Sticking It to Starbucks: Independent Cafés Hand Out 'Disloyalty Cards'

A group of D.C. coffee shops encourages customers to frequent independently owned businesses.
(Photo: DCDisloyal/Tumblr)
Jan 12, 2014· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Loyalty to big corporations may be the guiding principle of lawmakers in D.C., but the city's coffee shop owners are hoping to promote a little disloyalty in an effort to boost small businesses.

The "D.C. Disloyalty Card" is a rewards card that offers customers a free drink once they've patronized all six of the area's participating independently owned coffee shops, each of which operates with an eye to ethically sourced goods.

Eater reports the idea was spearheaded by Dawn Shanks and Christy Pelton, coworkers at D.C.'s Peregrine Espresso.

Shanks told Eater, "I think for baristas, one of the things we want to do well is connect with customers over coffee in a way that makes...them feel good about going into coffee shops," she said. "I hope the card is a fun way for D.C. coffee lovers to sort of explore different shops and engage with the people making coffee."

Her plan seems to be working. Five hundred cards were initially printed, and some of the cafés have already run out of them. The accompanying social media campaign is posting photos and videos on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, taken by customers who use their cards and attach the hashtag #dcdisloyal.

Shanks has plans for a second printing and hopes to expand the project to Maryland and Virginia shops.

The spirit of her campaign is similar to others, such as A Cup of Commonwealth, a café in Lexington, Ky. After a string of robberies in its neighborhood hit several independent businesses, Commonwealth began offering free cups of coffee to customers who patronized those stores.

The disloyalty card model has been successful for coffee shops in cities such as London, Boston, and Baltimore. It's not only a means of encouraging more business from customers but also a way for independent coffee shop owners to build a stronger community.