Does your Starbucks barista know you by name? Do you order “the usual” when you visit the coffee shop chain? Then you may have noticed a lower bill recently.

Turns out your favorite place to get a skinny vanilla late with extra foam may have been up-charging you. According to an AP release Starbucks has been adding a bean surcharge to unsuspecting customer’s purchases — a practice which is illegal in Massachusetts, where the company got in trouble.

Ill Advertised Surcharge

The Seattle coffee company has been charging an approximate $1.50 extra to individuals who purchase a bag of beans weighing under the typical one-pound bag. The company’s logic behind the surcharge was because employees had to customize the sealed one-pound bags to fit the weight requested by customers. Starbucks did not report any complaints about the surcharge, but probably because customers were completely unaware of it.

Charging this extra fee is not the reason Starbucks got into trouble, it was the way they went about doing it. By not informing the customer whether through; posted signs, printing the charge on the receipt or verbally making the customer, the company has put themselves in the hot seat with Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

Starbucks Still Faces Potential Legal Action

Although Starbucks did get charged for their mistake, it wasn’t too steep considering the mammoth size of the company. After violations at five Starbucks stores in Massachusetts were discovered, the chain was charged $1,575 violation fee. But this little win for the consumer-protection agency is a big win for customers everywhere. Starbucks Corp. has announced they have stopped adding the surcharge as of Nov. 7 at all of their nearly 11,000 nationwide stores.

This is a good move on the company’s part considering they could get in bigger trouble with the consumer-protection agency. Even though Starbucks has paid the fine, there are still discussions on how the company can compensate the nearly 75,000 Massachusetts customers effected by the surcharge.

Before you get mad at the company, check out the promotion they are having on Thursday, Nov. 17 where you can buy one coffee drink and receive a free one.

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  • Sun W. Kim

    I would think they could make an effort to refund using several methods:

    1) $1.50 back to the Starbucks Gift Card. This may be nonredeemable if the card was discarded.
    2) $1.50 back to the credit card they have on file.
    3) The remaining credit they can not refund back to the owner, could be distributed to customers by offering a free drip coffee hour.