Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Starbucks Sued for OverCharging - Another Sad Day for Lawyers

Stacy Pincus is the lead plaintiff in a $5 million lawsuit filed in Chicago against Starbucks for consumer fraud. The allegation is that Starbucks places too much ice and too little tea in its iced tea, thereby engaging in an act of consumer fraud. Stacy is trolling for additional plaintiffs who have bought an iced tea from Starbucks in the past ten years. That would be most of America. Overcharged by Starbucks? That would be most of America. We all know that Starbucks overcharges. To say Starbucks and overcharging in the same sentence is to engage in an act of redundancy. Starbucks could serve as the dictionary definition of overcharging. The complaint alleges the iced tea was Starbucks’ most profitable product in 201. They charge more for it than hot drinks, and provide less fluid. Ice is cheaper than tea. It’s profitable because consumers want to buy it. Take coffee, chocolate, and milk, throw in fancy words, such as expresso, latte, Frappuccino, trenta, grande, and venti, served by baristas, you have the recipe to overcharge. Don’t call it a latte. Slowly call it “iced carmelized honey latte,” and watch the dollars roll in. It’s not generic lemonade. It’s overpriced “teavana mango black tea lemonade.” The complaint alleges iced tea was Starbucks’ most profitable product in 2014. They charge more for it than hot drinks, and provide less fluid. Ice is cheaper than tea. The venti 24oz. cup has three black lines in it. The highest is at the 14 ounce mark. Baristas are trained to fill the venti to the 14oz. mark and then add ice to the rest. Simple divisions tells us that 58.3333% of the pre-melt iced tea is tea. That certainly beats most restaurants. If Starbucks is liable for excessive ice, then so too is almost every restaurant in America. They make their profit from beverage sales. Ask for a soda, and it’s mostly ice. The solution is simple. Just ask for “no ice,” “hold the ice,” or “easy on the ice.” The wait staff will comply. Except for one restaurant in Seattle decades ago which charged me extra for no ice. I never went back to that restaurant. Solution 2 is just as simple as Solution One. Send the overpriced beverage back and ask for less ice. Starbucks lets unsatisfied customers return their food and beverages. My preferred solution is a third option. Don’t go to Starbucks unless it’s the only breakfast place open on the road in the early morning. Legally, there is a duty to mitigate damages once a wrong has occurred. Sending it back for a less iced replacement is an easy way to mitigate damages. Of course, iced tea without ice is an oxymoron. Starbucks stated: “Our customers understand and expect that ice is an essential component of an ‘iced beverage.’” Stacy may be the plaintiff, but I seriously doubt that she fantasized while slowly sipping her ice cold ice at Starbucks the following phrases: breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and fraud. These causes of action in the complaint came from her lawyer Steven Hart of the Chicago class action law firm of Hart, McLaughlin & Eldridge. This looks like one of those class action lawsuits in which the lawyers will garner at least $1 million in fees, and the class member victims, a coupon for Fifty Cents.

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