Free Pastry Tomorrow AM at Starbucks

Source: Ariel65's Flickr photostream
The upside of having to watch Starbucks furiously flap its arms to convince the world that it can soar again: free samples. First cups of Pike Place Market blend, then packets of instant coffee, now pastries.

Tomorrow, July 21, you have until 10:30 to buy a drink at any Starbucks and get a free pastry. You have to print this coupon out, apparently, and check the small print to find out which pastries it covers.

I actually think the new strategy -- trumpeting the fact that its pastries are free of artificial dyes, colors, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial trans fats -- is one of the smartest moves Starbucks has made of late. Much smarter, in fact, than introducing instant coffee and debranding stores, which make the corporation look like it's Kirstie Alley, simultaneously abasing itself and selling out its own brand.

The project has been in the works for years, initiated to streamline the network of regional bakeries Starbucks was sourcing from, improve consistency throughout the country, and own its own recipes. But now that McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts are the megachain's main competitors -- which all of Starbucks' formerly loyal customers recognize -- the company has to find some way to reclaim some cachet, and in the middle of a recession, when the $4 latte has returned to being an indulgence rather than a daily necessity. If the coffee angle isn't working, maybe the pastry angle will. There's no way McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts will ever be able to convince the public that their breakfast foods are healthful or high-quality.

If you want a preview of the new pastries, Time Out's food bloggers recently rated a few of them. Score a free pastry? Let me know what you think.

UPDATE: Even though I appeared at the nearest Starbucks an hour before the promotion ended, and spotted a pastry case half-full of the eligible pastries listed on my coupon, I was told that the store had run out of the pastries they were allowed to give out, and if I wanted one of the ones on display I would have to pay. Lame, lame, lame. Reminds me of KFC.

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