, when no more cards were available, people complained.

“A loyalty program is supposed to keep wanting people to come in and it’s just done the opposite of that for me,” said Dawn Shelton, who says the card enticed her to buy her coffee at Caribou.

The loyalty program also encouraged her to convince her co-workers to switch, so when she learned there were no more cards available, she wrote a comment on Facebook.

“I went back to see if they had commented on what I said — answered my question or my comment — and not only had my comment been deleted, but I realized I did not even ‘like’ the page any longer,” Shelton said.

Shelton is not alone and said she saw other customers who talked about their comments being deleted.

“Somebody else on their page said, ‘I don’t appreciate my comments being deleted,'” Shelton said.

She feels its poor customer service and a slap in the face to a loyal customer.

A Caribou official told WCCO-TV the loyalty program was phased out to make room for other promotions.

They said they received two or three comments from customers and each were contacted to see how the company could help.

Shelton said she was not contacted and will not go back to a Caribou until she is.

“If people are being deleted for writing something that Caribou doesn’t like, we won’t possibly even know how many people were deleted,” said Shelton.

Caribou said no comments were deleted from their fan page.

University of St. Thomas professor of Marketing, David Brennan said Caribou can learn from this.

“What are the takeaways from this, in terms of as they go forward? This is something to learn from and that is part of this continuous learning that companies need to go through all the time,” Brennan said.

Caribou said although they have no more cards to pass out, the program will be honored until Sept. 6, just like it says on the back of the card.

More from Reg Chapman
  • MW

    There is also word going around that Facebook is having issues with their business pages in which not all comments that are submitted appear. Maybe this is just a Facebook issue…

  • mope

    so is your brain what a dumb a$$ thing to say

  • Bill Smith

    Promotions come and go all the time … some of my favorite promotions have been phased out at various companies…does not mean I am going to go running around and complaing to everyone. It is all a part of business.

    • dan

      Thanks for some common sense, Bill

    • Love my Caribou!

      That’s true. They don’t really owe you more than you can purchase from them. I was glad to use my Caribou cards, I still have one to fill with stickers. Maybe they will have something like this promotion next summer.

      • Beer Guzzling Redneck

        Never been a Caribou fan, myself. Have always preferred Starbucks. Stopped at the one in Cottage Grove this morning for a Mocha and the wife got a Taffy Nut Latte on ice.

        • Jack Noff

          What a femme.

  • Joy

    I can’t believe this woman is complaining about this. Really?! It’s not like someone cheated her out of thousands of dollars. You got your 10 minutes of local fame, now move on and enjoy your burnt Starbucks coffee. I think this is just another example of the entitlement generation feeling like everyone owes them something; even a friggin’ cup of joe.

    • Sue

      I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Sam

    @Bill….Seriously?! How do you know that? I thought the muslims had just taken over the local starbucks off Riverside; didn’t know they claimed the caribou too?

  • JH

    Seriously? She should read some news and see what people are dealing with around the world, instead of complaining about promotion cards. Get a life!

  • just sayin

    Maybe she’d save more money by getting off her lazy a$$ and making her own coffee in the morning instead of complaining about this. What a waste of air!

    • Mike

      LMAO … thats what I do. I make my own coffee… FRENCH PRESS… it’s the best!

      Shocking this is actually news. FLUFF

    • Dom

      Aren’t you the same person in the budget debates saying you didn’t want people telling you how to spend your money? So now you are complaining how someone chooses to spend their own money? Yes it was a waste of air, you are an expert on that

  • Pete

    Geesh!!! Drink your damn coffee and move on… How boring can these peoples lives be to make this an issue? Are these the same people that drive around in their $85,000 SUV’s, getting 20 feet per gallon with blue tooths pasted to their heads feeling self important? I dont know… I’ll be the guy in the Stratus drinking coffee from Holiday with a 5 yr old cell phone in my pocket feeling average.

    • Beer Guzzling Redneck

      You sound a bit upset/envious/jealous that “some people” have an 85k SUV (they come that spendy?) and have a blue tooth device.

      A 5 year old cell phone? Come on. I bet it’s not THAT old or it might not even function with today’s technology.

    • Pete

      Of course it functions. Cell signals are cell signals… As for being Jealous? Jealous of looking and acting like a self centered a-hole thinking I’m gods gift. Umm no. I dont need a spendy vehicle that other people cant see around or a certain cup of coffee to verify who I am. Comfy with my 99 cent cup of coffee and my 32 mpg stratus. Gets me there just the same as any vehicle in the world. Okat there red? … And blue tooths just make me laugh. Reminds of Mr. no shirt for no reason guy…. As for 85k SUVs. I just threw a number out there. But im sure some come close. Dont be so literal.

    • haha


  • I heart Caribou

    It’s a PROMO lady! Get over it! You didn’t get ripped off or robbed of. If you’re looking for deals/promos to help save you money on coffee, it’s time to invest in your own Mr. Coffee- about $20 at Target. Support MN-born businesses!

    Plus, they have the “bring your own mug/drinkware, and save $0.50”! Shelton, I hope you don’t complain about this one months down the line.

  • The Honey Badger

    For REAL? Why on earth would WCCO even do this story? Let’s smear a local business – who does a lot of good, by the way – over something so flipping stupid?!?! It was a PROMOTION. Promotions are TEMPORARY in retail and food service. I’m guessing there was probably “for a limited time only” disclaimer somewhere in the legalese about this promotion.

    Did she not get her free coffee? DOesn’t sound like it. Sounds like she got her free coffee and then wanted to start another card. They’re out of cards. WHat are you out, lady? NOTHING. You are out nothing. Other than you look like a greedy moron …

  • Punch cards DON'T work

    I can see why Caribou discontinued the promo. It’s possible that this summer “loyalty” program backfired. Could employees be handing out too many promo cards, or worse, stickers to friends? families? regulars?? These sorts of things (eg. punch cards) never fare well in these sorts of businesses. Maybe Shelton was upset because she couldn’t find anymore squares to put her stolen stickers on. Just my guess.

  • Paulie

    “the loyalty program was phased out to make room for other promotions.” What a lame excuse. Perhaps she is talking about this week’s 10% coupon for a cup of house coffee. Great way to keep ’em coming back!
    Just makes me laught.

  • The Honey Badger

    Do you know how to use “Snopes,” bill? Everyone: Please go to and search “Caribou Coffee.” Read the full article. Please. It’s time to put this myth of Caribou being supported by terrorists to rest. B/C isn’t that what you really meant, bill? That the Bank of Islam = Terrorists? So if Caribou is owned by Bank of Islam, then Caribou is owned by – and thus supporting – terrorists?

    Your ignorance is astonishing. Almost as astonishing as my naivete in believing that people don’t believe everything they see/hear/read anymore …

    Ignorance at its best …

    • weird argument

      Seems your ignorance is astounding, putting words in someone’s mouth like that. While Bill’s comments are weird, yours are dramatically weird as well.

  • Mike

    What is your point Bill? Islam is as Constitutionally protected as Christianity. If your not happy living in America do us a favor and move.

    • never heard that one before

      Ooh, you really told him, Mike.

  • Give me liberty

    The coffee industry needs more government regulation and then tragedies like this could be avoided.

  • SAS

    Caribou is a great Minnesota company. They also have various promotions all the time. Great Holiday bundles, Summer drink specials, and cold weather specials. Not to mention their Latte’s beat Starbucks hands down!

    If you got a coupon for a cheap oil change, would you quit changing your oil because your friend couldn’t get a coupon???

    • Iconoclast

      Blech. Prefer Starbucks any day of the week.

    • Ordinary Guy

      Somebody said that Arcapita is an Islamic bank, with a Sharia board, and that owns 60% of Caribou Coffee. Still tastes good though, but I enjoy the local “mom and pop” outfits. I suppose they all bid on the same coffee beans.

  • Eric

    WCCO missed big here. The back of the cards says “Card quantities are limited and available while supplies last.” They ran out of cards and aren’t providing more, PER THE BACK OF EVERY CARD AND THE WEB SITE!!!

    • Angela


      • Iconoclast

        Except they “ran out” because they instructed the employees to toss them all in the garbage.

        I’d call that a bit shady, if not false advertising.

        • David J. Conklin

          Got proof?

        • Jack

          Seriously?! I can’t speak for all stores, but as a Caribou employee, I find this somewhat offensive. Employees were instructed to hand out cards until they ran out–no one threw away cards just so the company didn’t have to pay. If anything, I personally try to give my customers the best deals. Complaining costumers = no fun for employees.

  • Ike

    How nice that they even offered the promo. Amazing the number of people complaining that they can’t get MORE free drinks. It is unfortunate that WCCO didn’t interview anyone who was happy with the fact that Caribou even offered the promotion in the first place. The fine print clearly stated that cards were valid through Sept 6 but that there were a limited number of cards available.

  • Good Grief!

    Dawn, I’m sorry to say you’re going to have one sorry life if THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT!!! Do you even know what’s going on in our financial system? DO YOU REALIZE THE GOVERNMENT IS PRINTING MONEY and running up debts which may one day backfire? Now THAT’S something to rage about. Caribou isn’t holding you hostage making you buy their product. Go somewhere else and make us all happy.

    • Iconoclast

      This is the funniest comment on this story.

      This goofball just had a complete meltdown because the woman in the article isn’t in a full-blown panic attack and completely preoccupied with the debt ceiling debate.

      How freaking hilarious is that?

      Chicken little is having his little implosion over someone else NOT. LOL!!!

  • Buck

    Why is this news ??

  • Caribou Drinker

    Hmm not going to say what Caribou I go to…..but….. they are still using the cards! I just got two stickers added to mine this morning!

  • Anonymous

    I’m an employee. I think its wrong to not continue to hand out cards at least through August. The promo ends September 6th. My store didn’t run out of cards. We had a bunch left, but were told to throw them away Sunday night. I know it’s just a promo, but times are tough and the free drink is a nice thing when your pinching pennies. We hardly ever give out free things… Loyal customers deserve it!!

    • Give me liberty

      I don’t think you can technically be pinching pennies and be buying coffee at Caribou at the same time. Typical spoiled youth comment. Sure you voted for Obama. Thanks for nothing. Please don’t vote next election.

      It’s up to the private business to determine what their loyal customers get, not the liberal thought police.

    • Really?

      Were you an employee over the Christmas season when they handed out cards until the end of the promo and then there was a “big controversy” over the fact that they handed out cards that people didn’t have a chance to fill up? Also it sounds like you are a pretty bad employee for sharing internal company information.

      • anon

        i’m gonna say this person isn’t a bad employee, it’s just a bad company.

      • Anonymous

        I need to clarify that I, for the most part, I enjoy working for caribou… But at the same time, wrong is wrong. I’m just calling it like it is. When I watched the piece on the news about this and they said that we “ran out”, I know that was a lie. BTW… I am a great employee and have am EXTREMELY loved by my customers. I am only putting the truth out there.

        • anon

          I’m going to go with bad employee, you may enjoy your job, and customers may like you, but if anyone finds out who you are you could be in the unemployment line. True or false, sharing internal info is definitely against company policy.

        • Jack

          Perhaps you need to ask yourself why you blindly followed this order, when you had a moral problem with it? You could have contacted your DM, RM, or even HR if you had an issue you knew to be wrong. I’m not blaming you for your store’s obviously shady practice, but you’re a barista and not a sheep.

    • Anonymous Caribou Drinker

      Supplies lasted but they opted to stop handing the cards out instead? Well that’s nice.

  • Caribou Card Controversy « CBS Minnesota

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  • JustSayin

    Sheesh, people will complain about anything just to get their way……..I’d like to say she is J***sh.

    • Iconoclast

      With a name like “Dawn Shelton” I find the Jew claim to be a bit unlikely.

      Unless the missing letters in your word would have spelled the word “jerkish.”

  • Eric

    If they did throw away cards, then they should be faulted. They didn’t run out of cards then, they ended the promo prematurely. They don’t have that much around the counter, they didn’t need to “make room for new promos”.

    • anon

      wcco should follow up!

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