Sticking it to the coffee man

The Rogers Family Gourmet Coffee and Tea  site is moving like molasses in winter today and it couldn't make me happier.  I've got an order in the cart and have been trying to get it through for over an hour -- which thrills me.  

How great would it be for a small family company doing something good - that just so happens to be brilliant marketing --  to break the internet?  Take that Kim Kardashian. 

These are the folks who are giving away "the Freedom Clip" at least temporarily rescuing good customers like me from the tyranny of Keurig -- a successful company with a good product that recently decided to start shaking us down for the last possible penny. 

I've got confirmation that my Clip is on the way,  but am probably going to have to send my gratitude order later.  If you have a Keurig 2.0 that is rejecting all but Keurig's specially marked product click here and stick it to the (coffee) man. They say the issue is  Digital Rights Management -- but feels more that Tea Party ( the one back in Boston that actually accomplished something). . 

Keurig's patent on their K-Cup design expired in 2012. Thus, the individual cups of coffee, tea and other beverages have been created and marketed by a variety of companies creating an expanded market, competitive pricing and greater consumer choice.

Keurig responded by following the evil path of printer manufacturers -- create a new piece of hardware , sell it cheap, and do everything possible to keep the price of everything else you need to use the machine exclusive and inflated.

Keurig's new 2.0 model expands user options by bundling together new four-cup carafe servings, the capacity to use 20 oz. Vue cups and their workhorse K-Cup individual serving product in one machine  -- and it costs less than most of their previous products that do less. They released it in time for Christmas with heavy promotional agreements with major chains like Costco, Target and Wal-Mart. 

For various gifts, replacements and locations, I have purchased 12 Keurig brewers over the years. I have been not only an early adopter but a product evangelist. My online account with them shows accumulated related product purchases in the thousands. Of course I had the 2.0 in my cart  the first week it was out. 

We didn't need it, but I wanted it. The packaging of the new machine was beautiful and built the anticipation as I set it up. I popped a K-cup in for the first brew -- and the machine said no. It would not function with this or any other K-Cup I had in my cupboard. 

Only then did I discover that my shiny new machine would only accept new K-Cups impregnated with a special ink the brewer needed to proceed. I packed it up and took it back to the store less than an hour after I brought it home.  I averted my eyes every time I passed a Keurig 2.0 display throughout the holiday season -- although I did notice the external packaging eventually included mention of the K-Cup restriction.  When I saw online that Keurig was willing to send replacement K-Cups for my current stash, I bought the 2.0 and they replaced the K-Cups I had bought through their website, but no others.

With the "right" cups I tried to brew our standard 12 oz. pour - the size I had been using with my K-Cups since my first Keurig so many years ago. It balked. Ten ounces was the best it would do with a K-Cup. Since the packaging boasted more size options than ever -- I called Keurig and ended up feeling sorry for the poor kid on the other end of the line who was clearly limited to a tightly scripted set of corporate bullspeak. To make my coffee or tea in the proportion I had always used  would require me to buy the (more expensive) Vue cups which also work on this machine. This was, of course, only to offer me a better product and experience. No matter how many times I said I liked the old experience just fine, the poor child recited the company line about how the increased costs were a privilege for my own good. I failed to see the gift of getting less for more. 

My fire for Keurig product had dimmed, but nothing lasts forever.  I would settle for a companionate relationship. We moved the old Keurig into my office knowing it remained our link to choice and value for however long it survives. We bought the new stuff for the new machine begrudgingly spending less in total than we did before we were "upgraded."

And thus today's news of an entrepreneurial workaround -- given away for FREE -- lifted my heart. The marketer in me sees this as a brilliant and cost-effective customer acquisition tool which will create amazing earned media and goodwill. But the consumer in me wants to throw them a parade. 

There is already litigation in progress between Rogers and Keurig and I recognize that Keurig minions are likely tirelessly plotting to thwart this plan and may get the whole concept shut down before my Freedom Clip escapes the fulfillment house. But someone needs to remind them that regardless of the way Malcolm Gladwell sees it,  consumers cheer David and despise Goliath. 

These fights don't come cheap, so I'll make sure my Rogers order gets through  today -- and won't even use the 10 percent off coupon they sent when I registered. These guys are brilliant. 

Update: Keurig cried uncle after a 23 percent drop in coffee maker sales  convinced them that consumer anger and frustration can apparently be a bad thing.