Regulation

Lawsuit Says Starbucks Habitually Underfilled Lattes

Coffee and lawsuits usually lend themselves to courtroom comedies rather than dramas, but even memories of farcical lawsuits in the past aren’t enough to stop consumers who think they’ve been taken for a ride.

That’s the message from court documents recently filed by plaintiffs who allege that their Starbucks lattes were being criminally underfilled by as much as 25 percent. The plaintiffs’ argument takes pains to avoid dismissive claims of reasonable variations to drinks orders and even requests to leave room for milk; instead, the suit alleges that Starbucks knowingly began this practice in 2009 when it changed the way its lattes were prepared and outfitted stores with equipment marked with “fill to” lines that were several ounces below the stated menu sizes.

In a statement to Eater, a Starbucks spokesperson not only brushed aside the claims of the suit but explained that differing liquid levels in its drinks are all part of the handmade beverage charm.

“We are aware of the plaintiffs’ claims, which we fully believe to be without merit,” the spokesperson said. “We are proud to serve our customers high-quality, handcrafted and customized beverages, and we inform customers of the likelihood of variations.”

Top Class Actions explained that the lawsuit also takes issue with Starbucks’ refusal to fill any of its cups to the brim — a reasonable action on the surface but potentially a cost-saving measure of a few ounces of ingredients multiplied by millions of cups per day. Whatever the merits of the case, if it moves forward, the spoils aren’t likely to be limited to the handful of plaintiffs who actually filed the suit; instead, any customers who have purchased a latte from Starbucks since the chain allegedly began hoodwinking its consumers would be eligible for restitution.

If that’s the case, steer clear of any free latte offers.

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