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“Clearly meant to mislead”: The complaint filed against Starbucks for putting too much ice in iced drinks

Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
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A reasonable customer would not wait for a scoop of ice cream to melt before eating it.

That’s one of the arguments lawyers have made in a new complaint brought against Starbucks. It’s not the case with ice cream—so why should it be the case with iced coffee and tea? Chicago woman Stacy Pincus has filed a class action complaint against the coffee chain for allegedly falsely advertising their iced beverages and deceiving consumers into paying higher prices for them.

The $5 million suit, filed last week (April 27), claims Starbucks employees deliberately underfill their iced drinks—a Venti iced coffee, advertised as 24 fluid ounces, is actually only 14 ounces of iced coffee and enough ice to fill the cup to the rim.

Anyone who has ordered an iced refreshment from Starbucks knows this plight—hoping that your baristas will go easy on the ice, so that you can enjoy more of your iced latte.

“Ice is not a ‘fluid,” the complaint explains. “Water expands when frozen.” The issue with Starbucks’ method of topping off cold beverages with large ice cubes is that, when the ice melts, the customer ends up with fewer measured fluid ounces of the beverage they ordered. To go back to the ice cream analogy, Pincus contends that someone buying a Venti iced coffee at Starbucks isn’t waiting for the ice to melt to then have 24 ounces of latte and melted ice; they expect 24 ounces of cold brew.

“Essentially, Starbucks is not only underfilling its Cold Drinks compared to how they are advertised, but it is charging a premium price for them as well,” the suit reads.

The class in Pincus’ lawsuit involves, well, everyone in the US who has ordered at least one iced drink from Starbucks since April 2006. A class “so numerous,” the complaint reads, that Pincus’ lawyers say the plaintiff does not know exactly how many people it includes or who they all are. (We have reached out to the plaintiff’s lawyers for comment.)

A spokesperson for Starbucks said: “We are aware of the plaintiff’s claims, which we fully believe to be without merit. Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of any ‘iced’ beverage. If a customer is not satisfied with their beverage preparation, we will gladly remake it.”

But if Pincus (and all her fellow duped iced coffee drinkers) are to win this case, what should change at Starbucks? Pincus’ lawyers offer a few solutions in the complaint, one of them: just make the cups bigger.

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