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Starbucks customers sue for underfilled lattes

Not everyone is a morning person, especially when they haven’t had their morning coffee. The lack of caffeine can wreak havoc on your mood and attitude toward others, with effects that could last the entire day.

In most cases, it’s one’s own fault for forgetting to start the pot of coffee in the morning, but some Starbucks customers are putting the blame for their coffee-less morning in a class action lawsuit against the chain for constantly under-filling their lattes.

Siera Strumlauf of San Fransisco and Benjamin Robles of Carlsbad, California filed a lawsuit on March 16 in the California federal court, stating that the pair believes the baristas are serving lattes that are 25 percent less full than what the menu claims, to save Starbucks money.

In the document, Strumlauf is said to visit her local Starbucks one to two times per week, where she purchases a grande (16-ounce) latte.

“Plaintiff Strumlauf relied on this representation and warranty in deciding to purchase her Starbucks Lattes,” the document stated, “and this representation and warranty was part of the basis of the bargain, in that she would not have purchased Grande-sized Starbucks Lattes on the same terms if she had known that they were not, in fact, 16 fluid ounces.”

Robles’ claim is similar to Strumlauf’s. Robles believed that he would be buying a 16-ounce latte and would not have bought the drink if he knew he would be handed anything less than what he ordered. The lawsuit goes on to explain a “brief background on lattes” and how Starbucks creates their lattes with the company diagram intended for barista usage.

A standardized recipe was instituted in all Starbucks locations across the nation in 2009. Pitchers used to heat milk were etched with a “fill to” line that does not measure to be the tall (12 ounce), grande (16 ounce), and venti (20 ounce) sizes represented on the Starbucks menu.

The court document states, “By underfilling its lattes, thereby shortchanging its customers, Starbucks has saved countless millions of dollars in the cost of goods sold and was unjustly enriched by taking payment for more product than it delivers.”

The document explains Strumlauf’s and Robles’ claims by mentioning Starbucks was faced with financial trouble at the end of 2007. The chain’s stock had dropped 42 percent and many stores across the U.S. were failing. Howard Schultz, the chairman of the board, returned to his position as CEO in January 2008 after his leave in 2000.

Schultz was the lead in over $500 million worth of permanent cuts in costs, laying off 4,000 employees, closing 800 retain locations in the U.S. and bringing down the cost of goods sold.

With this shift in production, another pressing issue continued to burden Starbucks’ business. Near record-high milk prices caused concern for the future of Starbucks’ drink prices.

In 2008, the retail price of milk was $3.80.

Following Starbucks’ annual meeting in Seattle, Schultz told reporters “I am concerned about dairy, both domestically and around the world, and we are working feverishly with our suppliers.”

The lawsuit between Strumlauf/Robles and Starbucks holds the chain accountable for eight counts; breach of express warranty, unjust enrichment, violation of California’s Consumers Legal Remedies Act, violation of California’s Unfair Competition code, violation of California’s False Advertising Law, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud.

There are four attorneys on the lawsuit that are named as plaintiff representatives. If the lawsuit is approved as class action, it would be open to all U.S. Class members who purchased a Starbucks Latte,” opening the door to millions of customers.

In 2014, Bank of America was faced with a similar lawsuit, allowing all of its customers affected by the settlement to claim the money they had been entitled to.

BoA and its successorin-interest FIA Card Serivices N.A., “failed to apply same-day credit to payments made on Bank of America consumer credit card accounts” causing a late fee for the “overdue” payment. Both companies denied allegations, but agreed to settle the lawsuit, giving qualifying cardholders their money back.

A spokesperson with Starbucks told Eater, an online food news publication, “We are aware of the plaintiffs’ claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. We are proud to serve our customers high quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations.”

About The Author

Allie Taylor

Allie Taylor is a rising senior in the journalism program, and has dedicated most of her life to writing (whether scooping stories on campus, or practicing her creative fiction). She can recite the entirety of Bo Burnham’s “What?” and loves marathons… of Netflix, of course. When Taylor is not in the newsroom, you can find her rehearsing with the cast and crew of S(He) Will Fade, drinking her weight in coffee at Starbucks or burrito-ing herself in a blanket in her dorm room.

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