Stacy Pincus filed suit April 27 in Chicago federal court against Seattle-based Starbucks, alleging the retailer violated its warranty to its customers and committed fraud by “underfilling” its cold drinks by overfilling its cups with the ice needed to make the drinks cold.
Pincus and the potential class of thousands of other plaintiffs are being represented in the action by attorney Steven A. Hart and the firm of Hart McLaughlin & Eldridge, of Chicago.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify how much money plaintiffs hope to obtain from Starbucks, but plaintiffs said they believe aggregate claims of all plaintiffs total more than $5 million, plus attorney fees.
According to the lawsuit, Starbucks sells their drinks by the fluid ounce. Specifically, the lawsuit notes Starbucks sells four primary sizes of drinks: a “Tall” should equal 12 ounces; a “Grande” should equal 16 ounces; a “Venti” should equal 24 ounces; and a “Trenta” should equal 30 ounces.
However, the lawsuit said, for Starbucks’ variety of cold drinks, Starbucks includes ice when selling those drinks, without telling the customer about the discrepancy.
According to the lawsuit, Starbucks uses cups inscribed with “3 black lines” and premeasured plastic ice scoopers “to ensure that employees fill these cups with less fluid ounces than are advertised on Starbucks’ menu for a cold drink.”
“In fact, Starbucks instructs its employees to provide its customers with fewer ounces than advertised,” the complaint said, specifically noting, for instance, that customers ordering a Venti-sized drink are actually getting only about 14 ounces of the beverage; the rest of the cup is filled with ice.
“Ice is not a ‘fluid’ … large pieces of ice - like those used by Starbucks in its cold drinks - take up more space and thus when melted, will yield fewer measured ‘fluid’ ounces of coffee or tea,” the complaint said.
Starbucks also typically charges more for its ice-filled cold beverages than it does for its hot drinks, compounding the harm to customers, the lawsuit alleged.
“Starbucks is advertising the size of its cold drink cups on its menu, rather than the amount of fluid a customer will receive when they purchase a cold drink – and deceiving its customers in the process,” the complaint said.
Plaintiffs noted Starbucks could have addressed the problem in “simple ways,” such as opting to “sell its Venti Cold Drinks in cups that are large enough to allow room to both pour the advertised amount of cold drink in the cup and still have room to add ice,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit seeks to include a class of plaintiffs potentially including anyone who has purchased a cold beverage at Starbucks since April 27, 2013.
According to published reports, Starbucks said it believes the lawsuit is “without merit.”
The lawsuit offers similar assertions to those in complaints brought in 2015 against Peet’s Coffee & Tea. In those lawsuits, brought in Cook County Circuit Court, plaintiffs asserted Peet’s shorted customers when they ordered either a 12-ounce or 32-ounce Peet’s Press Pot French press-style coffee drink. According to Cook County court records, those lawsuits were settled in late April.